The most important rule of being a writer is this: Tell nobody. Not even the people you feel you can trust – actually especially not them. As the people you think are on your side will inevitably say something totally crass to you about your writing life that will make you want to stick a fountain pen in their eye. And that’s being lenient.
Take today for instance. There was I chatting away with a friendly acquaintance at a summer BBQ and she brings up the subject of my writing (as she always does, curses!). Instantly I try to divert the subject to anything at all – the state of the weather, the holiday she’s just been on, whether the local schools are any good (though I have zilch interest in any of these noble subjects …) – as I know that it’s all going to end in tears. And here it comes;
Her: Do you have any paperbacks out?
Me (inwardly groaning): No, I do better on the Kindle really
Her: Oh, of course, it’s easy for someone like you to publish on the Kindle, isn’t it? I mean paperbacks are only for writers we’ve heard of, aren’t they? …
Me: (wondering if it’s possible to grill someone on the BBQ, or whether that would be a police matter). Er, um, true, I suppose. Tell me, how long have you been back from your holiday?…
So, there you have it: another crass and clunky comment from a so-called friend (though actually I don’t like this woman much, but she tends to be invited to the parties I go to, sigh). Neither is this sort of thing a rare event – I was once at dinner with another friend whose mother was staying with them at the time. We were having a lot of polite conversation and I was desperately trying to avoid the subject of the book signing I’d done the day before (11 copies signed and sold, hurrah!), as once again I knew that someone would say something cutting and bitchy. And sure enough, after a couple of minutes, there it was – from the mother of all people, who I didn’t even know:
Friend’s mother: I suppose in your case the unsigned books are rarer, aren’t they?
Me: (wondering if I could lean across the table and punch her in her smug face without fall-out …) Er, umm yes, I suppose so. Tell me, did you have a good journey down here? (and when are you going back, you catty cow? – no, I didn’t say that but I really really wanted to!)
Anyway, you can see how horrible a writer’s friends (or so-called friends) can be. No wonder we all need to hide from the world so damn much! However, in conclusion I’d like to offer you this one essential piece of advice:
If you are a friend of a writer, the only thing you should ever say to your writing friend is: “Hello! I do love your books. Have you got another one out yet, and can you send me the link as I absolutely must buy it!”
There you are: easy as pie, now, wasn’t it?…
The Vanishing Writer