Shut Up & Write: Getting Started Guide

Welcome to Shut Up & Write!

We are so excited to welcome you into this writing community. You’ve taken a very important step in accomplishing your writing goals: you’ve made a commitment to write for at least one hour a week. You’ve also joined a community of writers – just like you – who show up to  support each other in that task. Now that you’re connected, come write with us! We’ve discovered it’s incredibly helpful to write with other writers. See if it’s true for you at one of your local events.

All genres and all skill levels are welcome. No one will see what you’ve written or give you unsolicited advice. Instead of just thinking about writing, come and get some real writing done.

Our Story

Shut Up & Write was founded in 2007 by Rennie Saunders, a science fiction writer in San Francisco, CA, who wanted to commit to his writing by making himself accountable once a week to show up and write. 

Tens of thousands of members later, we’re in dozens of countries and on every continent, and we’ve hosted tens of thousands of events worldwide.

In 2018, we became a nonprofit organization, which means we are now more empowered than ever to support writing and literacy in communities all over the world.

What to Expect at Your First Event

Every Shut Up & Write event follows a similar format. Many events are scheduled for one hour of writing, while others stretch on for a marathon session. Regardless of timing, the basic layout of an event is the same, so that wherever you are in the world, you can expect the same Shut Up & Write experience. Below is a sample schedule for an event starting at 7pm.

Standard Shut Up & Write Event Format

7:05 – Brief Introductions:

  • The Organizer welcomes everyone, then invites attendees to go around in a circle, give their names, and share what they’ll be working on.

7:10 – Write for an Hour:

  • The Organizer sets a timer for an hour, then tells everyone to “Shut Up & Write!”

8:10 – Wrap Up with Optional Socializing:

  • Timer goes off to signify the conclusion of the event.
  • Everyone goes around again and shares their feelings about their writing session and what they accomplished.
  • The official event is now over, but people can stay and socialize for as long as they want.

Connecting with Other Writers

Group size may vary. Sometimes it may be only you and the facilitator. Other times, several dozen members may attend.

We encourage you to socialize before and after our writing time. This is a great way to meet fellow writers and learn more about the craft. That being said, socializing is completely optional! The main goal is that you show up for your writing.

For your first event…

  • Bring whatever you need to write (laptop, pen and paper, notes, etc.)
  • Charge your laptop ahead of time in case electrical outlets are limited 
  • Check if the event location offers WiFi, or make sure you have a local copy of your writing on your laptop, if stored online
  • Bring headphones or earplugs just in case you find the noise levels distracting

Getting the Most From Your Shut Up & Write Sessions

Get Ready

The first thing we suggest to our community is to arrive a few minutes early. This will give you time to say hello to the other writers and grab your preferred drink and snack. Take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and settle your mind. We start writing a little bit after the scheduled start time for a reason. We want you to be prepared and ready to take full advantage of your time with us. 

As you’re getting settled, pick a starting point for your writing for the session. If you’re continuing from a previous session, only read back half a paragraph to get yourself oriented. Don’t give in to the temptation to read back further — it might engage your inner editor! 

As soon as the organizer begins the session, give yourself no more than 10 seconds to begin your first sentence. Just GO! Ignore grammar, usage, point of view, quotation marks — you’ill have plenty of time to fix all of that later.

While You Write

Don’t stop. 

Don’t stop if you get stuck at a decision point. 

Don’t stop to create names of new characters.

If a decision is causing you to hesitate, just put some notes in brackets, like this: [name, female, mid-30’s, down on her luck]. Then, keep going. In fact, don’t come up with names for anything: [brackets are your friend!] You’ll have plenty of time to dream up names later. Sometimes we just need to get words on the page in order to get to the good part.

Also, as a final point for your writing session… DON’T EDIT! We all know how seductive the inner editor can be. That editor can entice you into using a solid 30 minutes to reconsider your word choices if you’re not careful. 

Technology & Tools

WiFi and electrical outlets aren’t always guaranteed at a Shut Up & Write session. Make sure you’re set up to write within the conditions of the space. Get those batteries charged and make sure you’ve saved a local copy of your writing project, just in case.

Airplane mode is your friend. It minimizes distractions so you can stay focused. Don’t let that text message tempt your attention away.

Also, disable the spell check feature in your writing app! It’s amazing how much more writing you’ll do if you don’t have to see those squiggly red lines nagging you every time your fingers slip. You can always edit later. Just for this hour, don’t let yourself get distracted by editing if you’re trying to write. 

Primarily, we work at bookstores and coffee shops, so please be prepared if the ambient noise is louder than your usual workspace. Some writers prefer earplugs or noise cancelling headphones, others listen to music, and some of us can work in a crowded room and not be bothered. Whichever camp you happen to be in, know how to mitigate noise if it bothers you while you write.

Connect With Your Fellow Writers

Shut Up & Write groups turn an isolating activity into something social. This feeling of support is at the core of Shut Up & Write, and our community benefits when we are writing with each other. 

New members are often surprised to see how much more writing they got done at a Shut Up & Write event, compared to a regular hour of writing alone. Get to know your fellow members — you could be sitting across the table from a future friend, collaborator, or editor. Our members are overflowing with talent and these group sessions allow you to make those connections.

Other Shut Up & Write Resources

Don’t stop at just our in-person events! Shut Up & Write offers lots of ways to stay inspired, keep writing, and improve your craft.

  • Sign up for our Member Newsletter, a monthly email with articles, book recommendations, and useful tips and tools we’ve discovered. Sign up here!
  • Try one of our Monthly Writing Challenges! Every month, we host an online  prompt-based writing challenge with private forums to share your writing with our community. Create an account to sign up for the next challenge here.
  • Check out our Resources page: We offer online resources and reference materials here to help you overcome challenges and learn more about every step of the writing process.

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you at

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