Writing is a solitary act, mostly. You need to sit down and move your fingers across the keys or push your pen over the paper. Although we spend the bulk of our time alone, it’s good to have a companion along for the writing journey because it sometimes feels lonely. Having a writing partner deeply supports your writing journey. She is someone who cares about your writing, helps you show up, may provide feedback, and asks, “Hey, how is that piece coming along?” It is deeply nourishing to have a nonjudgmental listener to hear and reflect.
I have a standing date with my writing partner every Sunday evening. We use writing prompts and write freely because we don’t intend to show anyone else what we’ve written. This is fun writing with abandon, revealing our truest selves for just a little while.
I met Thea, my writing partner, at the hotel desk of the Fechin Inn in Taos when I arrived for a Natalie Goldberg workshop. When I mentioned that I came from Austin, she said, “I’ve been there.” From that point of entry, we started talking and writing together the whole five days. We got to know each other deeply by writing about our favorite meals, our biggest fears, and what brings us to our knees. It was so hard to leave Thea and Taos when the workshop was over. I was afraid that the magic would dissolve and that I would forget everything I had learned there. Goldberg suggested that we find a local writing group or partner to keep our momentum going. I didn’t seek out a writing group, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, I’d already found my writing partner.
Thea and I stayed in touch, and about a month after returning from Taos, we agreed to meet on a Sunday evening by phone. We picked a topic and set a timer for fifteen minutes to write. When the timer went off, we jumped back on the phone and read what we’d written. We repeated this sequence for about two hours. That was more than eleven years ago, and we’re still meeting on Sunday evenings this way. Plenty has changed in our lives since then (I’ve been married and had kids, and Thea retired from teaching), but we keep on writing.
If you’d like to find a writing partner, here are some tips to get you started.
(1) Before you start looking, have in mind who and what you’re looking for. For example, do you want writing dates or critiques? How often do you want to meet?
(2) To find a partner, go where writers hang out. Look at bookstores, cafes, and take classes or workshops. Use your social networks and check out online writing groups. Don’t worry about whether your partner is writing in the same genre as you or has more or less experience. Also, be willing to look outside your geographic area. It’s easy to use Skype or Google Hangouts.
Here’s what you do need: someone who is similarly committed to writing and willing to meet you regularly. You also need to feel comfortable sharing your words with the person.
(3) Once you find a partner, set some intentions (what you want from your meetings) and ground rules. After you’ve been meeting for a while, check-in with your partner about what’s working and what’s not. Be willing to change things up as needed. For example, if you and your partner are letting each other off the hook too often, it’s better to find someone who will call you out for skipping.
(4) I strongly suggest that when you meet you start writing immediately. It is easy to start chatting and use up your writing time. If you want to catch up, start with “This is everything I want to tell you,” as a topic.
(5) You can spend your writing time however you like. My partner and I do freewriting with topics we pull from a variety of sources. You might want time to work on your current project or to exchange feedback on work you’ve already written.
Do you have a writing partner? How long have you been writing together? Do you have any fun rituals? We’d love for you to tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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