Writing a Book Is Like, Hard, and Stuff; A Partner Helps

My bicycle memoir, a book that’s been in process for several years now, is going like my bike rides — ever so slowly, relatively speaking. I like to blame the Writers League of Texas revision class teacher’s fault for blowing up my structure. It was 24 chapters over two years; she said ditch that for hanging things on half a dozen or so major events. The League director pretty much said the same. So not only did I write it, go back and revise it, then try to have some beta readers look at it, now I have to go back and re-re-re-do it? Apparently, yes. But I may have found a shovel to start digging myself out of this hole. That shovel is actually a person. I’ll explain.

Photo by Armin Rimoldi on Pexels.com

This person is not a garden implement or a way to dispose of a dead body (in a murder mytsery, of course!). While taking the WLT retreat class (on Zoom), there were a number of opportunities to meet other writers, like we would at an actual retreat. This dude was friendly and we exchanged emails. It turned out he has also written a memoir that he’s revising. We’ve met to write several times. It’s still up to each of us to do the writing of course, just like no one else is cranking on my bike pedals 100+ miles a week.

His name is Rob, and one day he suggested we meet to write and I thought, Why not? I found my way to a pleasant coffee shop in Pflugerville, a suburb on the north side of Austin. It feels quite different, with wide roads, spread out new houses and bunched up old houses, what sure felt like more churches, US and Texas flags, pick-up trucks, and Trumper bumper stickers — and also, fewer pedestrians and cyclists. I don’t drink coffee, so it never occurs to me to go to a place to buy an overpriced one. But this coffee shop was brightly decorated, independently owned, and had some outdoor tables with shade coverings. If I’m trying to be a writer, I ought to go more to places like these, I thought to myself.

It’s interesting that having someone to be accountable to makes a big difference. Humans are social animals, even we introverts, so disappointing others wasn’t good for our survival back in the Stone Age, and it’s not great now in this time frame, either. (Technically known as the Phanerozoic eon, Cenozoic era, Quaternary period, Holocene (aka Anthropocene) epoch, and the Meghalayan age.) Speaking of time, in some ways our books are similar, but his covers more years and feels a lot more epic in other ways.

The smells and the sounds of the place were welcoming. Meeting my new friend, a rarity in these pandemic times, I saw a tall, handsome dude with an easy smile and the frame of a runner. He’s got more training than I in English and works in that field, so I figured I could learn something. He was already seated at an inside table, and after some introductory pleasantries he got a coffee and I had a hot chocolate, with some tasty egg bites for us both. We chatted for a bit but soon got down to brass tacks. I put on my noise cancelling Skull Candy headphones and fired up the KMFA 89.5 FM classical radio, opened my laptop, and Rob his Macbook. We were off to the races as we each began writing.

Going back a year to 2015, the beginning of my bicycling odyssey (before I got a cell phone with Strava, eventually a Garmin watch, and this blog) was both nerve-wracking and liberating. Because while bicycling and my introduction to another level of it beyond my then 10-year experience of being car-free are central to the book, it’s about my life. And at my age there’s a lot of material to mine. So I had to get back into beginner’s mind, and just start writing. If you blog or are a writer, you know that sometimes the muse visits and the words come easily, other times she and they do not. At all.

But something about having a buddy there across the table is both a challenge and like a nice hand on the shoulder. It’s the assurance that of course I can do my thing, because he’s there doing his thing. To not write would be weird and harder than not doing it. So, for 90 minutes I wracked my brain for the right words to talk about the origins of how I got into biking thousands of miles a year as a middle-aged fathlete. But not just that, my first memory of riding a bike. Family. Boyhood. History. And when the words do come out and form a semi-coherent first draft of a story — my story — it’s a pretty cool thing.

So does having a writing accountability partner help? Your mileage may vary, but yes, it’s helped me. After a handful of meetings, so far, so good. And now we have a third, from his other writing group. Like I said, you have to do the work. But it’s like the great writer of songs Billy Joel sang in Piano Man:

“Yes they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness / But it’s better than drinking alone.”

Do you have a writing partner? How has that gone for you?

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6 thoughts on “Writing a Book Is Like, Hard, and Stuff; A Partner Helps

  1. I’m not a writer, but the stories I’ve heard about writing books and creating board games does make it sound crazy tiring with all the re-writing, but then they do feel it’s a better book afterwards.
    I have participated in National Novel Writing Month and did participate in a write-in at a coffee shop with a bunch of other members, even though I thought it would be stupid spending a lot of energy to show up at a place at exactly the right time to just write my own stuff and get distracted by talking, but it was also nice and I did get more done than I thought I would

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But I’m not getting very far on the third version. Since my beta readers got too busy, and I was advised to redo it, I’ve been pretty well stuck.

      Are you going to submit your first version, hire an editor, or what? What’s it about again? It’s shrouded in mystery. Feel free to let me know off line.

      Liked by 1 person

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