Writing friends are weird. (And by “weird” I mean “THE BEST.”)
You go about your normal life. You have friends. You also have “friends.” Your real-life friends are neighbours or co-workers or older friends you’ve made a point to keep in touch with. Your “friends” are people you care about—or don’t care about but don’t have the balls to unfriend, even when they post status updates about their latest firearms purchases—but don’t really interact with in any meaningful way. If you’re lucky, you have a real life friend who really knows you. I’m talking about knowing all your secrets. Hopes and dreams and all that shit. And frustrations: they know what makes you rage-y, which is just as important as hopes and dreams and all that shit. I’ve been lucky in this department.
But then you have your writing friends. They’re in their own category. You meet them because you’re both writing. You might have nothing else in common, but the thing that you both get is that even though you have nothing in common, you have everything in common. Because your writing friends? You might as well slice open your stomach and literally spill your guts. They get to see what you write before it’s ready for anyone else’s eyes. They see it while it’s still half-baked, ill-formed. You trust them enough to say, “Here’s this thing I made. Now tell me what’s wrong with it.” The best of them see what you meant, rather than what you wrote, and I’m telling you, you can’t pay for that shit. (Also there’s the part where they will happily talk about comma splices for twenty minutes at a time.)
And even more than all this, your writing friends are the first people with whom you practice being who you want to be. Because you’ve already put your vulnerable, quivering innards on display, it goes without saying that these people understand that what you’re saying is: “I want to be a writer.”
I might be a party of one here, but saying that was a big deal for me. It meant saying, “I think I can write something good enough—eventually.” It went against my ingrained Midwestern self-deprecation. It meant saying, “Here is what I’m trying to do. It might not be good enough, but I’m showing it to you anyway.”
Oh, I’m speaking in abstracts here, and what’s more boring than that? Let’s get real. I have two writing BFFs and I want to talk about them a little bit. I’m gonna go chronologically.
One, named May (who isn’t published yet, but it’s only a matter of time), I met because we were match-made by a friend in common who somehow knew we were both romance novel readers with vague ideas of maybe-someday-writing-one. I have been trying to figure out when we first stared corresponding, but since I have the worst memory in the world, all I can say is 2007? 2008? I don’t know? But weekly email updates have been exchanged for MANY years. Bribes have been enforced. (I may or may not have pledged to give $200 to the George W. Bush presidential library fund if I didn’t finish manuscript X by date Y.)
The other, Sandra Owens, I met in a funny way. I can’t talk about it (or I’d have to kill you), but suffice it to say that we met because we were both complaining about a situation we found ourselves in. I don’t think Sandy would disagree with me when I say that on paper, we don’t have a lot in common. Stage of life, geography, even subgenre: not the same! But it doesn’t matter because she’s seen my innards. I will say that when we met in person at RWA in Atlanta last year it was a huge relief that we clicked in “real life.”
So last weekend the three of us, who have doing weekly email check-ins/cheerleading sessions for years, rented a house on Lake Erie.
It was my second meeting with Sandy, my first ever (!) with May.
Oh, my God. The house was huge and gorgeous. The beach was gorgeous. The sunsets were gorgeous.
The company was the gorgeous-est of all Everyone was working on different stuff. Everyone was also juggling various real life demands, but as pledged, everyone put those aside (except for that one time May decided to do her Latin homework “for fun” over lunch).
We got up every morning, and by unspoken agreement, we wrote. Sometimes we peeled off individually for walks on the beach, naps, and so on, but we all had our noses to the grindstone pretty much all day.
Then came wine o’clock, which meant readings. And by “readings,” I mean reading out loud from works in progress. Dang, I’d rather be on a roller coaster. But Prosecco helps.
Then we talked about what we read. Then we drank more wine. And ate cupcakes. Then we went to bed.
Then we did it all again the next day.
So I’m having a little trouble with reentry. Because I want to live in that place, that lovely zone where you meet the people who see your guts all year long, and they say, “I understand. You’re doing a good job. Here’s a cupcake and a glass of wine. Don’t worry, your innards are safe with me.”