Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Draws and Drawbacks of Finding a Writing Partner

At Saturday's read around, a woman mentioned the importance of a writing buddy. Her sister was her writing partner. I’ve never had a writing partner ... unless you consider my Dell computers, past and present. The  ‘e’ and ‘r’ and ‘s’ and ‘t’ keys were pounded until they faded to black ... after finishing a novel, two memoirs, several short stories and hundreds of blog posts.

Or maybe Lily and Lucy, the house dogs, the Labs I've loved over the years, are writing buddies. As I typed away, they faithfully remained at my side, or my feet, on snowy winter mornings and sunny summer days

I wonder: Can a writing partner check our "procrastinator" at the door, provide that spark of validation that keeps us going? Would we be friends?  Sisters can explore shared experiences and their lives. But what if we don't have a sister? And why would I need a writing partner? Writing, after all, is a solitary pursuit.

Coincidentally, right after Saturday's read around, a writer phoned me. He also happens to be a former pastor. He wanted to know what I was working on. I've known him for years so I gave him a brief outline of the new novel. A little surprise call that ended up being quite useful.

“Ava is where she needs to be, where she wants to be," he said of my novel's main character. "Jay has never left her side.”

It’s not how beautifully we write, it’s saying or writing what’s important, I think. He opened me up to ideas: Like death is never final and absence is powerful. Absence serves as reminder of the arm, once flung across the bed, no longer. 


I remember when I was in high school and my best friend, Paula, lived across the street. We decided  to write a book together; historical fiction romance a bodice ripper. She would write a chapter and I would write a chapter.

We worked on it all summer and then when we spread all those pages on my parents’ dining room table, figuring how to organize it into a coherent story became too much. And then Paula went away to college. No Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman were we. I remember thinking how hard collaborating on a novel with another person, even my best friend, turned out to be.

A writing group is another matter. It eases the isolation of writing. You have built-in writing buddies, several of them all at once, like we do in the Women’s Writing Circle, offering feedback and critique, on occasion. I like that, listening to the others and their take on life. They offer up new approaches to a topic that begins with: “My mother only had two basic rules.”  Some of the writers parsed it in a way I never would; interviewing friends and family about their rules or memories of those rules; or remembering a moment from childhood where the rules were oft spoken and repeated like a mantra, then incorporated into the writing, giving it a rhythm.

This is the unique voice, the magic of the creative at work.

I guess if you don't have a writing group — or even if you do — a writing buddy can encourage you to keep writing, offer validation. Go for it, as long as it does not become toxic or derail your work. For me, the hard work of writing, the discipline writing requires day in and day out ... and finding Lily next to me, is enough although I stay open to the little surprises along the way .... Oh, and, of course, the Women's Writing Circle.

How about you? Have you had, or do you have, a writing partner? Thoughts and experiences welcome.

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