Saturday, 17 September 2016

O is for Other - on the value of friendship to the writer

Sometimes, life throws a little bonus in our way. Someone does something nice for you. This week, out of the blue a friend offered to make me a free book trailer. 

This is just one example of how we benefit from being contributing members of our communities. What goes around comes around. I am not saying that you join groups and network in order to reap a benefit. Not by any means; in fact what I am getting at is quite the opposite of that. Sure, sometimes you'll be able to return a favour from a fellow author - an example of this is beta reading. More often, however, you'll find yourself helping people who are not in a position to do anything for you. Because, you know, life.
But what does get fostered in these communities, both online and in the real world, is friendships. Friendship is a vast and essential thing. It is what will keep us going when we are ready to throw in the towel. It is what will comfort us and get us over our shock and hurt when we receive that first bad review - and believe me, if you've never had a bad review, then you have it coming. Someone, sometime, is going to hate your book and write about it. It will happen sooner or later, and it doesn't matter how good you are; it will happen one day. It is your friends in the writing community who will give you the tough love when you're making excuses, and help you to get over thinking you have 'writers' block'. And they are the ones who will still be there after you've been kicked out of FWG, or wherever.

My best friend, Emily
But friendship doesn't grow in a vacuum. Nor do we achieve it by hitting the like button. Friendship grows out of conversations, out of authentic communication where we see the other and recognise him. You have to give something of yourself when you are making a friend. There has to be an interchange. 

So, it's not going to do a lot for you if you just join a lot of writers' groups, if you don't fully engage in conversations. But if you do engage, maybe one time in a hundred, you will make a new friend. And one day, your friends may make the difference between giving up and finding the strength to go on.

This friend who has offered to make me a book trailer is someone I met in a Facebook group. I admired her book, and as I got to know her I discovered she is actually a close (as these things are measured in the country) neighbour. Now, we often have lunch when I am home. 

You can't be like a cat 
How to make friends? You've got me there. There is no 'how to'. The very concept of authentic communication means there can be no script. But I can tell you what your attitude should be like. Open. Open to people being different. Open to new experiences. Open to different opinions, different viewpoints. Open mind to listen. Open hands to help. Critique that paragraph that everyone is ignoring in the group because it's cringeworthy. Take a minute to find a kind way to criticise what needs to be criticised, without destroying that new writer's confidence. Put your hand up for a review copy when someone is desperately trying to get reviews. Then read the book in a timely manner and post your review everywhere you can. Be as kind as you can consistent with honesty. And sooner or later, you will find that you have made some friends in the community, and they are precious.

The attitude of a good dog is more what you want.

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