I met my writing buddy, Susan, one hot July day in 1998 at a weekend conference. We discovered we both are writers and we both work for ourselves, which can be wonderful but can also be a little lacking sometimes for the kind of connection you can get from a workplace. We agreed, too, that we didn’t get as much time as we’d like for our own writing.
And that’s how it started: a year’s commitment to write a thousand words a day five days a week. From Monday through Friday we traded writing prompts every morning by email and we’d write a minimum of a thousand words from that prompt and email it to each other by bedtime. The writing prompts we sent each other were kick-starts, short phrases that sent us in a direction on topics about our lives. Every Friday we’d print the pages the other had written, highlight words and sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs that had especially struck us, and we’d mail off the pack in a manila envelope. I call these kinds of highlights “the yummies.”
What fun it was to see the typed and highlighted pages stack up, but more than that what fun it was opening the daily email from Susan as soon as I was ready to write — often not earlier than 9:00 at night — and letting the words pour out, then clicking “send.”
I had a sense of purpose.
I had a reader I trusted.
I had fresh ideas for writing topics.
I had no reason to have to do anything more than the juicy first write, my favorite part.
And when the full year came to an end, Susan and I wrote a new kind of email to each other. “Do you want to continue?” she asked me. “I can’t imagine giving this up!”
I thought about it, remembered how it was when we’d started, how badly I missed writing like this, writing from the heart, how hungry I was to write that first piece from her prompt: When I am writing….
I marveled at how well we knew each other because of all we’d shared in these pages and how we’d only seen each other once since meeting that day in July. I didn’t even know the sound of her voice, but I knew her better than I knew my own sister.
And I also knew it was time to stop.
Since then, Susan and I have become friends in different ways, and writing is always part of the conversation, since it’s part of our lives and who we are. We’ve written a lot, but we’ve never made and kept a commitment to write a thousand words a day except for during that one, good year.
I learned a lot from that year. I discovered it’s wonderful to have a writing buddy. I found out it helps to trade writing prompts and get that fresh topic idea. I experienced the joys of writing in privacy and sharing in confidence. I learned I can make a commitment like that and keep it.
Try it yourself! Get a writing buddy and set a commitment together, one you can both keep. It doesn’t have to be a thousand words that you write each day. It might be 20-minute writing times instead, or at least a half-hour. You don’t have to do it for a full year. You can even be friends with your writing buddy outside of your writing dates! What’s key is coming up with a plan you like and sticking to it for as long as you say you will. The benefits run deep.
Subscribers to my newsletter get a free downloadable PDF of 200 “jump-off” lines! Visit my website, www.suzannesherman.com, to sign up. And let me know how it goes with your own writing buddy using these prompts and any others. I can’t wait to hear.
Also, STARTING October 15 I’m offering a 4-week one-on-one online program at Story Circle, so check out the class schedule and sign up to get my personalized help with whatever you’re writing.