Friday, 3 May 2019

Memoirists: Finding a Writing Partner

In our last Memoir Workshop the writers brought pages written in these last months to share with others in this last session. Before we set out to share our work – each with one other writer I made clear some crucial principles for creative sharing between writers, using examples from of my own experience.

Here is me holding forth about sharing one's work with another writer:

‘Sharing your work as you continue to write is an important part 
of developing your sense of audience.

'There are a plethora of online forums which suggest they will allow you to share your work with like minds. And of course there are writing groups in every community. In my view there is perhaps a danger here, in that such approaches can become some kind of hobby or process of enhancing self-esteem through a kind of performance. Enjoyable no doubt but can it develop your writing?.

'Paradoxically I have come to feel that such gatherings -whether online or in the flesh - can be dysfunctional for the truly developing writer. The creative process can merely become a regular social pastime or a busy hobby:   an entertaining social outlet for an individual.  In doing so individual writers may swerve away from improving and developing their unique writing is terms of style and form. At their worst this so called peer-review approach can become inappropriately cruel and destructive.

'For me the best way to develop a sense of audience is a paired writing partnership sometimes called having a writing buddy. A writing partner is an individual on their own writing journey who will read and listen to your writing and join you on your writing journey as you join them on theirs.

'A personal example – in these workshops you will have heard me mention the poet and novelist Avril Joy. Most of you will have read the insightful papers which she offered into this workshop on The Short Story and Writing Competitions. And now some of you may have read her books – Millie and Bird, Once More A River Song, and The Sweet Track - all of which are available on Amazon.

'Our own writing partnership started in a prison, where Avril was a manager in the field of education and I was for several years a Writer in Residence. At that point we were total strangers. Avril was already something of an artist and poet but from then on she started to write and to become a writer. At that point I was quite a seasoned writer with a fair number of novels under my belt. 

'Since then, through the years we have met regularly and had many conversations  focusing on  our current work in progress and our writing aspirations. In this writing partnership the positive influence has been very mutual. And now although we are very different writers we continue to be each other’s informed audience as our writing has continued to develop and evolve.

'Of course we came to know each other quite well. But mostly our talk has been about what are we doing now in terms writing. In that time Avril has won prizes for her prose fiction and poetry and I have written several new novels.

It goes on. Just last Thursday we talked with some intensity about Avril’s and my (very different) new projects. It goes on. Just last Thursday we talked with some intensity about Avril’s new project – a book of lyrical, insightful poetry and prose reflecting on her 20 years’ experience in prison. This will be published in the autumn  by Linen Press

 And as well as this on Thursdsay we discussed my own tentative new project with the working title The Determined Butterfly. This  which will be a collation my philosophy, ideas and methodology emerging from both writing novels and running courses and presenting workshops on the process of writing 

We both came away with new insights into our own work.

So, there you have it! In my view sharing our work with fellow writers is crucially important.

Through the years I have evolved some basic rules for when one shares writing, however one chooses to share it.

Here they are:

          -Offer your observations with courtesy, empathy and tact.

-  - Develop your ability to focus on someone else’s work and appreciate and understand their work in the context of their ongoing writing process. This is so – even especially so – when their style, range and inspiration are different from yours; it is about knowing where the other writer may wish to go on their own behalf.
Importantly you need to spot and endorse the good ideas, the good language, the  originality of their vision and the deep truths underlying their writing. 

I   If your partnership works this will be a mutual process with benefits for the writing of both  partners.

Read my novel The Bad Child

-       Happy writing!


    (c) Wendy Robertson 2019

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