Write On Wednesday – The Buddy System

I’ve been thinking a lot about friends this week, probably because one of my closest working friendships has just undergone a huge change. Monday was my friend Pat’s last day as a high school teacher. I’ve written about my relationship with Pat before ~ I was 36 years old when we started working together, and in many ways, she educated me right along with those high school students. She was my musical mentor, the first one I’d had since my high school days. She encouraged me to shed my fears, use my talents, and believe in myself, and in the process we became close friends as well as colleagues.

I was also thinking about friendships in the context of writing. I’ve been re-reading a biography of the poet Anne Sexton which talks about her friendship with Maxine Kumin, whom she met in a poetry workshop in 1957. The “extraordinary bond” which developed between these two women, was to become “the most important relationship in Sexton’s life as a poet.” Sexton, riddled with emotional problems and depression, was writing poetry as a therapeutic exercise, not a vocation. Kumin, a published poet, read Sexton’s poetry and saw something “whole and quivering on the page – it was just wonderful.” This validation from a “real poet,” gave Sexton the impetus to consider herself a poet as well. In later years, after Sexton began to write (and publish) prolifically, she and Kumin had “special phones installed on their desks,” which they used to stay connected with each other as they worked throughout the day, trying out lines and drafts across the wires. “We sometimes connected with a phone call and kept the line linked for hours at a stretch,” Kumin recalled. “We whistled into the receiver for each other when we were ready to resume.” This extraordinary friendship was to remain one of the few constants in Sexton’s life until her death by suicide in 1974.

One of the most valuable keys to success is having someone who believes in you and your ability ~someone you admire and respect ~ to encourage you to keep working, try harder, believe in yourself. Participating in this “brave new world” of online writing gives us an opportunity to find mentors all over the world. I am fortunate to have a special blogger friend who takes the time to encourage me with emails and words of praise, sharing her thoughts about things I have written that have touched or inspired her in some way, nudging me toward future writing goals. In much the same way that my friend Pat encouraged me to overcome my stage fright and approach that big nine foot grand piano with excited anticipation rather than anxious insecurity, she has inspired me to keep writing, to try poetry and haiku, and even to dabble in other creative projects as well.

So, what about you? Do you have some creative buddies who have made a difference in your life?

BTW, I’ve been thinking about friendships for another reason~ later today, I’m flying to Florida with my friend Millie, another “musical mentor” who has become a close and trusted friend. For the past several years, we’ve taken a few days each January and gone on a “girls retreat” -lots of reading, walking by the water, movies, a spa day, good food and wine … you get the idea. So, if you don’t see too much of me here at the Byline, don’t worry ~ I’m just too busy sunning myself to write!

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7 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday – The Buddy System

  1. I’ve been so lucky to have friends who believe in me and my talents. But they didn’t begin appearing until my mid-thirties. Hmm. I wonder if that’s when we’re ready for that kind of friendship. This blogging community has been a gift of such immensity that I still am stunned by it.

    Have fun in Florida. Take lots of pictures of warm beaches to share here so I can get a little warmth from looking. 🙂

  2. Yes, quite a few creative buddies who support and encourage me – it makes all the difference. Enjoy your hiatus in sunny Florida!

  3. I must be a late bloomer because I’m just beginning to cultivate those relationships in my 40s. I have always been shy and rather private, so revealing something as personal as my writing makes me feel vulnerable.

    But for the most part I have found the on-line community to be supportive and a bit easier to share with as I explore the world of writing (and other things) than, say, sitting face to face in a circle of a dozen people whose facial expressions I can read like a book as they listen to (or read) what I’ve written. If someone drops by to read a post and does not find it to their liking, they are free to move along to another site without leaving a comment–not so in person.

    I hope you have wonderful weather in Florida; giggle and play and leave the cares of home life behind for awhile. I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your girlie adventures when you return.

  4. Hi Becca,
    I have been reading through your old Write on Wednesday posts and I was particularly struck by the one titled Dear Diary. There was so much of it I related to. Like you I love the idea of keeping a journal but have never actually been able to build it up into a habit – after about a week or so I give up. I don’t know why. Actually, I think I do – my own (written)words embarass me. Stupid, huh? I also started doing the morning pages as well and that I did for about a month but then gave up. The only reason I managed it for a month is that I never re-read anything I had written so I had nothing to be embarassed about.

    However, now I find blogging gets in the way of my keeping, or trying to keep, a journal because instead of writing my ideas, thoughts or feelings in my journal, I blog about them instead so there is nothing left over to put in my journal. So I find myself in a place of ‘what to do’. Ah, well…

    Sorry for rambling on! Enjoy your trip.

  5. Much like Star, I’m more shy and reserved. I don’t have many friends, but the ones I do have are very dear to me. As dear as they are, most of them don’t know about my blogging.
    But with creative endeavours, I do have a small support group that encourages and prods me on. It is so important, I think, to have that.
    Have fun, sweet Becca, in Florida!

  6. i have rejoiced for your sunny vacation many times these past several bitterly cold days (busy ones too…vicarious vacations ain’t so bad either 🙂

    can’t wait to hear all about it!
    (and, Amen, to the wonderful support we receive from our blog budettes…both for our writing endeavors and for everyday stuff as well)

  7. had wonderful support in my friend JJ. I think the key ingredients in our relationship were trust and respect.

    We’d meet every month and share goals, tips, leads etc, and also make sure we enjoyed the process (since we were both often caught up in deadlines.

    It’s wonderful to have that kind of genuine support.

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