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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Circle of (Writing) Life

Several years ago I was on a writer's forum where there were several up and coming authors who are now big names in their genre. As they began to achieve success, one by one, they fell off the loop, no longer interested in contributing to the conversation.

Always having been more of a lurker than a participant, I took their disappearance in stride. Yet several group members blamed the loop itself for driving away their demigods. There was no one left to adulate.

If I sound snarky, it's meant that way. These authors didn't leave because the group didn't appreciate them. They left because it was no longer beneficial to them. They were tired of being the teachers to an endless cycle of newbies.

There was a lot of worshipful praise, and while some of the veterans basked in the boot-licking, what they really wanted was to rub shoulders with people who could do something for their career. Like: Big(ger) name authors. Editors. Publishers. People with clout and/or money.

It's a normal part of growth and change. We keep our friends, but our colleagues and peers change over the course of our careers. You might notice that the people who comment on your blog change through the years. Or your private circle of critique partners or confidantes expands or diminishes as you grow as an author.

It's not personal. It's business. And it's perfectly natural.

You never see big name authors do blog hops and memes, primarily because they don't need that kind of visibility. They've already got an audience. And let's face it. In social situations, most of them prefer to hang with their own kind. 

Like water, we find our own level. But every so often we overflow our banks and end up in a new body of water.

Sometimes I'm sad when an author, hitting the big time, cuts his ties with his old gang. But I remind myself, I was always a peer. A friend never leaves you--even if your tides don't roll up at the same beach anymore.

If you hit the big-time (movie deal and big money) who would you tell first? Or would you pass out from the excitement?


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I would tell my husband first and my day job second when I resigned!
I agree about needing the contacts that help you. Sometimes you have to look for something different.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I especially like the resigning part! Everyone deserves at least one day to gloat like a fat cat at work.

Angela Felsted said...

Oh my goodness, I can't even imagine hitting "the big time." How would you even know once you've arrived?

Stacy McKitrick said...

When I see someone finally reach their dream of being published, whether or not you consider that making it big (I would), their world kind of gets turned upside down. What they used to have time for, they no longer do. So I never take it personally. Like you said, it's a job, and it just became a real one to that author. Their time and energy are directed to their readers. Isn't that the way it should be?

E.J. Wesley said...

Love dreaming! First, my dogs. Just because they're always next to me when the phone rings. Second, my wife.

As for the moving on of folks... Hmm, I definitely agree that your company can/will change as you evolve your career. I think part of the forum/blog stuff is that when you aren't published or just starting out, that's equal to being part of your job.

If you're successful, a bigger part of your job is going to be writing more books and doing things publishers want you to do. So I get it.

However, I've seen quite a few authors literally forget where they come from. They build a platform on the backs of blogger-friends and then pretend they don't exist later on. Sometimes a simple note on the blog to say, "I love you guys but I'm really freaking busy" would be enough.

I'm certainly not famous, but even in my relatively short Web-presence run (3-4 years) I've left forums, switched blogging focus, etc. So I definitely think things change. I try not to worry too much about who isn't commenting anymore. But when someone who you've had consistent interaction with for a couple of years suddenly starts ignoring your Tweets and comments, I'd be lying to say it doesn't sting a little.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: Everything happens in steps (most of the time). Getting published seems like a big deal until you start seeing better and better deals.

EJ: I LOVE that you would tell your dogs first. Love it! I think mine would be the first to know too.

Ref forgetting your roots
I've seen that happen numerous times. Not a week goes by that I don't get a couple of emails from people who pretty much ignore me for months at a time, only to show up when they need a favor.

I don't expect people to keep in constant touch with me, but once in a while would be nice--and not just when you need something.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: A check with a bunch of zeroes would be my first clue. :o)

Everyone's idea of making it big is different. In a situation like this, money talks.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I would simply tell my family and those closest to me. I agree with you - peers and colleagues change as the years and the situations roll by. And so they should. Thats how we expand our world and become more adept at socialisation - whether it be interpersonal interaction or social media networking. It's like swirling dye in water - we mingle, interchange and finally move on.

Mike Keyton said...

Since I have been asking for interviews for OFW I've found that the 'bigger they are' the more generous they tend to be - either that or I write nice letters :). Should the fame fairy ever kiss me I'll remember that - and Maria, there'll always be a bottle of plum wine for you : )

LD Masterson said...

Who would I tell? The usual order I guess, depending on where I was and who I was with when I got the news. Hubby, sons, close friends (including on-line friends), rest of the family, then anyone and everyone who would listen.

But blogging, writing groups, forums, etc. are like life - they're all part of the journey. I don't expect everyone I meet to be there forever. People come and go and if you're lucky, you meet a few people who become keepers. This is true whether you hit the big time or not. IMHO.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm actually kinda jealous by reclusive writers. I hope to become really famous after I'm dead.

Sure, I'd like my novels to be made into crime fiction dramas but I don't want to be a part of it. Who would I tell first, probably my husband and kids and then of course my blogging buddies.

Raelyn Barclay said...

LOL, the usual, friends, anyone who'd listen...

I've made friends through forums, message boards, blogs that have remained friends even after one of us left said forum. I can't imagine blaming the forum for people leaving. We're there for different reasons, we have different levels of growth/needs/wants, and sometimes life just gets in the way.

