So, preserving a friendship with someone who is a serious writer requires effort and is, at times, beyond challenging : )
Listed below are three basic traits that we can put into practice when dealing with our "writerly" friends.
- Respect the writer's time and privacy. If the writer asks that they not be bothered for a block of time or if they do not ask this, but are, all of a sudden, no longer responding to your phone calls/emails/text messages/tweets, you can assume that they are not upset with you but are writing and in need of privacy to continue writing. When the writer reaches a stopping point, they will notice their missed messages and get back to you. The best thing that a friend can do when this occurs is to not take offense, feel unloved, or pressure their writer friend to "get out more" but to respect the writer's need for privacy.
- Always be honest. If your writer friend asks you to read a manuscript, it is a good idea to first, keep in mind that it took a lot of courage for the writer to share their work. Secondly, it is a good idea to keep in mind that to be helpful you must be brutally honest. Reading the entire manuscript and then giving your friend a short response such as, "Nice work!" or "That was great!" is not helpful. To be a good friend, show that you care about the writer's chances for success by pointing out, not only what you liked about their story but everything you did not like. You may think that you don't know much about writing, but if you have the ability to read, then your opinion is priceless! (if you didn't like their work at all, then praise the writer for their courage and ability to write, but be sure to detail what you didn't like about the manuscript- this is helpful because it is the only way the writer will get better).
- Be Respectful of a Writer's Career Choice. If your writer friend works part-time so as to focus on their work, this may seem odd. You might even notice that, because of your friend's devotion to their craft, they do not have as much money as their other friends. Sometimes, watching the writer's struggle will fill you with the urge to encourage your friend to at least think about getting a regular job and having a normal life. While you feel this way because you care about your friend, such encouragement is not a good idea. When the writer chooses to, at the expense of personal comfort, pursue their art, close friends and family members are often quite vocal in their disapproval. This usually results in the artist struggling with feelings of incompetence (thinking, "if I had more talent, then they'd understand and support my decision" or "maybe everyone's right, maybe I'll never make it as a writer") and even loneliness. What the writer needs is at least one friend who, even if they don't fully understand the writer's life choices, respectfully supports the writer's decision to go after the craft they've fallen in love with.
I'm very grateful to have a couple of friends who are extremely supportive and I can't thank them enough for putting up with my weirdness! : )
What I love about these individuals is that they are honest, caring, and respectful.
I've learned a lot from them about what it means to be a friend and I hope to continue learning!
What about you? Whether or not you're a writer, what are one or two qualities that you look for in a friend?