Monday, April 14, 2008

Writing Buddies

I've had several writing buddies over the last few years, not just because I find it friendly, but because I'm not sure I'd get anything done without them. Having just send off my weekly goals to my current brilliant buddy, I thought I'd say a little about how we do it.

Each week, on a given day, we email each other a list of five to ten goals for the week. These could be small - from filing some stories - to big - FINISH NOVEL! - but they need to be reasonably achieved. An extra dimension is that one needs to be frightening - to ring an editor about a story idea, maybe, or to apply for a residency or to send something off to a publication we might not normally consider.

And, at the same time as writing our goals for the coming week, we review how we have done on the previous week. To be honest, I often find I finish the list in a rush just so I don't have to admit defeat, but it does mean that things that wouldn't otherwise get done are completed.

Other rules:

1. We are careful not to clutter up our goals email with chit-chat so it can be kept in a separate file and not leaked into normal e-conversation.

2. It seems to work best with just two people, although I admit I've never tried it in a group. There seems something about just being two that makes me think I'll let the other down if I don't do it.

3. The goals are all related to our writing - not our personal or university - life.

4. Also we keep each others goals so we have a record, not to chase but to cheerlead. Writing can be so lonely, and it feels amazingly supportive to have someone who knows what you are doing on a week to week basis - and actually asks how you've got on. Plus it's inspiring to read what someone else is doing - it always feels to me like a privileged insight into another writer's process.

I can't remember where I first heard about this system, but I think it was in the writing magazine, Mslexia, several years ago. I know it works because I've done things, achieved things, I would never have done if they weren't on my list. And it's very often the frightening things that I would have put off and put off that have garnered the most results.

If anyone wants to know more about how we do it, or if you want to share your own experiences, I'd love to hear about it.


jem said...

It sounds very helpful. I agree with what you say about writing being an isolated business. I'm lucky that I'm quite self disciplined, possibly a skill I acquired from my academic years. My trouble is more about knowing what goals to set myself, or to even have a vague idea of where I might want to go with my writing.

Tania Hershman/The Short Review said...

Sarah, what a fabulous idea. That sounds very motivating and supportive, as well as inspiring, and for me it could fill in the gap that I am now experiencing because I have withdrawn from all my online writing groups. The groups were serving more as a distraction, yes I was writing about writing, but I wasn't actually writing! However, one-on-one in the way you describe would serve to ease the isolation and feel that someone notices when I get something done!

There is a similar system in Judaism and Jewish learning, called "chevruta": it is a very old system, around for hundreds of years, and it is specifically two people learning together, no more. The idea is that you can get so much more than you could on your own, but I imagine that the group might drown some people out. A friend was just telling me over the weekend how he has had a "chevruta" for three years now and it has turned into an amazing and intense intellectual relationship.

Well, seems like you've inspired me. Now, how do I find a buddy?

Sarah Salway said...

Ah Jem, I envy that self discipline!
Yes, Tania, it sounds very similar. Will be really interested in finding out you get on. Perhaps we should set up a buddy matchmaking service?!

Clare said...

I'd like a buddy. I think some accountability would do me good.

I love the idea of Chevruta, Tania -- I'm glad you've given me a word for it!

And I read about a sort of matchmaking service for writers -- but it turned out to be a bit demanding on the money side of things.