Finding a writing soul-mate
I’ve been writing professionally now since the 90’s, and I know just how solitary a job it can be. Like a lot of people who are drawn to the writing life, I enjoy my own company…and the company of my characters! But being alone with my work can sometimes feel too huge a deal. The challenge of maintaining confidence, plus keeping the motivation high enough to actually get on with it, grinds me down, especially at the bad times, when things aren’t going so well.
To help me, I use a winning resource which I recommend to all students. This resource is stimulating, user-friendly and without financial cost. It needs no technical know-how, power supply or insurance policies.
I’ve used my resource for over thirty years and without fail, it always motivates and refreshes me. When I’ve something to celebrate, it’s ready with metaphorical cork-popping champers. When I’m depressed, it reminds me of all my small achievements. But this isn’t some anodyne application to my writer’s ego – it’s often the catalyst that gets me back to my writing desk.
I find that this appliance is under-used by my fellow writers. They don’t seem to understand the full worth of the well-spring, or if they do, they don’t appreciate it like they should. I’ve seen this facility ignored, squandered and left to fade away in a dusty corner. Then the writer complains the resource has let them down when they needed it most, or that someone else is monopolising it. They should be ashamed of themselves, for there is no finer writer resource and it should be treasured. I am quite sure I would not have achieved any of my success without it.
My favourite writing resource even has a name…Gail. Yours should have a name too…Jim or Hilary or Sue. Because, in my opinion, the best resource a writer can have is a writing soul-mate. A friend who knows the dark days, the blank page days, the evil rejection slips, the crashed screens, the writer’s cramp and the silent tears of frustration. They should do – they’re suffering alongside you and they’ll expect you to be a soul-mate right back.
Whether things are going well, or are perfectly awful, we need the encouragement and criticism and the fellowship of flesh and blood writers.
At first, Gail and I were a twenty minute drive away from each other, and met in each other’s homes, or for a coffee or an outing. The years went on, both of us moved house, and now we live over a hundred miles apart. Yearly visits, phone calls and long, long email letters keep us together.
A soul-mate can help with sparking new ideas until everything slots perfectly into place. We treat the other writer to cream cakes during the down times, and to Cava during the up times. We keep each other grounded and connected and on track, because for writers, it’s often a case of simply being understood. Non-writing friends have no idea what we go through, how we feel towards our characters or how we angst over our endings. They can’t chow over our ideas, piece our plots together or enrich our characters with writerly thoughts.
Sometimes Gail and I have phoned each other in the wee small hours while obsessing about the latest piece. But we also know to leave each other alone, because once you’re on a writing roll, you don’t want interruptions.
Sharing the ups and downs of writing is only part of the experience, though. Writing soul-mates revel in a love for books…you’ve got to read this one, I’ll bring it when I see you…and for years, we’ve sent each other pieces to read, critique and even (thankfully) proof-read. We even worked together to help compile an anthology for the Bristol Library, when they celebrated their 600th centenary.
I found Gail on my first attendance at a writing group. Instantly, we hit it off, even though we were fifteen years apart in age and have never written the same genres. I cherish that moment, because long-lasting soul-mate relationships aren’t easy to find or maintain. They’re not around every writing corner, and need nourishing at all times.
However, while you’re a student with the OCA, finding a real writing soul-mate is a possibility. You’ll already be making contact on the student site, and perhaps even on Google Hangouts. You can email each other, and start to build a friendship. But there are many other ways of meeting writers, both virtually and face to face. Think about:
Joining a local writing group
Attending writing events, slams, readings and workshops
Joining writing forums and communities. For instance, goodreads.com have a writing buddy group, and you can also look for writing relationships through https://nanowrimo.org
Gail and I agree, we wouldn’t be without each other’s support, so…thanks, Gail.