writerly friends

In ALL, LIFE OBSERVATIONS by Stephanie Klein25 Comments

In New York, I had a few writerly friends, friends I’d met through friends, at work, or in workshops and classes who became more than just the people beside me in class and transitioned into the ones who occupied the barstool beside mine. Mostly we liked appetizers and wine. Bars offered equal parts chatting and watching, and the next day, there could be emails with attachments and questions about flow. What I love most of my writerly friends is the way they watch the world. There is a bond between us when we realize we’re thinking the same thing. It’s also a relief to be able to spend almost an entire night brainstorming. You cannot monopolize a conversation, speaking only of your latest short story, novel, or memoir with certain people. I have friends, friends who by their own admission, who couldn’t write if you paid them, yet one of their greatest joys is to be a part of the creative process, to hear all the ideas, to spend an entire night mapping out plots or sculpting characters. So it’s not that the friends need to be writers, they just have to be the type that can tell you no. No, that idea isn’t all that original. No, it’s been done before. Sure, if you’re going for the whole cliche expected route. I need more of these friends, friends who know techniques and traps. Who can tell me when I’m relying too heavily on description because something else must be lacking. Friends who can line edit. Friends who want to spend the night talking about ideas. I think every writer needs these friends. It’s why so many writers are married couples, why the philosophers band together, why the writers of the past met at round tables in hotels. I’m on the watch for some.


  1. Good morning Stephanie – one thing you've got going for you is an entire blogosphere of people who have input on everything, not just your writing style, at a moment's notice.

    Maybe we could all have a cyber martini (or lemon drop) and chew on and hash over whatever you're working on. Heh.

  2. I guess I'm really lucky then! I have a friend who's just like this and I excitedly discuss concepts and ideas with her all the time. It's great to share a new concept or perspective with someone who can think openly and grasp a new, relevant parallel. I'll go thank her! :)

  3. One of my very dearest friends on earth is a playwright like me, and without him, I don't know that I'd write anything. It's so easy to judge and second guess yourself when you don't share your work with others. He helps me to see the good in things I thought were just terrible, and catches things I may have missed.

    Oh, and we also love drinks and apps. :)

  4. This reminds me why I keep meaning to sign up for a writing class. In the meantime, I've tided myself over with a friend's husband who's a journalist, but it's not quite the same.

  5. Sounds like you could really use some *reading* friends. It's frightening how many of the people I work with or know (mostly 30-50 year olds) haven't read a book in years. They seem to get by on reading magazines and blogs.;) How is it with your cohort? How can one conduct a meaningful conversation about writing without having a heavy interest and practice in reading?

    The reader friends I have are the ones who grew up reading non-stop and now could match your depth of interest in literature in wonderful conversations, no doubt. But I fear too many young people are becoming nano-readers. You know, just the bullet points before we have to multi-task. I hope that's not the case.

    "Staying awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading" by Ursulla K. LeGuin is an interesting article in the February 08 issue of Harper's on th esubject.

  6. All too often, in this forum, there is no constructive feedback. I see a lot of "I love you and your writing." I see some of "You're a self-absorbed egomaniac. It's a lot harder to tell someone "this worked because of…", or "this didn't work because of…". You aren't just giving your immediate impression. It takes more depth to name the "because".

    I think that's what Stephanie is valuing in this post.

  7. I helped my girlfriend a lot with this when she'd be working on her synopsis for a writing class. She's better at writing the whole play or storyline out, but she found the class helped her as a writer even if it drove her crazy.

    Tara, I think that's the point of a blog.

  8. Reminded me of that quote from an early sex & the city: "I'm very literary. Sometimes I sit down and read an entire magazine. From cover to cover!"

  9. I live in New York and recently joined a writer's group that meets once a month at Cafe Figaro. I wasn't sure what to expect but submitted work and went anyway (mind you this was my first time sharing my work with a group of strangers all in the same room.) I ended up loving it. Not only did I meet alot of likemindeds, I walked out with some constructive criticism I could hold on to when revising. I'm always appreciative when the opportunity to expand my writing circle arises.

  10. Creepy.. you've just put into words exactly what I've been longing for myself. I need some of those!

  11. I heard from a friend who was in your class at JCC how indepth your reviews of her work you were. She found it quite inspiring. I know she appreciated it immensely.

  12. Sometimes You need to bounce things off of others for inspiration. I do it with my photography.

  13. There was a famous group that would meet at a roundtable…..I can't recall the name? They had a special name for that group. And then I think they even started a TV show on this.

    Or am I mistaken?

    FROM SK: I was referring to The Algonquin Round Table, which actually, according to Wiki, began as a practical joke and was later disparaged. Either way, it's fun to be around others who share your passions and pursuits.

  14. Cat–there was a television show about the Algonquin Round Table??? In this country (the United States)?

    Stephanie, I think the way that I do this (write and figure out how to write) is by reading. I don't think anyone who calls themselves a writer could ever not also call themselves a reader. Also, your post reminded me of a quote I have always loved. James Thurber once said:
    "I never quite know when I'm writing."

    And that's it! If you're a writer, you're always a writer, even when you're eating pizza with your friends at Grimaldi's. EVEN IF YOU DON'T EVER PUT PEN TO PAPER! (Some of us are lazy like that.)

  15. I need friends like that. For the most part, my friends don't understand the whole "blogging" thing, and think it's silly. So, I feel like I have two sets of friends, and have come to realize that my real friends are left out of the loop on the details of my life.

  16. What happened to your old friends? How come you can't brainstorm with them still, even though they're in New York?

    FROM SK: I absolutely do, and I totally value them. I still miss, though, getting together in person on a regular basis with someone who needs my help as much as I need theirs.

  17. I'm available! haha
    I grew up with writers, publishers, and editors so it's just a different kind of thought process. I think it's helpful to look at things that way, for a lot of different things

  18. These friends are essential and amazing. Since I moved to NYC I've met many of them, actually at first I was creeped out by the diea but I met other blogger friends and because they have read the ost personal things about me and visa versa, we have been able to bounce ideas off of eachother over sangria and chips, fondue and to much wine and it has been fantastic. It's inspiring when you realize you aren't the only one watching the world the way you do like you said. And not all of these idea enabling friends are writers but they listen and they share and I LOVE THOSE PEOPLE.

  19. Love the Dorothy Parker reference.
    Unfortunately, i recently went to the Algonquin Hotel and it was not as inspiring as I had hoped.
    – NS

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