Poems, songs, stories, screenplays, essays–you’d think there would alway be something cooking in a house with two writers. We seem to be able to give into our excuses not to write when we are together the same way we do if we are alone. We can be each other’s distraction, too. When we’re hot, we’re hot. When we’re not, nobody writes a thing. Even weeding a garden row sounds more appealing than putting pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard. Unless, of course, it’s 104 degrees and dry as dust. Then, even if we’re inside, we are too downcast to write. Well, there you are. There are always more reasons not to write than there are to write. If writing were easy, everyone would be doing it. Still, when the going gets tough, the tough inspire one another. Or pull out the bungee cords, bind ourselves to our desk chairs; or maybe bake some brownies which we can’t eat until we have worked at least two hours on something, anything that has to do with writing. Depends on what works on any given day, punishment or reward.
Actually we don’t usually have to be that dramatic. We love writing, and even when we don’t, we love having written. Oh, the great high of having spent two hours writing like a wild woman, reading over it, and finding even one paragraph, even one sentence, that was brilliant. Or so it seems in the moment, and that’s when you close the notebook and let it stand. Or if we’re feeling particularly brave, or feel we’ve done more that a zero draft, (a draft we wouldn’t even call a first draft, it’s so rough) we may share it with one another. Even after 12 years of living together, this is still not easy. We are complete opposites. She reads non-fiction and informational books. I read novels. We both read poetry. She listens to pod casts. I listen to Roxie Watson CD’s. She plays on the computer while I watch “Dexter.”
Opposites can be very good for one another’s writing however. If someone always likes your work, and never has anything critical to say about it, you will not improve. Unless you are a genius, and there are so few of us out here. Just kidding. Everyone needs a good listener or reader to bounce their work off of. For this, you both need patience, a suspension of judgement, “fair and balanced” critique, and an ear for what makes for good writing. This quality comes from reading a lot. For instance, I am a good listener for Leigh because she writes non-fiction. She wants to appeal to a wide audience and not just academia.I represent her wide audience. For these purposes, she requiress a bit of story. She has to make it personal to hold the reader’s interest, and I am all about personal. I was born to tell a story. And I can tell one to death, too.
What I need is to appeal to an editor. So Leigh helps me edit all those words into something an editor might actually feel they have time to read. I can write all day, happy as a clam, revising very little until I’m done. Or at least I think I’m done. Until Leigh looks at it or listens as I proudly read it aloud. She mutters, “That’s nice…” or “With a little work, that could be really good piece.” When I get it back from her, it will be half as long and as concise as a magazine article. She cuts the blather and leaves in the important stuff. It’s just I thought a lot more of it was important than turns out to be.
Everyone needs a writing buddy, at the very least, if not a writing group. They don’t have to be a spouse (in fact this can be quite tricky at times). The fact that their interests are different from yours can be helpful, offering insights you might never have envisioned by yourself, because, quite simply, that’s not how you see things. Trust is inherent to this process. The understanding that you are asking for their help (they didn’t volunteer) is a fact you will want to remember the first time they kill your favorite line. Think it over before you bite their head off. You may find they’ve done you a big favor. They may even be right. Besides, they have your best interest at heart. If they don’t, they aren’t the critic for whom you were searching anyway. Keep looking.