On Writing Distractions: FakeFriends

Old Friend

Committing to writing over the long haul means writing day after day. As you finish your various writing projects you may very well find your self-esteem goes up.you And it should. To write is to know you don’t get away with anything. Living in and acting from that knowledge changes you in ways that separate you from others.

We may find, over a period of long, intense writing, we need to reevaluate our friendships. Those friends who used to be BFF4EVER may turn into FakeFriends.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones with spouse drama! School drama! They over-emote and over-inflate. Exhaustion overwhelms you when you leave them.

Yet you find yourself drawn to them despite how they distract you. You used to love their stories! And the shared camaraderie! Two days later you’re back for more! You say your goodbyes, again exhausted.

On the way home you realize the shared camaraderie wasn’t true friendship, but equal parts gossip and snark. You acknowledge you used to love the feeling of superiority you attained by thinking yourself better than everyone else, but you don’t anymore. You want to talk pacing and POV and the greatest book you’ve just read. Your BFF4EVER?

They talk and talk and talk and say nothing. You wince and ask yourself how missed all that self-centered behavior.

All of this self-awareness flows from writing. Writing cuts out self-lies and self-loathing and self-pity. It’s just us, our imagination, our totems, goddesses and the page. Our choice. No excuses.

No wonder our friend makes us so uncomfortable. They just don’t get it.

But we’ve been friends for a long time, you rationalize, so you can’t fire them. But you watch your writing output decline every time you let them into your life. Maybe you feel a little bit more crappy about yourself. Maybe you spend hours before and after meeting them processing the whole damn relationship. Hours you could’ve spent writing.

Our behavior towards ourselves is the worst part of enduring FakeFriends. When we say yes to them, we say no to ourselves. No more simple than that.

Part of the no to ourselves stems from not knowing how to address this now unwanted-but-formerly wanted person in our lives. We don’t really want to fire them. Consider a flank approach rather than a frontal assault of no contact. Cutting them off is harsh, particularly if we’ve known them for many years.

The flank assault comprises managing them by saying yes to yourself again and again and again. The thing with FakeFriends is that a few affirmatives for yourself guarantees they will disappear from your life like a bad habit.

So add in some healthy behaviors to that schedule. (Sort of like adding in more vegetables instead of cutting out sugar.)

Schedule more writing (You can always do that by cutting out social media. You’re welcome). When FakeFriend calls with the latest drama, you can answer honestly.

Gosh I can’t talk today / this week/ for the next fifty years.”

I’m busy working on my next novel.”

If they still hook you in, then send them straight to voicemail. You’re really not that important to them. Any warm body will do. Once they find another victim, they’ll stop calling. Nothing personal.

Writing creates within us a secret garden. We know what it means to create, to struggle, to push through the bleakness of an unfinished manuscript. Yes, this garden exists for everyone, but the price of admission requires more than most people can afford. There are no hacks or trust funds for sweat equity. The hustle is never for sale.

Hustling after your writing will change you as surely as the sun rises in the morning.

We replace I can’t” with I don’t” or I won’t.” That makes us very different, particularly in America where consumer spending gurus rely on generating shitty self-esteem to separate us from our cash.

But we do know I can’t.” We’ve said it to ourselves, sometimes a lot. Self-denial and delusion arise quickly for us. We have always found ways not to write. Then we finally realize writing is easy. Not writing is hard. So we write, and find, too, how enjoyable our own company is, listening to the voices in our head, struggling to translate them to the page. This is adulting in the extreme.

No wonder FakeFriends annoy us. You speak another language entirely.

When a FakeFriend shows up in your life, lean on the writing schedule. Trust it with your life. Schedule more writing time that you think humanly possible, then stick to the schedule. If you can’t write, read a great book instead. Work on writing drills like Brian Kitely’s 3 AM Epiphany.

We have chosen this life. Manage your FF like a noxious weed. No excuses. You’ll find the right tonic to keep them in check. Keep writing no matter what.

TLDR HACK: Schedule your writing. When a bad friend calls, tell them you can’t see them. You’re writing. Then spend the time writing. If you can’t write, read. If you can’t read, do some practice writing exercises.

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