Okay, so I was talking with an acquaintance of mine the other day, trying to tell her about how cool my blog is and how much I enjoy Twitter. I happened to mention something about my “friends” online, and she freaked out.
Her: Well, it’s not like they’re really your friends.
Me: Um, yeah. They kind of are.
Her: Well, I mean sure, you have stuff in common with them, and you like them, but they’re not your friends.
Me: (silently) Well, what the hell is your definition of “friend”?
But I didn’t say that. I just murmured something to her and went on about the conversation and then got the hell off the phone.
Then, I started thinking about my friends In Real Life, the people I knew in law school and from before. People I’d talked to, shared with, leaned on. People I’d had drinks with, people I’d bail out of jam, like if their car didn’t start in the morning.
And I thought about what most of those people said to me when I told them I wanted to become a writer.
Like I’d said “car thief.”
Them: What on earth are you going to do with that?
Me: Um, write books?
Them: What makes you think you can do that?
And if I mentioned writing romance? Forget about it. My “friends” have said everything from “Well, I won’t read a romance novel, but if you ever write a real book, I’d read that,” to “Well, good for you. I mean, somebody’s got to write the trash, right?”
Oh. My. God.
Oh, and I’ve heard every Fabio joke in existence.
They just don’t get it. They don’t understand why I want to be writer. They certainly don’t understand why I quit law school to do it. And to write romances? Or some other vile form of genre fiction?
“Not something worthwhile, like Angela’s Ashes?”
Um, no. Writing is hard enough. I don’t need to write a story that makes me want to snort my printer toner.
So, when I actually joined a writer’s group, I was elated because I thought these people will get it. They’ll get me. They won’t be like my judgmental friends. They’ll understand my love of writing and words. They’ll read all the time like I do. And they’ll be just like me!
I should have realized that my expectation was a little off when I went on a retreat with my critique group and one of them actually bragged about how it didn’t matter how you dressed for an agent interview at a conference, to which they all nodded and made disparaging remarks about all the poor losers who actually wore suits to conferences, like it would make a difference in their careers.
All I could think was, I wore a suit to Conference, because this is my job. And if you don’t think an agent is judging you for wearing a muu-muu to your interview, you’re crazy. And, If you’re saying that about them, what the hell were you saying about me?
I’d never felt so alone in my writing career.
It really, really hurt, because writing is hard enough, but trying to do it in the midst of a toxic critique group, or all by yourself, is almost unbearable.
I’ve been trying to reconcile myself to that. To writing alone. To being the only person like me. Someone who genuinely wants to write, who sees a critique group as more than a social gathering. Someone who wants other people to do this with so I don’t feel so crazy and so I have someone to root for, to cheer for, and who can maybe cheer for me, too.
And not just when I get published or get The Call, but when I simply manage to write another page, another day.
Then I started this blog, and my heart began to give way, because I began to meet so many wonderful, beautiful people who seemed to be just like that.
Then I spent an evening on Twitter. (At some point I’m going to have to write about the Awesomeness that is Twitter, but this post is already long enough.)
So, anyway, it was about three in the morning my time and I started chatting with the awesome and always interesting Seth Simonds and I found out that he’s a writer, too. He read my previous post, and we laughed and talked about how difficult it all is, and when I asked him what he writes, he said, “Freelance pays for the food that fiction causes me to cry into” and I laughed hysterically and sent him a big, empathetic, internet hug because I could so relate.
Then I thought that maybe I needed to stop wasting time on Twitter and get back to my work when he sent me this DM (reprinted with his permission):
“You know the feeling of standing right beside somebody and having them reach out and take your hand with a firm squeeze? The feeling of facing the “oh shit, who knows what’s next” but being okay with it because its somehow turned into a sort of team effort?
Empathetic hugs aside, I hope you can get a sense of the hand clasp. ::there:: I write thousands of words each day and I bleed for them. But I’m constantly learning more about myself.”
I read that. And then I read it again. And one more time.
And something inside me slowly unfurled. And I realized …
I’m not alone anymore.
Because there are people who get it, people who get me. And they’re wonderful, beautiful people who are here with me while I’m trying to do this crazy, insane thing.
And, of course, Seth.
And even though you all are probably not going to show up tomorrow if my car breaks down, you’re here with me now. You understand the fear and angst involved in the creative process. And you can lean on me, even while I lean on you, too.
And I think that makes you guys the coolest friends of all.