So, you’ve got a great idea for your novel, and you really want to bring it to fruition, but you’re having a hard time sitting down to do it.
Sure, you start out each day fully intending to carve out time to get some writing done. But you keep pushing it off in favor of other things, or just plain forgetting you were supposed to write that day. That night out with friends, that new show on Netflix, or that valuable time spent staring blankly at the ceiling—all take precedence.
Even when you do manage to write, it’s hard to keep up the motivation for more than a couple of days. You feel like you’re writing into a void. You aren’t getting feedback from anyone on whether your story is falling off a cliff. And you aren’t being inspired to keep going.
Does this sound like you? If so, there’s a great solution—a writing partner!
In the business world, there’s a lot of talk about being a “self-starter” and “crushing your to-do list.” But the fact is that some people simply aren’t great at motivating themselves without external pressures. I should know—I’m one of them.
For years, I was a “writer” who spent a lot of time thinking about writing and planning to write, but no time actually pressing the keys on the keyboard. There were many reasons for this: anxiety, lack of scheduling prowess, the little voice in my head yelling, “You’re a worse writer than Tommy Wiseau!” any time I started a new project. When my fellow Jersey City Writers asked me the inevitable question, “So, are you working on anything new?” I would tell them excitedly about the epic saga I was working on—entirely in my head.
And that’s where my writing partner comes in. Ironically, she is not a member of Jersey City Writers. Instead, she is an online friend who lives in another country. We write in very different genres—she writes romantic suspense, whereas my work-in-progress is what I describe as “dystopian chick lit.” We both really wanted to get our manuscripts done, though, and both were having trouble with staying motivated. She would always encourage me to start writing again, and I’d say, “Yeah, that’d be great, wouldn’t it?” and then never actually do it.
A couple of months ago, she suggested that we do regular writing sprints together, and I agreed. We came up with a block of time when both of us were available to write on most days. (We live in different time zones, but in our case this actually works in our favor when it comes to scheduling.) On most nights, for anywhere from forty minutes to two hours, we write during this block of time. Afterwards, we share what we wrote, give each other feedback, and bounce ideas off each other for future plot and character developments.
The concept seems really simple, but the results are undeniable. Thanks to these sprints, I went from being a writer who never actually writes to having a manuscript of almost 20,000 words and counting.
Having a writing partner has made me feel accountable to someone besides myself. If I flake out on doing a writing sprint, I’m not just letting myself down, I’m letting her down, too. Even on days when I don’t feel like doing it at all, I still force myself to write for that reason. And more often than not, I quickly end up getting into a writing flow state, making good progress, and even having fun.
It helps to know that if I don’t put effort into my writing during the sprint, I’m disappointing my writing partner, who is very invested in finding out what happens next in my book! She also makes suggestions that I would not have thought of and pushes me to step out of my comfort zone. Reading her manuscript-in-progress also expands my horizons as a writer, since she writes in a genre I have never written in myself. And because she believes in me, it’s easier to believe in myself.
These benefits are multiplicative. The more I write, the more confident I feel about my writing, which makes me more motivated to do it. My partner feels the same way about our sprints. She says, “I find having a writing partner motivates me and keeps me accountable on meeting my writing goals.”
This writing-partner strategy has worked so well for me that I have started using it as much as possible. For example, I wrote most of this article in a writing sprint with JCW’s own Rachel Poy! It’s a great tactic for those of us who are motivated by guilt.
Lauren Quoraishee is a writer, editor, and digital producer for JCW, based in Lyndhurst, NJ.