Writing is difficult. It’s lonely and hard and self deprecating. Between the time I decided to write this post and actually wrote the first line, I checked my Gmail, Facebook, toyed with the idea of watching Orange is the New Black, convinced myself not to watch Orange is the New Black, bought a cup of turkey chili, went back and bought some crackers, washed an apple, stirred my chili, texted my writing partner, checked my Gmail again and started a conversation with the stranger next to me. And as I write this, I’m really fighting the temptation to just watch Orange is the New Black.
I just got an email I’ve been waiting weeks to get. About an opportunity that I can’t wait to accept. But I can’t respond to the email because if I stop writing this post for just a second, I’ll convince myself that it’s stupid and a waste of time and it will forever live in the graveyard that is my Drafts folder.
Writing is a bad boyfriend. It gives you a few moments of purpose and fulfillment that keep you going through all the dark times. It tells you that you’re never going to be smart enough, your grammar will always suck and your ideas are boring and bland. No one cares about your story. Everyone sees your typos and inability to spell. Comma splices and run-on sentences taunt me and tell me that I’m not smart and who am I kidding and I really deserve to watch Orange is the New Black because I’m currently on my twenty minute break from work and a break should be a break and is it all worth it and I’m so selfish and I’ll never know the difference between lightening and lightning.
This is why my writing partner is the most important (non-familial) relationship in my life right now.
My writing partner’s name is Sophia Rafiqi and she is the most vile human I know (that’s not true, but I know that it’ll make her happy for me to state that.)
We met 2+ years ago while studying improv at The Second City. We first bonded over Benadryl/NyQuil dependancies and continued talking for hours on the corner of North and Sedgwick. This became our tradition. Every week after class, I pretended to head to the el and she pretended to head to her car but we both knew that we’d end up on that corner talking for hours.
Like most people, I was terrified of Sophia when I met her. She’s the epitome of cool and has this dark sense of humor where you’re not exactly sure if she’s joking or not. The love of her life is that guy from There Will Be Blood and I don’t know his name because I’ve never seen it. She loves Dolly Parton, her sister and thinks that humans are meant to be outside. She’s highly intelligent and can give you an oral dissertation on why Kristen Wiig is the best actress around. When she met my mom, she brought her a candle that crackles like wood and when we finished our two person show, she bought me a ring that I keep in my wallet because I’m too afraid that I’ll leave it somewhere.
We were friends before we were writing partners. We spent endless hours hanging out before we ever wrote a single script together. The first sketch we wrote together was so bad that when we sent it to our director a few months ago as a joke, asking for it to be included in our next show, he truly thought that we were kidding – that the script didn’t exist beforehand and we wrote it to tease him.
We’re opposites that are built exactly the same. I never have to guess how she feels about something and we never disagree when we write. We agree and move on, agree and move on, agree and move on. We brainstorm so many ideas that it’s hard to pinpoint who wrote what. We constantly remind each other that it’s better to have something to edit than nothing at all then agree and move on, agree and move on.
Our first show together was a two person show called “This is Art.” It was created through another show that fell apart. We met after it fell apart and both agreed that we still wanted to do a show, so we decided we’d try a two person show. We booked the space before we wrote anything and created the show in only a few months. Both of us believe in working as hard as possible, which meant that we spent most of the waking day together running lines and editing scripts. Two weeks leading up to the show, we’d rehearse so much that she slept over more often than not. I remember looking at her, both of us exhausted to the point of physical pain, and saying “I’m happy that I really like you. Because if I didn’t really like you, there’s no way I would still like you after how much time we’ve spent together.”
Our show was very successful – our fears of not filling the house were soon replaced by the realization that we oversold and the bittersweet feeling of having to turn people away.
After the show, a lot of people asked us how we met, how we created the show and what we were going to do next… but my absolute favorite question was: Who wrote what?
We couldn’t answer that question. The show was such a collaboration between us and our director, Jay Sukow (the third member of this family) that we really couldn’t pinpoint who wrote which script. The other night, Sophia was over and we were talking about this. There were only two sketches in the entire show that we could attribute to one person. The rest were completely collaborative.
Sophia and I took a little “break” after our show (our breaks consist of her acting in a show that I was directing, starting our next show and applying for festivals) and she came over the other night to write for the first time in months. I remember the point where I opened my computer and we had to start a script. I was terrified and dreading it – starting is the hardest. If I were by myself, I’d be napping or watching Netflix. I’d convince myself that I could do it at a different time or that I deserved to watch Orange is the New Black. But with Sophia there, we just did it. We churned out two great first drafts in two hours because writing is lonely and difficult and hard but with the right partner, it becomes easier and you have someone to do it with.
I have no idea how we were able to find each other. But thank fucking God we did.