Why You Need More Writer Friends

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Last week, I wrote about my writer friends and how they have kept me going. I was blown away once again by this huge hidden resource of friends. And the emails and notes of affirmation following that post only proved it all the more.

I’m a lucky son of a preacher man.

"And then I said, 'Listen, Muse. You ain't too big for me to paddle!'"
“So I sent the agent my rejection of his rejection letter and I said, ‘Please don’t call. I’m too busy killing you off in my novel!'”

What I didn’t say is how incredibly life-giving it is to point my finger to the ones truly responsible for my successful career as an editor and “aspiring inspirational writer.” As a practice, nothing I’ve done has brought more confirmation that I’m where I need to be, despite the struggle.

Sure, it’s great to know I’m doing what I love. It’s exciting to get to help people while exercising my gifts and creating vulnerable, refined works of art. But what makes it truly the greatest experience I’ve had? That goes to knowing that all of these people, these unique and remarkable inspirers are friends of mine!

Think about it: the strongest bonds a creative person can create are those created with other creative people. And those who labor to share their experience honestly and humbly through artful stories are the most transparent and vulnerable creative folks in the world.

How sad so few people will ever know the kind of connection working on Christian books creates. It’s an unusual bond, transcending time and space, where you’ve shared your deepest pains, tears, and your secret ambitions, and sacrificing everything to invest yourself fully, patiently, and for the good of others.

Books bond people, but when all of this goes into them, it fuses and forges, tempering this friendship in the process. I’m not idealizing it–such bald honesty isn’t always serene. But you know your friends are true when time together instantly bonds you, but time apart also does nothing to diminish that connection.

Writer friends can help you escape fires!
Writer friends can help you escape fires!

Today, when we’re more connected but disconnected than ever, the friendships of Christian writers are all the more vital as oases of unconditional love and trust. And we need to be investing all the more.

We know powerful friendship can happen in the best churches, on the mission field, and as a soldier fighting an oppressive enemy together. It can happen on special projects among team members, when living through significant life events together or when facing terrifying situations and you’re stuck together in a hostage crisis for months on end. All these people tend to end up bonding.

But inspirational writers have experienced all these things together–and come out the other side.

We all know every harrowing curve of that cave.

Everybody needs someone who can understand and share our pain. But inspirational writers have a greater need to find something beautiful and life-giving in it, which lands them in a uniquely close and energizing select group.

And it’s undeniable: when you accept the call and the challenge to express your spiritual and emotional core in clear and unique language, you get adopted into an incredible family. Never mind if you haven’t published. And never mind if your book isn’t their cup of tea or you don’t understand proper etiquette or don’t “bathe regularly” (God bless you, Chris Farley).

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, May 14, 1994 (Gerry Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, May 14, 1994 (Gerry Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

If you’ve faced the real battle in the dark cave, you’re in.

You’re family.

I’ve been the beneficiary of so much warm kindness and generous training by the people who’ve made me their focus, simply because they get what it’s like. They know how exhausting working on books is. They know the sideways glances from our original family members as we continue on, the serious financial straights, the long hours fighting for one! STINKING! WORD!

Can anyone else appreciate what this kind of understanding community is worth? I’m willing to bet for some people it’s meant the difference between a successful book and no book at all, between deep comfort and an ugly addiction to Jack & cokes and late night TV, and literally the difference between life and death.

For many, this fellowship of fools is their life-preserver.

I suppose it’s the stigma we worry about, this writer psychosis. But it’s real. And when you write for God, sometimes the people you think should understand (the good faith-filled people who honestly get God), they don’t get this writing thing at all.

“You know how when you have a really great idea and you want to give it to your main character but he just won’t take it, and he decides to thumb his nose at you and walk right out of the scene…?”

If my emotions were tacos, I would be so stuffed right now!
If my emotions were tacos, I would be so stuffed right now!

[blank stare]

Or: “I really hit bottom this week and had to step away over trying to wrestle out the specific distinction between mumbling and muttering.”

“Uh-huh…I think I hear my wife calling.”

[Disclaimer: I have not attempted either of these conversations with normal people….recently…in the last several months.]

But when you admit those things to a writer? They HUG you. They know your address and they call you by name. They know you got off the sane train two stations ago and that you fear much of your work is largely a self-involved cry for help.

Do you think knowing other writers helps? No one else has any idea how much it does.

Writers know we’re all just looking for someone to hold our stories with us and help us feel less crazy.

And these beautiful, wonderful people I name among my friends, my peeps, they don’t judge. I suppose maybe if I started swinging from the chandelier and throwing furniture–then I’d be fair game to become one of their stories.

Get more Peeps in your pie to face the dark cave with you!
Get more Peeps in your pie to face the dark cave with you!

But I’m confident they’d do it in an honoring way.

Writers, don’t miss your chance to bond with the inspiring friends you meet. Ask about their time in the cave. And share about yours. They are just as scared and crazy as you–probably more so. And if you’ve struggled to make normal friends or feel accepted and seen by your family, your church…God…well, all the better. So have we. And short of your relationship with God, Christian writer friends are honestly some of the best relationships you’ll ever be blessed to know.

And I just can’t quit saying it.

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One thought on “Why You Need More Writer Friends”

  1. This reminds me of my favorite Holden Caulfield quote: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

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