I have a few friends outside the virtual environment with whom I discuss writing. Most humor me as I discuss the process and what I've learned, my successes, etc. A handful are generally interested and ask in-depth questions. One or two have expressed interest in writing themselves. One, who I shall refer to as the Polecat (don't ask) had an email exchange with me a few weeks ago on this very subject. Polecat is quite the literati and is very interested in trying his own hand at writing. So we've had a lot of discussions about it – mostly me goading & mocking him to get him to get started. Fortunately, his wife is on my side. Unfortunately, he has a much busier job than I do now, and has other substantial commitments that siphon off his time.
Well, Polecat and I groped our way to a deal in that email exchange. We are doing a weekly flash challenge. On Monday morning, each of us gives the other a prompt to write a flash (<1000 words) story by Thursday afternoon. Friday, we critique the stories and turn them back to the other. This was our third week.
So far, results have been mixed. I turned out three semi-decent stories, without a hint of speculative fiber in them. That's okay, it was good to stretch the writing muscles into areas I don't normally visit. They were all unusually violent; maybe I was subconsciously miffed that I couldn't work a dragon in there. But I cannot complain about adding polished works to the portfolio. Polecat's results were a little less even; he got the first two on schedule; I haven't seen the third one yet (as of Friday night), so he's behind this week. His second story was pretty damn good, which is utterly depressing when you think about it. He's been doing this for basically five minutes, and he spit out a throwaway story better than 80% of what I have written. Oy. But I am glad he's trying it out and I got to read some good stories – well, two, because he owes me one!
But here's the takeaway: having someone on you to keep accountable has made the difference. It is like hitting the gym or the track. If you have someone to do it with and you push each other, you both do better. Same same. I enjoyed having someone keeping my feet to the fire. And I think keeping this on a short schedule (one week) keeps the parties focused. It would be a lot easier to drift off schedule and put it off if we had a month to write 4000 words. Polecat told me he realizes that he can in fact do this (write) and that once he's in the zone, the words flow … but that it does take some dedicated time. Important lessons.
We talked about setting up a longer time frame and word count but we'll go at this rate for a few more weeks and see how we do.
(Muse: I don't believe that story.)
You don't believe I wrote a flash piece a week? That my workout buddy has good skills?
(Muse: No, that you have non-imaginary friends.)
If any of my regular readers would like to work out a similar arrangement, I would be happy to do so. I love having an accountabili-buddy.