Sunday, September 5, 2010

Story Rx: Stop Procrastinating! Co-Author Something!

We are not all multi-armed goddesses. But we can be.

Call me a quack, fellow women writers, but I think I have found a sure cure for the disease of procrastination. And it's called co-authorship.

I recently finished the 9,000th round of edits on a middle grade mystery I am co-authoring with my best friend from second grade, Karen (See her lovely blog on this at Carpe Keyboard). The impetus for the project was equally about creating art together as it was about simply creating together and therefore being together. Despite living across the country from each other, the project gave us the structure around which to regularly communicate - through email, Skype, and a variety of online collaboration tools like Mikogo. It allowed us to both nurture our creative impulses, and gain a critical and a not-afraid-of-telling-the-hard-truth reader for our writing.

Since we are both spouses and mothers, and people who hold other day jobs apart from fiction writing, the collaboration also helped us keep ourselves accountable to the work. There was no pushing off the writing as "selfish" or "unnecessary" in the face of home/life/family demands. Why was this? Because, as women socialized in this culture, we each felt obligated to the other. Had I been writing this book alone, I might have convinced myself it was foolhardy to "waste" so much time chasing a pipedream - especially when there was dinner to make, laundry to fold, bills to pay. But, being obligated to my friend shut off this internal nay-saying voice. Sticking to the writing was as much to honor our friendship as to honor the work we had created together.

My colleague Dr. Lucy Candib has written about "writing in relation" as a way for women physicians to cave out a space for their academic writing. I wonder if the same can't be said for all types of writing.

My collaboration with my friend Karen wasn't my first such co-authored project. Many years ago, I convinced my mother Shamita to co-author a book of translated and adapted Bengali folktales with me. That book lead to many other essay and article writing projects that were at first facilitated by the fact that we were living together - later by the fact that we trusted each other implicitly as editors, readers, and intellectual colleagues. And I don't think its a coincidence that my current YA WIP, although a solo-authorship, is inspired by much of that early work my mother and I did together. Besides which, Mom just gave me the most amazing editorial suggestions on it. (You rock, Ma! Whoop!)

[Caveat: A co-author has to get it - both in regard to life, and writing. For example, when I co-edited a volume of prose and poetry with my colleague Marsha, I knew she was the right partner for the job because, even though her own kids were grown, she was incredibly flexible about my life as a mom of young children, including my erratic babysitting coverage. She understood that as a nursing mother, I couldn't leave an infant for long stints of time, and was unbelievably gracious in not only driving up to my house to work, but integrating nursing/diaper changing/sandwich making/band-aiding and so much more into our meetings. If I'd been co-editing with someone who didn't get it the whole project might have been a disaster -- so whoop! to her too!]

So my story prescription for this cozy Sunday? There's still one more day of vacation left. Call your mother/sister/best friend/partner over. Put on a pot of coffee. Rev up the laptops. and start that writing project you've been putting off.

The laundry folding can wait another few days...

**Remember to post a comment on my Sept. 3 post on Mockingjay if you'd like to possibly win a free copy of the book! You may have a copy, but how about one for that friend/sister/mother/ writing partner?**


  1. Hey Sayantani. I loved working on Stories of Illness and Healing with you (and even bringing my mother in to organize our author files!). My major problem with co-authorship, though, has nothing to do with schedules and babysitting and demands on our roles as mothers, but with withdrawal. Collaboration is so fulfilling that completion leaves me depleted. But small price to pay in the end for great reward. Marsha

  2. I'm with you, Marsha! Withdrawal looms... but I have a sure cure! Book 2 of the series, my dears. Book 2.

  3. Thanks for the comments, dearies. I think it would be good to brainstorm for folks what makes for a good collaboration - and tricks for making sure your collaboration works... maybe my next post!

  4. Love this blog, Sayantani. Looking forward to becoming a regular reader!

    I'm co-editing an anthology with a good friend, and so far it's been a great experience. Co-editing gave me the courage to do a project I never would have done alone!

  5. Thanks Anjali - Co-editing gives me courage too! I think I'll post next something on what makes a good collaboration -- please chime in!

  6. Omigosh. This blog gives me such good vibed--goodness all the way! I actually bumped into it via a site where I (*embarrassed to admit) haven't been active, but am a member of, nevertheless (Hint: it starts with "S" and ends with "he Writes") So, your introducing this blog on it totally worked for me, Sayantani!

    About co-authoring, yeah, I will keep my eyes open. If anyone at all would like to pen a book with me, give me a buzz! ;)

    Oh, well.

    And now let me figure out how to subscribe to your blog--hmm, blogger is giving me migraines already! :P

    (Live Blog:

  7. Hi Brown eyed, to follow the blog, I think you just press "follow" on the right. You can do it with a gmail or yahoo account or a bunch of other ways too... let me know if you have trouble!

  8. Thanks Sayantani, I did figure it out ;)