ATTENTION WRITERS: Your best friends? They ain’t gonna read your sh@t, and it’s not because you’re a bad writer, no — they’re just … not gonna. Let me rewind and try to put this in perspective before I’m disowned/unfollowed/unfriended by everyone I have ever known.
Friendships, as they age, undergo growing pains. As an adult, you’re very lucky to retain your childhood friends. In fact, most adults (I’ve noticed) collect adult friends because circumstances with childhood friends change drastically over time. When you’re a kid, oh, boy, it is total emersion; you and your best friend are one unit! You wear the charms and obsess over the same things. You go to school with them, probably, and spend tons of time with them on the weekends because you’re not busy being an adult yet. You are completely awash with all things “best friend,” and this is often reciprocated, because what else is there socially when you’re – I don’t know – 12 years old?
Things happen in friendships, though, as you age. Boyfriends and girlfriends happen; parents take jobs in different states and people move away; and then college applications and graduation. All of these things, as well as many other circumstances not mentioned, give way to a more “me-centric” reality. Young people, as they get older, must become self-absorbed in many ways in order to set the foundation for adult survival. When I was in high school, we were expected to start plotting our course to adulthood before we could even enroll in the military or buy a pack of smokes. We had to start thinking way down the road about our career paths, and how we might be able to hack it out there on our own, living on Long Island — one of the most expensive places to live per square foot in the nation.
So, college happens (or doesn’t), and you start meeting new people. You link up with college buddies because you’re forced into shacking up with them, or they’re in all of your classes. If you go to a commuter school, like I did, you strike up conversations between classes because one of you has a lighter and the other one doesn’t. If you’re working, you start making work friends, who, in a very real way, begin to take the place of your school friends. After all, you’re spending eight hours per day-ish with them. Even in this transitional period, the “squad” mentality likely exists. You guys are all trying to find your way in the world and there’s a common bond that fortifies these friendships: it’s the I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing bond. This is actually a really good time for friendships, and at this point, many of your friends are still all about the things you’re doing, because you’re likely doing a lot of those things together.
The redefining of many friendships (I think) begins somewhere in the mid-to-late 20s and early 30s. Your friends are settling down and getting married; they’re starting careers; they’re relocating; they’re having babies, and amid all of this, you start to focus less on the – let’s say – frivolous points of your friendships and more on the basics — the overarching life events. You start making monthly plans to meet up for dinner, or you set up weekly biannual phone calls/texts to check in. Arranging visits are much harder now because you’re always working and your boss never gives you time off. It’s hard to get a sitter; you’re ripping apart your house; airfare is expensive; someone in your family is sick; you’re flat-ass broke because you’re trying to pay back your student loans. Sure, do you want to see your friends? Totally. Do you want to know what’s new with them? Absolutely. You’re interested in their progression, right? One hundred percent. Still, do you really care what they’re doing if they have recreational time and you’re not involved? Maybe not really. You don’t necessarily have time for that, because you’re dealing with your own brand of adult life, right? *shrugs*
Almost every day on my way to work, I call my mom to catch up. We bitch about this or that, or we just update one another on the goings on of the night before. I was lamenting to her not too long ago that it seems as though my writing has a very sickly audience, and she said something very interesting to me. “Renée, honestly, your friends are not the ones who are going to read your stuff.” Wow, what a gut punch, Mom. She went on to tell me about her own experiences with her longtime and important friends. My mother is retired, but she sells an obscure brand of makeup for fun. She explained to me that her friends were never really the ones to show interest in that part of her life — they very rarely bought products from her, even though she shared with them catalogues or whatever the hell she has to promote these products. See?! This is my own mother and I don’t really know what it is that she’s peddling! In any case, it got me to thinking.
I knew a person once whose best friend was a self-published author. She had written a lengthy YA series, and I remember this person admitting to me that she hadn’t read all of her books. She had them; she was holding onto them, but she hadn’t read them. Did this person know everything about this author’s kids, though, and what was happening in her marriage? She sure did. Similarly, I have a very close friend who has written a novel. Have a read it? Nope, not once sentence, and it’s not because I don’t care about this friend. On the contrary — I would take an eye out with a fork for this person if someone even looked at her wrong; I would burn cities to the ground if anyone did anything to her family. Point is, I really love this person, but am I going to read her novel? I really don’t know for certain.
When I publish new blog posts, or poetry, my best friends are not reading my work. Dude, my husband isn’t even reading my work, but ya know what? Other people are … kinda! I will admit the 12-year-old me that still lives inside my brain yearns for my friends’ attention in this way, but I try to understand that these people are living their own lives — sometimes very complicated and stressful lives. Maybe they don’t have the time to read my work, or … *takes deep breath* maybe it’s simply not interesting to them. This last part is really the key element, isn’t it? Maybe they’re just not interested in what I’m doing creatively. Still, do they remember my birthday? Are they there to console me when I’m having a bad day at work? Do they know everything about how I process information? Can they predict my reactions to certain events? Do they know if I’m going to order beer or wine with dinner? Yeah, I think so and, well, does the other stuff really matter all that much then? I’m not sure; maybe not.
Here’s the thing, writers, artists, or other hobbyists: you’re doing what you’re doing for yourself, and people are going to do what they want to do in the end. The hard truth? Your best friends are going to be there to dry your tears (hopefully), but they may not want to read your fiction. Adjust accordingly.