Writing is a lonely business: writing friends help

You write on your own. There are writers who collaborate, but most of us sit on our own at our desks, doing what we do. We write, of course, a lot, but we also think a lot and do a good amount of research. These are not social activities. Hamish, a writer friend of mine, maintains that writing is a selfish activity and that you have to be single-mindedly selfish to find the time to write when you’ve got a full-time job, family and friends. I think he’s right. Writing’s an obsessive occupation and obsessions are all about the self.

Personally, I don’t think I could take myself seriously if it was just me, all alone in a creative sea, swimming in whichever direction I fancy that moment. I need feedback and support, some kind of direction.

Enter writing buddies.

Having friends who also write is wonderful. Not only does it mean that I know people who have the same goals as me, but it means that I have critical readers (a very useful thing), external deadlines, and people who won’t get easily bored by writing chat. Whatever format the conversation takes – a writer’s group meeting, a twitter conversation, emails, IMs, meetings over coffee and cake – each interaction I have with my writing buddies makes my day a little brighter and writing a more social activity. As pointed out by Seth Godin in a recent blog, who you hang out with affects what you dream about and what you do, so as a writer, I want to spend time with writers, at least some of the time.

A couple of years ago I was at a workshop at the book festival and a young man was complaining about how difficult it was to get published. He’d written eight novels but hadn’t had any of them accepted. One of the speakers asked if he’d asked people to read his writing, his friends, for example. He said none of his friends read. She suggested that he get friends who did. It was good advice. You need support and if the people around you don’t read, how will they understand when you chose to write?

My friends read. I don’t make all of them read my stuff, but they all read something. But now, a greater percentage of my friends also write. Some of them always did, I just didn’t know until I came out as a writer, some are more recent connections. I haven’t stopped seeing my non-writer friends, but I’ve been lucky enough to find a pool of people with similar obsessions to mine.

That I have friends that write isn’t just good for me. It is also good for my partner who, no matter how proud he might be of my accomplishments, and how much he enjoys my stories, doesn’t find the ins and outs of writing the most fascinating conversation topic in the universe, as I do. I want to save my loved ones from the true depth of my obsession.

This post was supposed to go out for Thanksgiving. Rebecca, a friend of mine, introduced me to Thanksgiving (also pumpkin pies, sweet potato casserole and, unrelated to Thanksgiving but still lovely, s’mores) and I like it. Taking time out to think about what’s good about life is a great idea and the closest I get to self-help. If I’d been in sight of a pumpkin pie this year, I would have given thanks for writing-buddies. Actually, I will, pie or no pie.

Here’s to you, guys. Thank you for being there.

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