You never know where they’re going to come from. They start as total strangers, then become people, who one day – whether you admit it or not – you cannot do without.
They are… the “friendlies”.
This is a story about groupies.
That got your attention. Don’t lie to yourself, you know it did. Anyway, groupie stories are fun, and should just about write themselves… if you’re a writer without a soul. Even more, if you’re a writer without a soul… who writes online. Online, where disembodied voices whisper… saying things you want to hear… just as long as you say them back in just the right way. Whispers that are never to be trusted, let alone believed… not when you crave honesty more desperately than your next orgasm. Truth isn’t something you should have to pay for any more than you should have to pay for sex. It should be expected, offered spontaneously and mutually and freely given, between those who supposedly share the deepest of bonds that could exist between consenting adults. The mutual inadequacy… the fear… the greatest joy…
No, not sex you perv… writing. This one’s about a different kind of groupie… The “friendly”.
And this is the story of three.
Those Who Know You Best
The one who knows you the best is, most likely, the one who reads you the least. For them, it doesn’t matter how good… or how bad… a writer you are. For them, it’s enough to know that you making it as a writer is a foregone conclusion… a given. The thought that you won’t never crosses their mind, like a lot of things about your writing never do. They know you, and because they know you, they already know what you know… that you’re a writer, whatever anybody says to the contrary. Their lack of compliments, comments, critiques, random encouragements, or any other words outside the day-to-day reality that “this is who you are” and “this is what you do” is irrelevant. You know it, they know you… therefore it must be true. You wish they would, once in a while, take notice of what you do, but it’s been so long that you’ve decided it’s probably best just to let it go. No point in ruining a friendship because you are so damn needy.
“Ain’t no thang,” you tell yourself. One day, you’ll forget all this. You won’t even remember the way you felt the first time you heard Marcus Mumford sing the words, “…you desired my attention, but denied my affections…” And you’ll never remember how stupid you feel on those days you think this way… or how often.
Those Who Know You Least
“…You ARE and ALWAYS WILL BE a writer my friend. I see many people call themselves writers who barely write and don’t even have a tenth of the talent that you have. You have mad skill. You have the disease!”
Comment at the end of the It’s Always Friday version of The White Paint Chronicles (#0001)
So says the friend I’ve never met.
I don’t include the quote to make me feel better. I include the quote to say that someone who knows me least, and only through a few words on a page… the “through a glass, darkly” kind of friend… can deliver this kind of unsolicited bump to a writer’s often bruised ego just when the desperate need of it is greatest. Doubt, swallowed without hope, is the writer’s poison. When swallowed together, they… the doubt and the hope… fill the writer’s soul with every emotion, every word, required to write again.
The existence of the post you’re reading (#0002) is proof of that.
Better still, that those words came from someone who would not know me if we stood next to each other in a ten-deep line at Starbucks, makes the impact of their words all the deeper. And more lasting.
Those Who Know You Not At All
The other side of the coin. The encouragement that comes from no one will know.
I “met” Agnes by accident one day, surfing, on a site called Blog Catalog. “Picking and clicking” I call it. My blog is listed there, with uncountable thousands of other blogs. I’ve picked up some pageviews by being active on the boards there, and every so often, I spend a little time “picking and clicking” blogs to read… mostly in the hope that others will pick and click mine. A few months ago, I ran into Agnes’ Pages. It was artistic and very finished looking… way more “polished and professional” than most of the BC blogs. On the surface, it looked like a journal about a woman’s obsession with coffee and travel… which it is. But after noticing just how many comments each entry was getting (and I mean dozens), I decided I had to find out what the traffic jam below each post was all about. Turns out, the little blog that started out as random posts about ugly shoes and Starbucks Via drinks, had morphed into a personal journal about a young woman whose husband was dying of cancer.
I finished the entire blog, comments and all, in one night.
In among all the happy and the heartbreak, the hope and the hopelessness, one quiet line from one tiny little entry ran me over like a truck does rabbits on the highway,
“Blog like no one’s reading.”
Best words I ever read about writing… spoken by a “friendly” I’ll never know. Life, like writing, should be that simple.
The White Paint Chronicles (#0002) “Friday Friendlies” originally published on It’s Always Friday
Copyright © 2012 Bill Friday