I've been meeting once a week for over a year now with a fellow writer/illustrator. We often catch lunch together, then usually end up at my studio where we work on our picture books. Debbie is quite disciplined about sketching, developing characters, laying out a dummy, building her portfolio. My work is a little more haphazard, and yet, every week I feel our time together has helped me to check in with where I am in my work, and it helps keep my stories on the front burner.
We do a lot of sharing of books we've discovered at the library and bookstore and we attend a lot of SCBWI and other events together. I have been a lot more prepared for these events, having looked at the books that Debbie has tracked down through inter-library loan. Her discipline has inspired me to do more research and reading.
Having a working buddy is a great way to stay focused. And we help each other see the books we look at in new lights. Two heads are definitely better than one. I'm not sure this would work in a larger group, but it's certainly working for the both of us right now. In our time together I have taken a half-developed picture book idea and transformed it into a new poetry collection. It is currently out, waiting for a reading from my editor. This project was stymied for a long time and our weekly meetings really have helped me to push through the wall.