Check out any acknowledgements page and see that every writer benefits from a little encouragement now and then. There are moments when we writers doubt our work. Sometimes something needs to change in our manuscripts. Sometimes we just need to be a bit braver and press “send” on our submissions. (Eek!)
I am fortunate to have friends who can deliver in both situations. And who happen to be brilliant, as well.
One of my most trusted writer friends is a friend of my husband’s from college, whom I have since claimed for my own. David is one of the most articulate people I know. Plus, he indiscriminately loves ice cream, which is an obvious sign of good character.
In the years following undergrad, David and I pursued different career paths, while working up the courage and the credentials to make a go of writing. We checked in with each other from time to time, whether at an informal reunion or another mutual friend’s wedding, and the first question we asked each other was always, “What are you working on?”
David writes nonfiction; he’s interested in the intersection of sports and society. I find his work fascinating, despite initially knowing little about the figures and situations he investigates. I, on the other hand, wrote a novel about a twenty-something upending her prestigious financial career to pursue cooking (and find love along the way). David is not exactly my target audience.
And yet, while I was writing and editing, again and again he offered to read a section of my work. When he did, he was both full of encouragement and able to point out areas that could be improved.
I’ve recently been working on a nonfiction article, sparked by David’s mention of a new journal a professor he knows is launching. He laughed when I told him it would be a good chance to “flex my nonfiction muscles,” but hey, even if I don’t write about athletes, I can make sports jokes, too. Ann Patchett is proof that contributing nonfiction articles to other publications can be a boon to successful fiction.
David gave me notes a week ago, and I am still in awe that I am lucky enough to have such a fabulous mind among my friends. Despite the fact that our bookshelves have nary a title in common, we share a passion for good writing and good storytelling. Finding the intersections between fiction and nonfiction informs my work and makes me a stronger writer.
So does having a brilliant friend who is always ready to cheer me on.