I am writing today with my writing friend, Michael. This means that he and I chat for a few minutes when we first meet (we try to stay focused on the subject of writing) and then we mute ourselves and write independently for the rest of the time. We check in with each other about five minutes before the end of our meeting, not to read what we wrote, but to talk about the writing process of what we just did. We have done this on and off for a couple of years, but are reconvening after a several-month hiatus because Michael and I are both writing coaches and our schedules have been full due to deadlines for college essays. Consequently, we are using our friendship as an excuse to get together for a weekly visit that includes built-in writing time so we can both focus on projects that are important to us.
Michael was my student before he became my writing friend. I started working with him when he was in 7th grade when he was giving his parents some serious push-back regarding his homework. At that point, I worked primarily with kids as an educational therapist, offering a safe place to come and get support for their school work while also exploring their feelings through writing. Michael was one of those kids who very quickly discovered that writing could be a very real outlet for his creativity and it wasn’t long before he and I became fast friends. Another advantage of Michael discovering his love of writing was that all of that homework push-back fell away and he instead became a much more dedicated student. Writing helped him in every subject and, as a result, he began to excel.
Fast forward five years. Michael applied to and was accepted into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts playwriting program. That was a thrilling moment for us both when we saw that he would have the opportunity to develop his writing in such a prestigious program. Since graduating, Michael has written and produced several award-winning screenplays and has won several contests for his screenwriting skills. To subsidize his writing, he began working with students and has since developed quite a successful business. Over all of these years, he and I have remained good friends, which includes encouraging each other in this mutually-shared passion. Michael is now 32, and his writing grows ever stronger.
Over these past 22 years of working with students, I have had a handful, like Michael, who have remained in touch with me. Some are still in college while others have since graduated and gone on to graduate school or jobs. They all take pride in their writing and many have pursued writing either as a profession or picked a profession where writing is a critical component, such as Law. Nothing makes me happier than when I receive a text from one of these folks “just checking in.” We now meet over Zoom to catch up, a bit different than drinking tea and eating cookies in my den, but still, a wonderful way for us to stay in touch. I am aware these check-ins are gifts and I am grateful for them.
Michael and I have agreed on a new meeting schedule for 2023. Fingers are crossed that we can keep that writing time together sacred. It’s easy to let other obligations undercut that precious weekly 1 1/2 hours of writing. He and I have pledged to do our best to tend to our own writing as much as we tend to the writing of our students. That is my goal for the new year and his as well.
Wish us luck!
Michael on one of his many trips to foreign lands.
Michael looking quite dapper in Southern CA.