Cheer Me On: Writing Buddies

The soft haze of two laptop screens illuminate the intent faces of the writers with soft white glow. Word processors display on the screen as the sounds of furious typing carry out into the room. Occasionally, one writer blurts out a demand for a quick idea to fix the scene they are working on; while the other, pauses in their own work to provide a patch solution before diving back into their own words. This scene illuminates one way that writing cheerleaders work with each other to craft their projects.

No, I'm not talking about scantly clad squads of people holding pom-poms chanting inspiring cheers. I'm talking about those people who through their own act of writing and experiencing a writing life, help cheer you on with your goals and help you attain your dreams. On long writing projects, a writing cheerleader helps keep morale up and reminds you that they're right there with you, writing their own work. And after years of not having a writing cheerleader, I can honestly say that writing is more fun when you have a friend who also sits at their computers with their own writing goals and projects to share in the elation and the depressions of a writer's life.

As a special treat, I asked my own writing cheerleader, iScribe, to share her thoughts and feelings on this subject as we partnered up last month during NaNoWriMo. So, take it away iScribe, please!

Writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days was a nail-biting, soul baring, gut-twisting terror of a concept to me. So of course, with the enticing creative poke of Innowen, I agreed to give it a shot. The deal maker? She offered to be my cheerleader, as she was a seasoned (now) 5 time champ. Not simply to root me on, but to support me during the hesitant first week; the OMIGAWD what have I gotten myself into???!! second week; the cramming third week; and the elated feeling of success the final and fourth week.

Having Innowen as my Writing Cheerleader was instrumental in me crossing the finish line. Not only did I met the 50K, but I blew past it thanks to her Word War Coaching. "We have thirty minutes, I want to see 1,000." Yes sir! "I do not hear any tyyyyppiiinnnnggg." Her humor and her ability to keep me focused on the task at hand was beyond helpful. It was a blessing. Plus, being "procrastinator borne", I always enjoyed pleasantly surprising her when I'd get online Monday morning to announce my 10K word count. Or the 13K I did in one day!

Knowing there was another writer riding along with you on the roller coaster made the experience more joyful. There was no competition, just the support and praise to do our best. And if two writers can do that without egos being bruised; collaborating is a thrilling, creative rush. In the end, we assisted each other with our stories plot points. Mine a mythic adventure in modern times, hers a supernatural horror thriller. Both of us were in unknown story territories, but we rah-rah'd our pom-poms with the best of them and have two complete novels to show for it.

Because we worked so well brainstorming, and then NaNo-ing, we've decided to cheer the other on for the entire year during The Embodiment Project.

Here's a small list of ideas that you and your writing cheerleader can use to help keep you writing and focused on your goals:

  • Keep Your Focus: A writing cheerleader can help you keep your writing focus on the page by giving you short goals and removing any distractions that may turn your attention away from writing. They can also help you pinpoint specific targets and keep your hands writing until you reach that goal. Throughout an evening, I would check in with iScribe and see how well she was progressing with her word count, sometimes reminding her that writing 500 more words meant 500 less words she had to do another day when she really wasn't feeling well. Gentle reminders like this, along with a humorous drill sergeant attitude of "type and give me 500" helped her press onward to finish her first novel draft!
  • Goal Setting and Achieving: Writing cheerleaders are great to help you break down your writing life into manageable goals or word counts. Your friends know you best and will tell you how ambitious or limiting you and your inner critic are towards your work. Writing cheerleaders are also great at the sport of writing sprints. Writing sprints, or designating short amounts of time in which you and your cheerleader see how many words can be hammered out is a fun and exciting game where you race the clock and time to see how far you can get in your work. We both found that it helped us plunge forward and get our daily word counts down in shorter time. String a few of these together with short "reward breaks" in between and you have a winning recipe for reaching a word count.
  • Idea Generation: A writing cheerleader can help provide you ideas when you are stuck and need a quick jump start on your creativity. When you and your writing cheerleader get together in person, or on an instant messenger, they are instantly available to help provide you weird, crazy and brilliant ideas to help kick start your writing again.
  • Make Writing Fun: Yes, a writing buddy can even make any writing experience fun. My first year while doing NaNoWriMo, I spent many of my nights at a 24-7 Internet Cafe, chugging down the chai and giggling about all sorts of topics relating to our novels as well as the world and life in general. Those sessions lasted for hours on end, and no matter how tired my fingers were at typing or my mind at thinking about my novel. Me and iScribe had a blast during NaNo as we helped flesh out each other's novel outlines and got together to have a write-in where we swapped scenes and ideas for what we were focusing on that night.
  • Read-Through and Edits: Finally, your writing cheerleader or a group (Who says you can't have a whole squad of cheerleaders? After all, most high schools and colleges have them.) can always be the first victim, er volunteer, to read through your drafts and help provide an outsider's view point. Gather your squad up for an evening of edits and revisions and get that first or second draft on its way to publication. Editing and revision work best when you have a good friend who's willing to make an honest and helpful suggestions on making your work stronger.

You don't need to limit this sort of collaboration to writing, why not suggest a similar collaboration between yourself and another artist, or whatever projects you and a friend may be doing that is similar in the same time. iScribe and I had so much fun cheering each other on during NaNoWriMo that we're going to attempt more of these collaborations on future writing and creative endeavors. We already have plans for a year long hand-written journaling project coming up in 2007. I hope that this is only the beginning of our collaboration together. Have you a writing cheerleader? If not, feel free to ask me or anyone in the forums to help cheer you on or provide creative fire to fuel your passion behind your next project.

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