What writers want: a writing companion

Last week, a colleague asked me to accompany her to the top of Centrepoint Tower for a drinks reception.  I jumped at the chance to see London from that height, and to check out the interior of a building that I’ve always thought was depressingly grotty from the ground.   The view was spectacular, the décor (and canapés) less so, but I spent a pleasurable evening networking with friends from old projects and professionals I’ll be getting to know better in the future. 

For those in the construction industry – within which I sit as an educational design consultant – these events occur with regularity.  Just the week before, I’d been at another informal drinks evening with a company we hope to team up with in the future.  In this line of work, our goals can’t be achieved alone.  I’m an expert in the way people learn and the environments that help them to do that best, and I’m an integral part of a team made up of architects, teachers, landscape designers, students, engineers, and furniture consultants.  We all do our little bit to design and build a new school, and there’s a confidence in the way I execute my role that has everything to do with the sense of security I gain from knowing that I have other experts at my side. 

When I write, it feels a little different.  I’m on my own. It’s just me and the laptop, and a scratchy set of notes that tell me where the story should be heading next.  In the planning phase of my novel, I spoke to people about their recollections of World War II, had an archivist talk me through the bomb damage maps of London, and met with an historian at a local history centre in Islington.  But eventually I had to halt that interaction, much as I loved it, and sit at my kitchen table to write! 

Sometimes, I feel like I can’t keep writing.  I know where the novel should go next, but I tell myself that it’s too hard to write it out and I struggle to get my hands hovering over my keyboard.  I know there are plenty of short courses I could sign up for that might tell me what to do next, or critique groups I could join that would offer me suggestions, but deep, deep down I know what needs to be written and I know I can write it.  I just don’t want to be alone when I do it!

My solution has been to gather a friendly little group of writerly people around me, and I’m meeting them once a week to simply sit in companionable silence to write.  So far, it’s working.  I finished the chapter I was struggling with, and now I’m tackling the next.  And I hope that as I sit beside them on a Saturday morning, they’re being motivated by the tap-tap-tapping emanating from my keyboard too.

You don’t have to look very far to find a writerly friend.  Squished onto the 31st floor of Centrepoint tower with 100 engineers, architects, and consultants, I found probably the only other person in the room who is also working on a YA novel.  She’s lovely, she’s published, and she seems to be on track, but I think I’ll invite her to my writerly gathering too.

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