Should I Make Friends With A Famous Writer?



Every semester one of my former professors invites me to speak to her creative writing class about making a living as a creative professional. At the end of my talk students ask questions. Usually the questions are about finishing work, motivating yourself, or getting published.

But this last time,  a student asked me a new question. “Should I make friends with any famous writers? Would it help my career?”

The general wisdom on this is that it’s best not to bother folks who are famous and incredibly busy. They have many demands on their time and lots of people clamoring for their attention. I mean, sure, if you meet Neil Gaiman at a party and you hit it off and he invites you to have a drink and you talk all night – well, I’m not going to be the one to tell you that you’re not allowed to be friends. Anyone who has read about the lives of famous writers runs into the fact that many of them knew each other, wrote letters and collaborated. It seems only natural for a student ask to join that club.

But the whole question is overlooks a vital point. The famous writer is already in the room. The famous writer might be your classmate. Or the lady in the back of the room. Or the couple with the podcast. Or the guy who writes terribly, but burns to get better. Or the quiet woman who takes her knitting to class. Or your friend, who can’t afford classes, but who writes furiously with a baby on her lap. 

There was a time, years ago, when I was sitting at a bar with friends who weren’t published, but who were grinding away at a novel. Now there are Hugos and book deals and talk about television shows. But back then, none of them were famous. They were just people at a bar. People who were working, who made things that no one noticed. At least, until someone did.

Before you reach out to a famous writer and ask them to be your friend, think about becoming friends with the people around you who are working hard. The people who are persevere beyond the point of reason. The people who fail, get up, and try again.  Know that the famous writer you are looking for just might be you. 

A lot of the time, when people ask how it is that I know {incredibly famous person} and doesn’t that prove that all famous people know each other, I have to explain that I’ve known them since they were just {anonymous hardworking person} and I was {just some guy called Neil who had big dreams}.

I know several not famous quite yet people who work exceedingly hard at their art. Do you?

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