The Benefits of a Writing companion

I’ve recently realized that being a writing companion for my clients is one of the best things I can do for them. Let’s face it, writing can be a lonely business. When you sit down to write, it’s just you and the paper or the computer screen. Even if you’re in a café, surrounded by other people talking and sipping lattes, when it comes to putting words onto the page, you’re all alone.
Or are you? For many writers, negative voices in their heads cause them great difficulty. You don’t know how to write. You’ve got nothing important to say. Nobody will care. Who do you think you are writing about that? You’re not smart enough to do this. I’ve been pummeled by all these insults at various times in my writing career—and so have most of the writers I work with.
Having someone to keep you company—literally or spiritually—is one way of quieting these voices. (There are others, which is material for another post). When you write completely solo, you are unprotected, and your critics have all the space and time in the world to hurl insults at you. But once you have a companion by your side, these critics will think twice before they launch their grenades. Now there is a witness to their cruelty. Even if they decide to go ahead and riddlel you with insults, the critics are no longer certain of hitting their target. Your companion might just intercept the nasty comments and render them ineffectual. And critics hate to feel powerless.
To serve as a writing companion for my clients, I often ask them to check in with me frequently. Sometimes daily, sometimes several times a week. I ask them to shoot me an email with just a few sentences, telling me how the writing is going, mentioning any difficulties or inhibitions they’ve encountered, reporting any moments that felt good.
When I first began asking clients to keep in frequent touch, I thought of it as a way for me to be sure my clients were on track, and not struggling with writing problems I might be able to help solve. It is only recently that I understood fully the role my companionship plays in their writing experience. After several weeks of shooting me emails when they finish writing, and receiving my response, they feel as if I am with them when they sit down to write. “It’s so nice to know you’re there rooting for me,” a client told me recently. Another said that he has become more aware of his critics than ever before. “But that’s not so bad. Now I have something to say to them. I tell them, Jane Anne thinks this is a good idea, so I feel O.K. writing about it.”
For those of you who are not my clients, you might think about selecting a writing companion to keep you company when you write. It doesn’t have to be another writer. Just someone you know is in your corner, cheering for you all the way. Once you’ve found a companion, tell them a bit about your writing practice—what days and when you will be writing. And suggest to them the best way to respond to your email. Do you want them simply to say Bravo!? Or something more specific, like “I’m glad you were able to sit down and write today. You’ve written three times this week. That’s fabulous.”
Finding a fellow writer or friend/companion to accompany you on your writing journey can make writing so much less lonely and dangerous for most of us. I suggest you try it, and let me know what happens. And if you want help shaping the perfect response to your emails, I’ll be happy to help.

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