The Taskmaster

Ellen Curtis
Ellen Curtis

People often ask me what it is like to write with another person, especially since that person is my partner. The truth of the matter is, it is at once the most stressful and most rewarding experience that I have had as an author. Matthew is one of my favorite people, and we are alike in many ways, so when we work well together, we work very well. When we clash, however, the fights can be extreme.

I refer to Matt as ‘The Taskmaster’ because he often is on my case about writing. We both lead busy lives, juggling the business, post secondary, our day jobs and day-to-day life. Sometimes, it is too much to come home after such a full day and sit down for three hours at my desk and write a few thousand words. Matt, on the other hand escapes to his computer after a long day. As such, we often do not produce the same amount of work in the run of a month, which admittedly must be quite frustrating for him when we’re operating under the system of writing particular sections of a novel, and I’m a fair few chapters behind where he is.

This stress aside, there is the added stress of agreeing on what exactly we will be writing ahead of time. All of our joint endeavors are meticulously planned chapter by chapter, so the planning portion of the novel can often be more labor intensive than actually writing it. Many times we will viciously fight over which character should play which part, what their motivations are for their actions, and ultimately if we should pursue a storyline based on conflicts with existing or planned material. In the end, it rests on how devoted each of us is to our ideas, and through these challenges we have learned how to better compromise as a couple. Our conflicts in writing remind us to not take criticisms personally, and to not make criticisms personal.

There are many upsides to writing with Matthew, if anything I have said leads one to believe otherwise. We feed off each others ideas, and through this interaction we are both challenged to deliver more and be more creative. Each work is more complex, more intriguing, because we each add our own layers to the story.

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