At the end of May, C and I sat down over glasses of (one of) our favorite wine(s), and she asked me one of my favorite questions any one person can ever ask:
Will you write with me?
Specifically, she asked me to help her write a particular story she was burning to tell. It was a true story, but she planned to change names and embellish, making it what we dubbed faction (fact + fiction). So with the doors open, candles burning, and our planners wide open, we made a way to find enough hours over enough days to finish a book by the end of 2013.
The deadline, while unrealistic to some, was good for us. We both needed the pressure of a due date, but we didn't need to feel so pressured that we caved and gave up. Giving the book as a gift for Christmas was a perfect reason to finish, as well as a solid goal to work toward.
The process began pretty regularly: Wednesdays after work, there we were, writing and editing. We quickly realized that since it was her story, she should spend the week writing, and our time together would be spent editing and adding whatever I thought would be helpful or funny. We pedaled along pretty quickly with a title and 15 single-spaced pages before life interrupted.
Between our vacations and family get-togethers together (she's J's sister), we had events to tend to separately as well. She was embarking on a new journey of competitive running, while I was balancing my work and school. It started to look like someone was conspiring against us and our words, but somehow we still always found a way to meet. In some instances, we had to move the time; others the day. There were even some missed weeks here and there, but somehow we found ourselves in the dead of fall, 30 single-spaced pages in.
At the beginning of November, I was in full-blown new-job mode. On top of that, I had to balance a full load of grad classes. Inconveniently, Thanksgiving found its way into our schedule as well. We saw each other only twice that month, a striking difference from the normal 4-8 times a month we had seen each other since living in the same town. I felt horrible, not only for abandoning C, but for abandoning our book. It was our baby.
December rolled around, and shortly thereafter, I got an email from C.
"IT'S FINALLY DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I knew she had been writing, but the last time I'd seen her, our little novella lay in the 30-something range. The piece she had just sent me was 20+ pages longer..... and all that was standing between releasing the book to our friends and family was my editing every single word with the same diligence I'd had in prior months. The only problem was I also had hundreds of papers to grade AND two giant projects due in less than a week. Shit.
In a zombified stupor, I got through all of my work duties and all of my projects. I started editing until my eyes bled, but it still took me three days to finish revising the final pages the way they deserved. I rushed over to C's house four days before her departure to the Great North where she'd be delving out the first round of the books on flash drives to the family. It was close, but somehow, we did it. And after all was said and done, we ended up with an 83-page novella.
Writing this little book taught me a lot about a lot. I had to learn to be ever-so-reliable because the success of C's story depended on my editorial skills. I had to learn to be patient because quality work takes time, despite my need for instant results. I had to learn to let go of the reigns because this wasn't my story, this was C's story. I had to learn how to work as a true professional team for the first time in my life because no one else has ever treated me as a professional equal before.
Our book might not be Gatsby or War and Peace, but it IS a labor of love (and a little Sedaris-y if I do say so myself). It is one of those gonnas we all talk about doing, and damn if we didn't actually do it.
I am glad I got to help my friend tell her story, but most of all, I am glad to know that with a solid friendship, anything is possible.
If you're interested in reading our little tale, I have a PDF version ready and raring to go! Email, as always, is email@example.com.