An Author’s Friends, Real and Imaginary

Writing fiction is such a solitary act. The stories we write about are inside of us. We become close to the characters we create. We glimpse very private moments of their lives. But at the end of the day when we put our laptops away they disappear. They do not chat with us over coffee. They do not call us to inquire about our child’s archery tournament. Did she score high? For all the intimacy we feel with the characters we create, for all the care we take in how we treat them, they feel nothing at all for us.

Most of us write in a quiet room. But some of us will venture out to restaurants, cafes, or parks. We will sit in the middle of other people living life and observe them, jot notes about their mannerisms, be inspired to add twists to the plot we are orchestrating. When we go to these places, we go with a cloak of invisibility. We want to see, not be seen. The real world is much like our characters, we try to understand it; it will never try to understand us.

When we finish writing our books, real people will read them. They will connect with our characters, laugh with them, care for them. They will most likely remember the names of the characters but will less likely remember the name of their creator.

And we are fine with this. We, as author, choose this. It is a sign of success that we are lost to the reader and all that exists is the story itself.

Even though living such a solitary existence is good for the author, it is not always good for the person inside that title. The people around us can do more than just inspire our story. If we let them, they can inspire us personally. They may encourage us to keep going when we want to quit. They may bring us back down from unreasonable heights. They may remind us to laugh. They may validate our experiences by sharing their own similar tales.

Not every town has enough authors to fill up the local hot spot for drinks and camaraderie. Even if it did, many authors are introverts and wouldn’t attend. So, mostly we’re alone.

Social media becomes our water cooler. Twitter is a virtual space we enter for real human interaction. Comments on our blog and facebook posts also serve as reminders that there are real people outside of our writer-haven who really want to connect with us. They see us. We are not invisible.

Not all authors have these struggles. Some are naturally extroverted (I haven’t met one, but I’m sure they exist). Some authors do not struggle with the effects of isolation. And, sadly, some authors aren’t authors at all, but pay ghostwriters to do the work and hope to make lots of money. It’s hard to tell the difference these days.

Though I can not spot all the frauds, I can certainly spot the legitimate authors I encounter on social media. They are talking about their work, their way of working, or the industry. They discuss these topics in real time and blend in moments of daily life. They come to the water-cooler that is social media in need of interaction just as much as they come in need sales, maybe more so.

The point of this blog post is to tell you, authors, that I see you. I value your presence here in the virtual world. In a space cluttered with spam and manipulation, it is because you show up in real time that I believe in you. You demonstrate all the signs of true authors in an industry full of phonies. Many of you have made me excited to read and support your work by simply tweeting about life as it happens. But a few have even proven to be my friends. Thank you.

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