I’ve decided to pop along and talk to you today about the importance of friends. I’ve talked about this before briefly but really, I’d like to iterate a bit more.
Firstly there’s Sarah Bryars. I’ve known Sarah for, wow, I’m not sure how long. But it’s been at least…since around 2006 or so. Sarah is a writer too. She’s talented and so gifted. What I admire most about Sarah, apart from her glorious curls, is her ability to get on with stuff. She’s just this incredibly capable human being and she makes me want to be that capable too. Whenever we meet up we talk about writing and editing and the process and as we invariably scoff food we put the world to rights. We spend hours in bookshops together and when I say bye to her at the end of the day it’s like she takes a bit of a spark of me with her, but in turn I get a bit of her spark to take away with me. She has never let me down and does Real Talk really well. Sarah is very dear to me and I would fight anyone Hunger Games style if she’s ever hurt.
So when Sarah and I started ‘going steady’ as friends, we met online another friend called Sharon Jones. Sharon I’ve only met face to face a few times as she lives in distant places like Exeter and Birmingham so she hardly comes to London or surrounds. Sarah and Sharon have never met IRL either but I think that if they did there’d be an event horizon and just no coming back. Sharon, like Sarah has this amazing head of hair and she’s gorgeous and has such a filthy infectious laugh. Sharon is equally important in my life. She’s written books for Orchard Books, the Poppy Sinclair mysteries and these are just SO BLOODY GOOD I <3 them to bits. Now Sharon has had a busy few years in her day-job and has recently resettled in the North (Liz gestures to the place above St Albans which to her constitutes the rest of the UK and North) with her gorgeous poodle, Harvey. We try and chat via Skype most days and even if the other one doesn’t answer, that’s fine, because the message went out in the aether and the other will eventually see it. Sharon keeps me grounded and honest. We talk a lot of Real Talk too about process and writing. We talk about anxiety and that thing that’s almost depression but never quite tips into the black dog’s jaws to be fully fledged. I’ve had tendencies these past few months and really, without Sharon and Sarah’s help and encouragement I think I would have fallen down that spiral and it would have taken me a long time to get back.
Both these ladies I met online and we have become such good friends. We share a great many things as we have so much in common and yet we each live such different lives. Without them I don’t think I would have a trilogy published. Without them backing me up I don’t think I would even consider sitting down at my desk every morning to write more words. Mostly they are terrifying when they shout and threaten violence against me if I don’t do my words, but really, it’s more than that. It’s solid friendships that’s built on trust and loyalty and there’s that give and take involved that I think is most important of all. Sarah and I have had such intense discussions about writing that we let our tea get cold. Laugh if you will but tea is important. Sharon and I have talked about process and the inability to continue writing if you don’t have THE EXACT right word for that one thing you’re trying to describe. They get me and I get them and that’s really rare.
This blog is really a celebration of these two important women in my life and really, what I want to say to you is, if you’re writing or if you are an artist of any sort, make sure you don’t do your art alone. Surround yourself with a handful of select friends who get what you’re trying to do. Push away the poisonous ones, the ones who undermine your ability or who make you feel small and belittled. Those aren’t humans you deserve in your life. Life is pretty crappy most of the time for all of us and really, you deserve to have amazing people in your life and not people who suck the life out of you.
And because so many of us are online via social media, it’s something else really, you should consider: cull the people who disturb your calm. I’m not talking about culling people who challenge you or your perceptions in a healthy way, no, we need those sparks to fire off of, but cut out the people who you know are just being crappy about you and about others because they’re full of snark for themselves. Self-loathing is ugly and it’s easy to be infected so before you do get infected, walk away. I realise this is an awful thing to say in a time when people are all: oh but lets help everyone in need. No, what you ought to do is be selfish occasionally and take care of yourself first. Build yourself up, realise your own worth and surround yourself with those unique individuals who see you for the clever, talented, funny, weird, quirky, batshit silly person you really are. And then, really, take care of those friends first in turn. My dad had this old adage he never lived by: charity begins at home. I saw him do some stupid things to help others and it was always to the detriment of us, his family and we suffered for it. I was little but I learned my lesson because really, charity does begin at home and you need to tidy your own house before you can even think about helping others.
So, in a nutshell, the takeaway from this blogpost is: cherish your friends, the ones who get you and who will help you through thick and thin. But don’t be a dick, don’t be selfish. Remember to help them too because together you’re all really super strong and can withstand whatever life throws at you.
And remember, most of all, to be kind to yourself first because hot damn, human bean, you’re bloody awesome!