I met my writing buddy in 1998, in a writing workshop at a summer conference. We were given a writing prompt and 15 minutes to pour words onto a page before reading them around the circle. Besides being a contract writer for Kaiser’s Northern California members newsletter, Susan was a volunteer fire fighter in the nearby town of Freestone, and automobile accidents were the most common calls. Her story about one was brutally descriptive and I hung onto every word.
Susan and I lived an hour apart, but we both wanted to write every day and wanted inspiration to do it. We agreed to trade writing prompts every morning five days a week for one year and to write at least 1,000 words each day to email each other by bedtime. The prompts, or “jump starts,” we sent each other would be on topics about our lives. On Fridays we’d print out each other’s writings, highlight lines, even words, that struck us most, pen a few praising comments, then mail the envelope.
Those writing sessions continued five days a week for 52 weeks. Email was our place for connection, and writing, our lifeline. We never talked on the phone or emailed each other for any other reason. We didn’t know the color of each other’s eyes or the sound of each other’s laugh. But we knew each other better than sisters do.
Since then, Susan and I have enjoyed over a decade of friendship, witnessing and being a part of each other’s lives as writers and writing teachers. She co-authored Women at Ground Zero in 2001 and was featured on the September 2011 CNN special about women “first responders” on 9/11 (“Beyond Bravery,” www.cnn.com). We have visited each other’s writing workshops in Northern California, hers, which focus on writing as a spiritual practice, mine, which focus on writing stories from life. We have seen each other through the deaths of parents, seen new love and love lost, witnessed each other turn 40 and then 50. But something is different for us than with other longtime friends. Because of that one year of writing together every day in total trust and shared privacy, our bond is forever deep no matter how much time passes between visits or conversations. That is the power of writing.
I wish a writing buddy for everyone.