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But Keep Your Frenemies Closer

June 14, 2017

There’s nothing more gratifying than scrolling through the wasteland of divorce, welfare, addiction, and failure in your Facebook newsfeed only to realize you are suddenly the hot girl (or boy) from high school. Twenty years late, perhaps, but none the less, “Hell yeah!” And if it hasn’t happened yet, don’t worry. It will.

But easy there Harry Potter. This is Draco Malfoy telling you not to go making friends with the “wrong sort.” After all, do you really have that much in common with the people you knew back then? You may even be worlds away from your hipster clique in undergrad. It’s bad enough there’s Siri, Netflix, and funny Door A Jar blogs to distract you from the manuscript sitting on your desk. The last thing you need is a clingy BFF or BF or one-night stand turned forever, whatever. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s that their focus is on careers, marriages, bratty kids, bedroom antics. Poetry? Who has time for that? And if their priorities are not similar to yours, they will only keep you from them. You need to pick your friends as carefully as you pick your words. God knows you’re probably particular enough about your pens and coffee. Be as picky with your people. 

Why? Because the best friends are more like enemies. They are the ones you hated because they were better than you. Their lines are as refined and aged as good brews, and likewise, their puns take you a few minutes to swallow. They trade their pages for your pages, and they are the only ones who truly appreciate that sort of barter. Better yet, they give you books you haven’t read to feed your craft. Your characters are as real to them as you are, and, they appreciate the comma splice in a perfectly phrased pause in a poem, because they speak your language. Not English, but the language writers speak where words work on levels and all references resonate. Every conversation is a chance to learn, and each exchange sharpens you so you can write finer.

Pick the reader you’re writing for. Pick a damn good editor. Pick a quirky character that may make a good story someday. Pick a sponsor to keep you honest when you feel like slacking off. Pick an enemy who exaggerates your flaws so you’ll be motivated to fix them. Those are the friends (or enemies) you want to have. You pick them up from grad school. From work. From community readings. From local workshops. Contests. The interweb (but not tinder, obviously.) Before you know it you have a community. But remember kind people are overrated. Popular people won’t be long. Boyfriends/girlfriend just pass the time. But, besties should make you better, if not the best at what you do.

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