Mon. Nov. 26, 2018: Can Writers Have Friends? #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, November 26, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune DIRECT (as of Saturday)
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

On the surface, that looks like a ridiculous question. Of course writers have friends! There are famous (and infamous) literary friendships throughout the known canon of literature. Writers need friends — people they can trust, people who will tell them when they’ve gone off the rails.

But it’s difficult to be friends with a writer.

It’s difficult for writers to be friends with each other.

I’m not talking about competition. As far as I’m concerned, when one of us succeeds, it’s good for everyone. Agents, publishers, and those who make money off our work want us to feel competitive, because it helps THEIR bottom line. But really, the toughest competition is ourselves, meeting our own expectations.

So why is it difficult to be friends with a writer?

Because everything is material.

If you know a writer, something you inspired will turn up in their work.

Unless it’s a roman-à-clef, it won’t be you in a literal sense. When an individual inspires a character, when I do my job properly, that character evolves away from the inspiration into a distinct individuality of its own, even if they still share characteristics.

Strangely enough, some people who swear that this character or that character is “based” on them in my work were never part of the equation, as far as I was concerned, and certainly not for the characters in which they saw themselves reflected.

I do my best to “do no harm.” I don’t always succeed, but that is my objective. Unless you hurt someone I care about, and then I’ll hunt you to hell and back if that’s what’s needed. I am fully in touch with my Shadow Self, and know how to use it.

But if you know me, whether it’s virtually or in person, something or someone you inspired will eventually show up in the work. It might be twenty years after we’ve lost touch, but it will happen.

Because I’ve spent my working life in the arts, and, except for the years since I left New York, my circle was entirely artists in different disciplines, athletes (when I was a sports reporter), and either veterans (met through the arts) or soldiers (who found my letters nattering about life in the arts an interesting distraction), it wasn’t a big deal. Now that I live away from an art-centric, urban environment, where fewer people understand the process, it’s a trickier. People are quicker to hunt for offense.

Artists use each other creatively all the time. It’s usually healthy. Sometimes it’s not. I was part of a cabal of writers in the UK for awhile, when I was early in the writing part of my career, where we used each other in our books, often without much disguise. Sometimes it was flattering, sometimes it was painful. Now, I re-read it, shake my head and laugh at how we tried to impress each other and communicate what we really thought and felt by Mary-Sue-ing instead of just talking to each other. In many cases, the work suffered. So did our relationships.

Non-writers often make assumptions, especially when it comes to my characters’ romantic lives or sex lives, especially if the book is dedicated to a man. They assume I’ve either had sex with the man mentioned in the dedication, or I want to have sex with him. In either case, it’s assumed the male protagonist stands in for him. The former may be true (I’ve certainly dedicated books to current or ex lovers), the latter unlikely. I’m not Anaïs Nin and he’s not Henry Miller; we’re not dashing to the page, still naked and sweaty after our encounters, to write them down.

Okay, I admit it: I went through that phase, but I was in my early twenties. I outgrew it. My writing is better now than it was then for many reasons, and, most important of all, I write FICTION.

I used to write erotica, back when it paid well. People who knew I did (and knew the names under which it appeared) often assumed and commented on how I must go about my “research.” It served us both not to dissuade them, although I made some flippant comments that I realize were unfair to actual lovers in my life, and that I now regret. I have apologized to several people, all of whom were puzzled because they didn’t remember and/or hadn’t been hurt.

When I’m writing and revising, I can pinpoint where the real-world inspiration diverges from the fictional character; but often, after several years, drafts, and a good editor, I can’t any more. I know who it was, but the character stands firmly on its own.

Writers used to worry, before the age of over-sharing on social media, about hurting others in their writing. It’s less of an issue now that it was fifteen or twenty years ago, and it’s always been more of an issue in memoir than in fiction.

There’s the position of “write whatever you need to write, your own truth, and to hell with anyone who gets hurt” and “change enough so they can’t recognize themselves.”

As I mentioned above, I evolve the characters away from the inspiration, when I do my job properly, so I embody neither AND both of the above.

On the opposite side of protecting people in your life you care about, there’s dealing with hurt. Hurt is inevitable. We cause it, even when we don’t want to; we feel it.

I make a lot of jokes about killing off people who annoy me in my novels. But they’re not really jokes, and it’s a great way to blow off steam. And by the time I write it, and the piece is ready to go out into the world, again — the character has evolved away from the original inspiration into its unique identity.

But the process eases the hurt and gets it into perspective. I’m often less hurt after the process because I understand the other individual more. I could wallow in the hurt if I kept that person as a two-dimensional cipher of my pain and rage. But, again, if I do my job as a writer, and make it a fully developed character, there will be more to the person and the situation than my pain.

Yes, writers can and must have friends. But non-writers need to realize that everything, and every ONE — is material.

Published in: on November 26, 2018 at 6:39 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 26, 2018: Can Writers Have Friends? #UpbeatAuthors  
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