Today’s post is going to be a fluffy one. I know, I know, it’s not my usual shtick, but I have a lot to be grateful for (and a lot, lot, lot of non-authoring work that has taken over my waking hours).
This post is about friends.
When I was nine or ten, I started actively chatting with people online. I know what you’re thinking: “What parents would let their ten-year-old daughter chat online?” But this was a different era. This was 1997 or so; there was no such thing as a cyber predator back then, not just yet. Besides, I was a smart kid, and my parents trusted me. I was building bad HTML websites and writing stories and role-playing with my friends. It was a good thing for a brainy child who didn’t have many friends at school.
I used IceChat, one of the first Java-based chat clients, and later AOL Instant Messenger. I frequented forums that boasted large, yet tight-knit communities of nerds. I felt at home online. I even met people online who later, through parents exchanging phone calls, I met in real life. We stayed friends for many years.
So, safe to say, making friends online is as natural to me as making friends at work is for most other people my age.
And now that I’m a writer–boy, am I glad to have this ability.
I firmly believe that having writers for friends is the only way to stay sane in this profession. Writing books is a solitary job, even if they are fun, kid-centric books. Any freelancer who works from home can identify with the sensation of sometimes being too solitary, even if you are the kind of person that prefers being alone; sometimes, the alone-ness becomes too much.
I think this is why other writers reproduce. And have dogs.
These days, I have many writer friends both in person and online; but almost all the writer friends I have in person I originally met online. Twitter is a pretty powerful tool for this, and so are Facebook groups. It’s easy to find the people out in the world who do the same things you do, and enjoy the same things that you enjoy; and, with a little extra effort, it’s not that hard to become real friends when you click with someone. Start conversations outside of Twitter or Facebook. Have in-person meetups when you happen to be at the same conference at the same time. (Always be safe about it and meet in public until you get to know each other!)
I’m particularly lucky because I live in Portland: this city is a haven for writers. I know at least eight people in person that write middle-grade or young adult. Not just hobby writers, but serious writers, with agents and book deals and books already published.
And I am so grateful for them. They are the most intelligent, supportive, hilarious and fascinating people I know.
Like I said, working as a writer and working from home is a solitary business; social people like me don’t always get on well in that kind of environment. So getting out of the house is an essential step one; actually interacting with other people is step two.
So I co-work. I meet with friends at coffee shops or each other’s houses and just work. This is the part I miss most about an office: just having other people around. If you get snagged, you can pop your head up and say, “What do you think of this?” Or, as is most common for me, “I don’t know what word to use here. Help!” We critique each other, support each other, encourage each other.
I should definitely mention people like my friend Eddy (who I met 11 years ago through an online forum), or my friend Lauren, who is now a valued critique partner of mine–and who I know exclusively online. We occasionally get to meet in person, but our support network exists purely through Google Chat and Twitter. And yet, I couldn’t get by without them.
An ode to friends: the fellow writers who make my life more meaningful, who give me great advice; people like my friend Whitney, who knows me so well she says, “You’re going to go crazy if you go back to the beginning. Keep working from the middle. Make progress. You’ll feel better.”
So true. I’m so glad I have all of you. I would definitely go crazy if I had to go on this journey alone.