Before the old blog collapsed, I was thinking about the kindness of friends.
It all began with someone else’s blog (as it often does), posted on a Facebook site I belong to, where authors share about writing. The blog piece had all of us rather quirky writers sharing how it is for us who don’t fit the standard ‘genres’. I was still working on my Charlie Hebdo response (I may bring that over here later, or I may decide too much time has gone by and reactions have become old news). But I think the discussion was kicked off by this a guest post by Vivienne Tufnell on Philippa’s Rees’s blog ‘Involution’ (http://bit.ly/1DTFgfJ).
Since when the phrase The Kindness of Friends has stuck around in my head like a catchy title for Alexander McCall Smith, something to partner The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, and The Lost Art of Gratitude. An introduction to McCall Smith’s lighthearted wisdom was the kindness of a friend during a time of loss and sadness, and now we have a whole host of them in our bookcase.
Without the kindness of friends, I’d probably not have moved from writing articles to writing novels: way back when a friend gave me that push of confidence, and showed real interest in what I wrote, books began appearing on my doorstep. Slightly unusual books, books which made you laugh or smile but carried deep and honest assessments of human nature and human predicaments. Books which encouraged my sort of writing, the kind I wanted to do.
Years before, the kindness of friends had assisted my flight from a perfectly frightful flat-share at Uni. Details apart, one of the horrible things was, the flat was in somebody’s attic, which three of us shared, and we had no front door. The landlady’s cats had a nasty habit of coming upstairs to poo underneath the furniture in our rooms … and once the dog came and deposited a present on one of the beds (not mine). Friends, once they heard, came with a car (rare for students to own one back then), we bundled my possessions into it in plastic carrier bags, paid the rent up and did a flit. That of course has nothing to do with writing, though it may get into a story one day.
Not that I don’t love cats: cats with clean habits and outdoor toilet ideas. Spike is a close friend: a ‘friend who sticks closer than a brother’ and possibly has a story in him too.
Then there’s the kindness of friends who love to push a pram with your twins in it when they go to collect their kiddies from school: my New Zealand friend got to revisit her maternal baby-instincts and I got an hour off in the afternoon. Mummy-stuff indeed. And my more recent Hong Kong friend, who lived next door for a year with her family, and was always up for a mug of tea and a chat. The weary writer and the weary, breast-feeding mummy ‘chewing the fat’ in her rather chilly, rented house. The kindness going both ways.
So when creation’s by the mind, and the book’s our baby, is there a kindness of fellow-author ‘friends’?
Despite talk about jealousy and competitiveness of authors, about ‘trolling reviews’ on Amazon, our discussions around reaching readers with books that defy genre-typing engendered posts written with enthusiasm and encouragement. Comparing our experiences, sharing what works. A counterbalance to the thriller/crime/sci-fi mystery guys’n’gals whose sales top the lists. ANd followed by a rather splendid review of my first novel, Baby, Baby (Hodge 2010, available from the website (http://hodgepublishing.co.uk/home/) (or Amazon, p/b or Kindle).
Technology is neutral: how we use it is not. The Alli site members’ group (allianceindependentauthors.org/) proves the kindness of friends can exist across the net : sharing ideas at every level from newbies starting out to experienced authors who sell in large numbers. Even support themselves by writing. Sharing advice, frustrations, thoughts, guest posts.
(I wonder if Virginia Woolf would have lived longer if she had had a virtual band of fellow-writers displaying the kindness of e-friends?)