We reached out two accountability buddies, Katie and Cristina, from our first Writing Quest to get a sneak peek of what their experience was like, what they learned about each other, and how much progress they made with their writing goals.
Here's the exclusive, hot off the press story....
Katie: 😱 I think this emoji conventionally conveys panic, but I mean it as astonishment. As soon as I started reading examples of Cristina’s work, I could tell how talented she is, and I was really excited to have her look at my stuff.
And then I received early drafts of a couple short stories she was working on, and I was blown away—while I knew she had a lot of work she wanted to do to refine voices and build out the stories, I immediately felt a connection to her characters and their struggles and triumphs. I love the way her brain creates things, and watching her stories come to life.
And part of that astonishment is also directed at myself. With Cristina’s encouragement and positive feedback on my essays—something I hold tight to because of my respect for her as a writer—I was able to confidently launch a whole blog and newsletter for myself by the end of the Quest and be excited about sharing it with the world. I didn’t know I could do that!
Cristina: 🙃 Why the upside-down smiley? Well, it conveys a sense of whimsical happiness with an element of surprise. That is exactly how I feel about Katie and our accountability buddy relationship.
I confess to being wary about the whole accountability partner scheme. I’ve had feedback partners before with mixed success—they tended to focus on what was “wrong” with my pieces, not what was going well. Plus, I’m a text-based person with my limited hearing and vision, so I wasn’t sure how that would affect our relationship.
But Katie greatly exceeded my expectations. She encouraged me when I wasn’t feeling great about my writing, and helped me see what was working well in my writing. That gave me so much more confidence in my writing and in myself. Her openness about her ups and downs helped me deal with the emotional roller coaster that is life during a pandemic.
Plus, she gets my very bad jokes!
So, there you have it. An upside-down smiley.
Katie: I’ve always had a hard time feeling like I had a strong voice in my writing. I struggled with this a lot at the beginning, and when I wrote my first story, I kept it pretty high-level. I wasn’t in love with it. Cristina’s feedback is something that I’ll always carry with me: “I want more YOU in this!”
Hearing that made me dig deeper into my memories and add in more of my personal experiences and feelings, which allowed me to add so much more depth to my essay. I ended up with something I think takes the reader on a real journey and truly says something, and I’m really proud of it.
Cristina: I was struggling a lot with my story about a complicated mother-daughter relationship. So much was going on in the story, and I felt as if I had bitten off too much, which is typical of me. My draft was still pretty rough, and I was scared to show it to anyone because I felt like I hadn’t figured it out yet. But it was that time of the week to give my accountability buddy something. I closed my eyes and sent her the rough version, knowing it was far from what I wanted it to be.
Katie was able to look past its many flaws and see its potential. She got what I was going for. With a few astute words, she told me what was working well and a few spots I could work on. Most of all, she encouraged me to keep going. It is because of her that I finished that draft and am now in the midst of a new revision! Sometimes all you need is a few genuinely positive words to keep going.
Katie: I learned that I have a voice and I actually have a lot to say, and now I don’t hold back. Through witnessing Cristina’s vulnerability in sending me rough drafts—which I know scared her—I don’t feel as embarrassed showing people my unpolished work, and I’m more open to changes.
I learned what I love about writing: It opens you up emotionally helps you work through your thoughts and opinions, giving you the opportunity to have more trust in yourself. And by sharing your words with others, you give them the opportunity to see themselves in your story, making them feel less alone.
And, not for nothing, reading Cristina’s fiction work helped me think more creatively about my non-fiction writing, which I think makes it better!
Cristina: I learned how important support and encouragement are to me, especially from fellow writers. Most people just smile and change the subject when I tell them I’m a writer. Nobody in my family writes anything beyond a grocery list or a medical report, so it’s hard for them to relate. I hadn’t realized how much the isolation had drained me until I paired up with Katie and others in Anam Cara. They gave me the burst of energy that I needed to overcome self-doubt. Moreover, Katie’s consistent support gave me confidence in my writing, and I’m now submitting my work!
Katie, thank you for waking me up to the simple fact that I need support, just like everyone else. Upside-down smiley face!
Katie (again): Oooh, ditto on the support thing. We all need positive reinforcement, right? Also, Cristina: ❤️
By the end of the quest, Katie launched a new blog and newsletter, and Cristina gained admittance into the Deaf Artists Residency Program at the Anderson Center in Minnesota! You can also read more of Cristina's writings on her blog.
Even months after our Quest concluded, Katie and Cristina still send each other their writing and remain email pen pals :)
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