The Art of Friendship

By Elizabeth Engstrom

I’m an introvert. I enjoy my own company, and for the most part, don’t want to be out in public socializing and making small talk.

But I do it, and I do it for three reasons: 1. It’s good for me. I don’t do well when left to myself and my weird ideas for too long without some social reality check. 2. It’s fun, in moderation. And 3. It’s good for my career.

Let’s talk about that third part.

I’ve been a published author for many years, and in the early days of my writing successes, I attended many writing conferences and conventions. I went for several reasons: to learn how to write better, to learn how to articulate that which I did seemingly by the seat of my pants, and to meet other people who were wrestling with the same issues that all writers wrestle with. Writers are a peculiar bunch, and I found I could relax in the company of other writers. I still do.

friends

During those early days, I did learn to write better, I learned to talk intelligently about writing, and in fact, learned to teach the skills I acquired. I also met wonderful people who I count among my friends to this day. These are lifelong friends, not acquaintances who come and go. These are professional writers whose paths cross mine at seemingly random yet fortuitous moments. I can let my hair down with these people; I can be myself without going back to my hotel room and burn with self-recriminations afterward. (Those of you who are the same breed of overly-sensitive writers know exactly what I’m talking about.)

But while this is not a treatise on how to be a good friend, I want to mention something that one of my best writer friends said to me the other day: “I know that you will come through with anything you say you will do, or anything we agree to do together.” Wow. This was the highest compliment possible, because not only are we social friends, we are professional friends.

This made me reflect on how fortunate I am to have such amazing friends in the industry (and outside the industry too, but that’s a different essay). I meet my deadlines. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I respect their privacy, and I respect their introvertism. I come through with my obligations to them, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable those obligations become. I pull maintenance on these friendships. I keep in touch, not out of obligation, but because I have grown to love them and their children, and grandchildren, and parents, and I empathize with their difficulties in life. I never take advantage. Over the years, these friendships have solidified into extraordinary relationships. My life is rich beyond imagination because of my friendships with other writers.

So as you wend your way through this weird profession/lifestyle, pay attention to those who help you, who intrigue you, who inspire you. Foster friendships there, not with the thought of what they can do for you in the future, but how you can grow old together in this industry, helping, inspiring, and intriguing each other. Perhaps you will reflect some day that the riches you received as a writer have nothing to do with your bank balance or the number of books with your name on them, but with the quality of the company you keep.

3 thoughts on “The Art of Friendship

  1. Love the comment about returning to the hotel room and going over everything said or done…ha ha! I just thought that was me, but it is introvert behavior! What extrovert would do that? They forget what they said as soon as it is out of their mouths…. thank you for everything you have done for the writing community and your friendship….

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