Loneliness lurks in the shadows. Its wicked buddies—writer’s block, regret, and self-loathing—disparage you until you feel one-inch high. You don’t have it in you to confront these demons, so you run away. You binge on Gilmore Girls for a third time—all seasons.
We have a better idea: run to the aid of a supportive writing partner. An ally is priceless when the writing life becomes challenging, helping to counteract those unwanted voices or prime the pump when the creative well is dry.
But, how do you choose a compatible writing partner among the 7.53 billion souls on earth? Based on our twenty-years-plus partnership, here are five of our most valued partner attributes:
- Comparable abilities. It’s extremely helpful when ability, education, and expertise are on par with one another. When a common language and understanding is present, precious writing time’s not wasted on explanation.
- Shared interests and values, but unique perspectives. Borrowing a phrase from Forest Gump, partners should go together “like peas and carrots,” distinctly different, but delicious together.
- Excellent listening skills. ‘Nough said!
- A mutual desire to help. A partnership is all about keeping the balance between give and take.
- Honesty must prevail. When it comes to providing feedback and editing one another’s work, don’t let ego get in the way of either offering constructive criticism or accepting advice that just might make your work better.
Once the search is over and you’ve “partnered up,” take the time to define the purpose of the partnership. Is it to meet weekly at the coffee shop and write individually, to co-author a project, or to edit each other’s pages? A partnership’s overall purpose should support each person’s particular writing goals. It should also be dynamic enough to accommodate new and emerging interests. We started out co-writing a screenplay and magazine articles. Eventually, Susan moved on to write her memoir, and Heide books for children and the YA market.
Our partnership has flourished because of its malleability, but also because we are accountable to one another. Accountability means doing what you say you will do. When you answer to another, it stymies procrastination and boosts morale. It’s a gift to yourself, your partner, and ultimately, the reader because you get pages written.
We live in two different states, so we keep a phone date every two weeks where we share the highs and lows we’ve encountered. We talk, but more valuable, we listen. During our conversation, we set realistic action steps for each week that help us meet our ultimate goal. For example, an action step might be to write ten new pages that week or to put in 15 hours. Another might be to send three queries to qualified, prospective agents. We help one another with everything from brainstorming to tweaking a one-page synopsis during these calls. We console, and, when needed, proffer tough love, “Pick yourself up and write, for heaven’s sake.”
Sometimes what is said can ruffle feathers. In all partnerships, there will be times of disharmony. Shared values and agreed upon guidelines have maintained both the integrity and the beauty of ours. We may disagree, but we never invalidate each other’s work or goals. We approach sticky situations with understanding, compassion, and the ultimate purpose to help each other triumph. We wish the same for you. So please, check out our final post where we share easy-to-use tools for creating and completing targets and getting things done.
Until then, gift yourself and brainstorm how you might find the perfect partner. Someone from your writing group, perhaps? Another empty nester? A co-worker? A person you met through a webinar?
Keep in mind, “peas and carrots”—different, but you just can’t beat the combo.
Susan B. Stroh lives in Southern California and works with clients across the USA. She sees all she meets as fascinating heroes of their own life stories! www.susanstroh.com
Heide Boyden lives in Montana where she blogs about being a writer, wonderer and wanderer. www.heideboyden.com