Sympathy for the Non-Writing Friend of the Writer

We sign up for NaNoWriMo, we buy expensive pens, we write manuscripts, spending hours and hours every day in a dark corner with imaginary friends . Sometimes we complain about our imaginary people and their imaginary worlds. We invest years of time and energy working on what amounts to elaborate fantasies with no visible sign of progress to the outside world, all in the hope of one day publishing.

To chase this dream, we skip social activities, we get too little exercise and too little sleep. We moan and whine about not wanting to go write, or about how difficult it is, then we go do it. We get neck and wrist problems from too much typing, and we become much too good at never returning phone calls and emails.

The collection of empty wine bottles is better left unmentioned.

We send out what we write to magazines and agents and publishers, and are so devastated when the rejection comes back that the grief might be better explained by a dead grandmother or the discontinuation of a favorite word processor.

And this is what we want to be when we grow up. Writers.

Not everyone is going to get it.

Really, what is there to get? We're positively bonkers.

We are idealistic, mad, stupid, foolish. We live in some other world; risking today for a future that may not come. We have talent for words and ideas and we spend that talent on writing fiction to be sold later instead of using them to make money today, maybe with copywriting or ghost writing or journalism.

We have bodies that we choose to sit down at a computer and let them get a little extra padding while outside, there is hiking and parks and paintball and bicycling and skiing. We choose to see this through the window, and write about it instead of abandoning the words for the excitement of living out in the “real world”.

Non-writers will look at us and know that we're wasting ourselves and our lives in a vain hope.

And if they are like a very dear friend of mine, they will point it out. Maybe more than once.

They don't understand; there is no understanding. And when they see us acting like absolute idiots over a very slim chance of success, a good friend will say something. Because they care about us, and they know we probably would like to continue to feed ourselves, or to maybe see the sun from time to time without a window in the way.

They will say what they think, if they are a good friend. And extra good friends will be blunt.

And when they do, try to listen to what they have to say. Don't do what I did tonight and make them feel like they did something wrong and let them leave with hurt feelings. Don't try to justify yourself or even to argue. Just listen, and let them say what they see, and what they think.

It isn't their fault that we are crazy. Their criticism doesn't always mean they want us to stop, or that they think we are messing up our lives. That's just our fears being projected onto what they are saying.

Deep down, we all know that this is stupid and crazy and possibly hopeless. When someone calls us on it, we violently defend our craziness. It sucks to have anyone you may have to let say “I told you so” down the road.

So try and relax and listen. Talk about their ideas with them. And in the end, you can both agree that you are just a nuts and have wild ideals. Say when you are ready to delve into the “real world,” you'll totally ask their advise.

This poor person is friends with a writer. Be kind.

Maybe one day, they'll finally get to read something we publish. Maybe they'll come to us and say, “You know, you really are good. I had no idea.”

Praise from a critic is my favorite kind.

And to that friend I unfairly snapped at: I'm sorry. Lets do beer soon, and I'll actually listen this time instead of turning into evilsaurus.

 

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4 thoughts on “Sympathy for the Non-Writing Friend of the Writer

  1. Very touching. It is the practice of loving kindness — and practice it is — the traveling inward can be as real as what others think is real around them. It is the effort, the intent, that is important.

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