Some folks may think that I have some odd ideas around concepts like friendship and family. That’s okay; I probably feel the same about their ideas. It would be difficult to find an avid reader who did not feel a certain kind of connection with at least one author. Many of us feel that we owe a debt to several authors that could not possibly be repaid; I know I do. I joked about most of my best friends being dead, back when I was reading more philosophy than most folks thought was good for me. I didn’t really consider them friends, though; and they weren’t all dead. I held both the living and the dead in equal awe, if they were authors that had touched or changed me; and they were more distant god-like figures than buddies in actuality to me.
As an author, I have had to reassess this. When I first got into this, I knew I would have to dedicate serious time to writing and publishing my books. Any book on any business is going to address the fact that business owners often give up a lot in the beginning. It’s the same for the artist. One of the most common things that get put aside are old friendships. That hour or two or three that an employee can spend a couple times a week hanging out and shooting the breeze with a buddy often falls off the business owner’s much tighter schedule. Anyone looking to follow any dream has to assess the value of every hour spent, and whether their friendships are helping or hurting their dream.
Good friends and good family are always able to understand when someone they care about is ready to focus on something they care about. The rest are really not of much use in the first place. I realize that this is an opinion, but it’s one that I stand behind. It can also pretty easily be stated in terms that make it both more self-apparent and less opinionated: Spending time with people that are not good for you is not good for you. Spending time with people that are good for you is good for you.
This is your social life.
This is your social life on logic.
But the people I spend time with are not real people, you say?
First of all, how dare you. My characters are so real to me it makes me wonder sometimes if I am imagining them into life or if they are imagining me into life. But they aren’t just real to me; they’re real to my readers as well. They might not all wonder if all these folks I write about actually exist in some alternate dimension that I have a special window into, like I do; but they find themselves coming to hate or love those characters that I write about, and they are kind enough to take the time to tell me so sometimes.
That’s real, no tricky semantics required. Even if my fictional friends really are fictional, the bridge that they build between me and the people who love my books isn’t. And when I think of someone reading and enjoying one of my books, even if they don’t shout about it from an electronic rooftop, I think about how words like ‘friends’ and ‘family’ have changed for me since I have become that thing I always wanted to be. There are a bunch of authors out there who see writing as a cooperative community, and many of them have become my friends and family over the last few years. I didn’t expect that, so I got to be pleasantly surprised by it.
These are the kind and generous and helpful people that not only warmly welcomed me into publishing; they’re also people that touched my life before I got the chance to read their books. Then I got around to reading some, after swearing off reading to keep my voice consistent throughout my first trilogy, and I realized these weren’t just kind and generous people. They are brilliant, as well! And cool and smart, at least from a worldly author’s point of view. I am blown away by some of the talent I have seen in indie authors, and I feel honored to be a part of the community.
Labels have been tossed my way over the years, and some of them felt like they fit just fine. I always liked ‘lone wolf’ and ‘recluse’ particularly, and didn’t ever mind ‘hermit’ or ‘fringe dweller’ at all. It’s been awhile since I heard any of those, probably since right around when I started getting my first book into bookstores. It might be surprising for people that knew me back in those reclusive days to know that I am the one asking my partner to make sure we’re getting out and doing something at least a couple of times a month; it wouldn’t surprise ‘Yesterday Jay’, though; he knew that he would be seeking out his friends one day, and finally finding his intellectual family somehow.
I still spend a lot of time alone, making the company Appletop look several years old instead of just under one. But that connects me, every time I post or publish, to anyone who likes what I write. Those weekends we make sure and get out take us to book festivals and wineries and bookstores, which are a few examples of places we have sold my books. They are also a few examples of places I would enjoy going to even if I didn’t have books with my name on the covers.
There were several years there where all my Friday and Saturday nights were spent writing, or planning. Now I alternate, because now I am living the life of an author instead of the life of the socially awkward introvert. He’s still in there, and reminding me of what he was saying all along: “I’m not socially awkward, I just don’t want to talk to people that aren’t interested in the same things I am. Of course I feel awkward talking to someone about topics that mean nothing to me. I’d rather be reading, or writing, and leaving my schedule open for fascinating friends when they do come along.”
Well, they have come along. They’ve made it into my inbox, and my home, and my heart. They’ve even made it into my books. They were attracted to the person I had become, without much regard for where I had come from. Some people read the things I write, and enjoy them, and send me a message saying so. That always means a lot, and has even led to close friendship. It also brings old friends closer, and it’s a special joy to have someone from my past read one of my books or posts and reach out. The way I write is deliberately revealing; since that’s one of my favorite aspects of my favorite books and authors, I couldn’t write any other way and be true to myself at the same time. That means that an intellectually or emotionally intimate connection is made when someone reads what I have written.
Don’t think that I’m silly enough to think that everyone loves everything I write. That’s not the point of writing, to me. The point is to be as starkly revealing and honest as possible in telling the stories I am blessed to have filling my head. That will turn a bunch of people off, and that’s fine. I’m looking for the ones that have a reasonable grasp on life and themselves, and aren’t afraid to ask any question or entertain any answer. The books I have always loved the most were the ones that made me stop reading at some point, and think long and hard about something. After thinking, I used to almost always turn the book over to read the author’s name again.
‘Wow’, I would think. ‘You didn’t just write that crazy shit down; you put your name on the cover!’
Then I’d jump back into the book, often feeling like I had just made a friend. It felt silly at the time, back when I was just a reader.
It doesn’t feel silly now. That’s the point of writing for some authors, and it’s only silly that I didn’t see it until I became one of those authors. Every sentence that some people write is a real peek into their mind, and that’s an intimate thing when it is shared. I used to think it took real courage to do that, and maybe it kind of does; but comparing how I feel after writing the way I do to the way I felt when I bottled it all up inside for fear of what others might think or say…that was way harder on me.
Some people hate some or all of the things I write; I don’t apologize for my perspective, or try to push it on anyone. I just keep sharing it with the people who do love the things I write, because those are the people that are important to me. I am an author, and those are my friends.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,