I’ve written a lot of half-pieces lately. Non-deadliney pieces, I mean. The pieces I have to choose to write (‘choosing’ and ‘having to’ – the seeming paradox of writing). These pieces are opening thoughts, which I feel the need to get down and work out of my system, then seem to lose the will to return to. I’ve written about running, and about The Drover’s Wife, and about Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (like William Carlos Williams did), and about Don Draper. Those pieces were all started before being left alone, abandoned in my WIP folder.
Recently, a few of my friends needed help with their own work. Proofing a review, reading fiction and memoir, reading a novel manuscript… I’ve found that there’s something about reading other people’s work that makes me return to my own. People I know, and who I know are incredibly busy (masters, honours, travelling through Europe) are still finishing pieces. But knowing about and seeing proof of their productivity isn’t what makes me revisit my lonely half-pieces. Perhaps the act of providing feedback on their work puts me in a critical/writing headspace. Perhaps it’s knowing that pieces have to go through imperfect stages before they’re finished, and that writing friends are willing to help.
Getting to read other people’s work-in-progress is one of the things I miss most about the university setting – I’ve always found it exciting and inspiring. I’ve been glad to find in the last few weeks that it’s not exclusive to that space. It’s important to me to keep writing-friend connections strong, because it can be such a lonely and echo-chambery thing to do. Writing buddies will keep you alive! Reading each other’s work is part of it.
People always need help with their work, and if you’re anything like me, you might find that it actually helps you get on with your own work. Feedback on other people’s writing can bring new life to your own, totally unrelated, writing.