I took my twin boys out driving the other day. Twin A had a really good day. Twin B had a fairly off day. As twins their dynamic is always fascinating. They compete with each other and it serves them well. They work hard to edge out each other out. However, they also have a natural support system. They know when to stop competing and start encouraging instead.
As I watched the boys do their competitive/encouragement merry-go-round it dawned on me how much we all need a partner to play with. By this, I don’t mean you must run and settle down if you’re not ready. Nor do I mean you’re set if you have a spouse already. My husband and I are partners in raising our children and in life goals. We support and encourage each other. However, there are things we do that the other doesn’t. I run and write and have a part-time merchandising position He’s a full-time telephony service tech, musician and he knows Golden Age comics. Writing and music are both creative tasks, so we have an idea of what each other endures when we talk about the process of submitting and when we have successes. But I don’t understand scales and keys and he doesn’t understand character arcs and plot holes.
I realize you may think I’m trying to tell you to find your “tribe,” but that’s not it. A partner is more than someone in the same arena. There are many running groups I can join. But most of them are full of people who are fast. I’m not fast. Most running groups are supportive. Which is great, but sometimes you need tough love. Most people in charge of running groups know their passion. Knowledge is always appreciated, but sometimes they forget what it’s like to be a beginner. Yes, the tribe is great. However, a partner takes it up a level. Someone who is on the same path you are.
A few years ago I ran a half marathon with a friend. We were running buddies. She is much better than I am. But my competitive side wanted to keep up so I pushed hard so I wouldn’t hold her back. The day of the race she was not feeling it for the first five miles. I pushed and encouraged her. Miles six through eight we were fairly equal on the “what possessed us to do such a thing.” Miles nine through eleven she encouraged me. The last stretch we both knew we’d finish, we were wiped, but we no longer had to encourage or compete. We just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Knowing we had each other, we did that. We were more than a tribe. We were partners in running.
I met my writing partner almost a year ago. We are in the same boat with our major project – a novel (hers is a YA dealing with an issue that many families face, mine is suspense for adults). We both have short stories we shop around; we have conferences and workshops we dream of attending. She was selected to attend a prestigious conference that has a tough selection process. I was so excited I did a happy dance for her. I got my first short story published in a literary publication; she was just as excited for me. We’ve faced obstacles and taken turns encouraging each other through them. We’ve taken on a few joint projects and enjoy the creative process that brings. We are both introverts. We talk once a week on the phone and email each other. We understand that’s all we need right now. To be fair we don’t live near each other, if we did we’d probably meet in person once a month.
Other writers are my tribe. However, finding the one in the same boat (we’re both in the same stage of revisions), whose life is somewhat parallel to my life, is what I needed.
Today, I encourage you to begin the hunt for a partner. One who understands where you are and the process and with whom you click. It’s an arduous process, kind of like finding a spouse. But it’s worth it.
I’m not forcing you to be an extrovert, just mingle with your tribe and gravitate to the person who seems to grasp what your specific needs are (writing, music, surfing, etc…) and look for ways to connect.