Do You Need New Friends?
October 29, 2017
I’m sitting in Dallas as I type this. I’m at a conference for online marketers. I’ve got to say, I love conferences like this, even though I’m an introvert, even though I always wind up back in my room at the end of the day in a fetal position, what with all the stimulation. I love them because I meet the most interesting people, people who’re growing their businesses, people who love learning new circus tricks to help them accomplish their goals.
I learned a long time ago that when you hang out with people who are doing what you want to do, you end up doing the same.
Case in point.
When I came out of writing school, I quickly fell out of the discipline, the practice of writing. I no longer had deadlines looming. I no longer came into contact with those who wrote all day, who talked about the subject incessantly. To make matters worse, I could no longer find the time to drive the two hours to (then from) Cambridge, which is where most of my writing cohorts lived.
I missed writing, and my community, horribly. I felt guilty—reprehensible, to be more accurate—that my essays and stories all sat in the bottom drawer like unfinished sewing projects. Did I mention that I despise unfinished business?
I decided then that what I needed to do was make some new writing friends. Trust me, if your friends are writing and publishing, you’re going to do the same thing. (FYI: I’m highly competitive, and motivated by shame.)
I had no idea where to find them out in the real world, fellow writers, so I headed over to the public library because, hint, people who write, they also read. A lot. And sure enough, I spotted a notice on the community board: If you’d like to find a writing group, come to this talk.
And she skips ahead twelve years. (Look, transitions don’t always have to be complicated.)
The other day, while I was unloading boxes of books and organizing them onto our new shelves—don’t even get me started on that particular project— I noticed how many books we owned that were written by friends. For fun, I began stacking them in one area, just to get a feel for the volume. (I also noticed some glaring absences, which means I have to brave the attic once again if I want to find that missing box.)
Here’s a picture.
I gotta tell you, it’s really fun to hang out with kindred spirits, to see the beautiful work they’re producing, to see the trajectory of their careers. Jealousy aside—and we writers are jealous of raw talent—I’m just so proud of them.
But more, I’m grateful to be around people who normalize sitting at your computer all day obsessing over language. People I can call when I want to talk structure, or metaphor, or motivation. Who will read my chapter and tell me where I’m off, give me suggestions, or cut my misplaced paragraph and paste it into the right place, without seeking my permission. (Cut and paste is, in my humble opinion, the best invention since anesthesia.)
So, if you want to do something, like write a book, surround yourself with people who are on the path. It’s really hard to do it any other way.
Such a simple lesson.