I've made friends though work, those I had more than a peer relationship with are still friends today. I have fond memories of the others :) Like you said, a normal part of growth and change.

A very interesting post Maria!

Maria Zannini said...

Pat: I like the swirling dye metaphor. So often people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone, but it's stepping away from the familiar that gives us wings.

Mike: I've found the same thing when I interview big name authors. The mid-listers can be a handful, but the big names are incredibly gracious.

PS I hope fame smacks you with a great big kiss. :)

Linda: I have to admit when I started out, I was a little surprised at the fly-by-nighters. They seemed so friendly--and then woosh, they were gone.

PS You better put me high up on that list. I want to do some screaming from Texas. :)

Marguerite Butler said...

Not sure if I would tell my husband or my best friend first. Probably my best friend because she's a writer and "gets it." Husband would be happy for me,but my BF is the one who talks me down from the ledge when writing makes me crazy.

Maria Zannini said...

Clarissa: Right there with you. I would be a very good recluse. I've been practicing for years.

Raelyn: Ref: long term friends
This is probably another post in itself, but I've found that I pay no attention to the hand-wavers. It's the ones who say a few interesting things and then drift back who intrigue me and makes me want to befriend them. I am definitely not part of the coat-tail gang.

Like you, when I find someone I like, I hang on to them. I may not have a million friends, but I have a few very good friends. To me, those are worth far more.

Maria Zannini said...

Marguerite: Definitely! But I suspect if it were big money, hubby would suddenly become far more interested in my career.

LD Masterson said...

Why do you think I specified on-line friends?

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: :o)

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Great post, Maria. So many things you hit right on the mark. I do wonder though, if the absence or lack of participation for some of those people isn't more than that—Schedules filling up, not enough time for the same activities, or, and this is what I personally suspect, that the group is still discussing the same old things and the other person has 'necessarily' moved to new interests.

I understand what you're saying. I have been a member of that same group for years, but haven't been very active since I moved to writing mystery instead of fantasy. Even more so, the discussions tend to be the same ones that were taking place five years ago. Or ten. You could go to the archives and almost pick a thread and jump in, and be current.

Also, many groups I've seen seem to be afraid to embrace the changes going on in the market. It is damn near taboo to discuss any kind of self publishing at OWW, and if you do, you risk igniting a war.

You and I didn't interact at OWW, but you have been exceptionally helpful to me as I have jumped into this muddle of self publishing. I have also found many other authors who reach out and try to help others. You took time to help me when I had nothing to offer in return, and I will not forget that. Thanks for all you've done to help a lot of people. I'll try to pay it forward.

Darke Conteur said...

So true. I've found some wonderful people through writing forums, and I'm happy to say I'm still good friends with a couple.

As for your questions, I would pass out from shock. :D

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: ...not enough time for the same activities...
That would be true if some of the veterans stayed but since they all came in together, I found it curious that they all pretty much left together too.

Ref: discussions
Oh, heck yes. This is why I stay off the cyclical trending blog topics too. It's all been said before. It might feel original to a newbie, but it's old news to me.

Ref: taboo
Old habits die hard--especially among the SF community.

Ref: Thanks for all you've done to help a lot of people.
:o) I'm just paying forward too. A few people helped me when I had nothing to offer at the time.

Darke: I've learned a lot from forums, most especially the personalities of the regulars. It's helped me choose some of my best friends--and the people I should stay away from. ;-)

Jackie Burris said...

Pass out first, tell sweetie second and my mom then pass out again.

Fat chance am hitting the big time anyway as no rich relatives in the family skeleton closet and do not play the lottery!

Maria a few good friends are totally worth keeping forever, beats those who only think of you when it is an emergency that is for sure.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, Maria. If I hit it big I would tell my immediate family, my parents, my pals on the 'net (like you), and then I would write the thing I have dreamed about writing for 23 two week's notice. That's how my bosses would find our. :)


Angela Brown said...

First, I would pass out from the excitement.


After coming to and verifying that I had indeed heard correctly, then I have a Chipmunk to tell first. Depending on her age, she may or may not fully grasp what it means. Then I have a handful of girlfriends, as in no more than 5 that I would tell. Author buddy-wise, I'd tell you, Will Greenway and Evelyn Palfrey, the three authors I've interacted with from the very beginning of getting serious about this writing gig.

Then, after the truth really sinks in, I've cried a few dozen times and I can type because I'm no longer shaking, I'd blog about it. I like what authors like Janice Hardy and Elana Johnson do. They blog and participate and pay their success forward. I would hope and pray I can find a way to do the same.

Dru said...

I would tell my mom and then my sister.

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: I've always liked the definition of a best friend is someone who would bail you out of jail 300 miles away at three in the morning. :) I hope I never have to prove that loyalty--but with my friends, you never know. LOL!

Ref: two week's notice...

Oh, Bravo!! That would be a true pleasure.

Angela: I'm such a paranoid person. I'd probably tell a dozen people privately before I let it out in public. I'd be too afraid the bubble would burst. I truly don't count my chickens before they're hatched.

Dru: Yes! Always tell Mom. They're one of the few people who believe in us even when we have nothing to show for it. Good choice.

Jenny Schwartz said...

A post that really resonates. Life changes, but you catch up with good people at the most unexpected times. Clinging to and/or regretting their absence in certain venues seems a waste of time to me. I hope that doesn't sound harsh?

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: There was an unnatural idol-worship going on that kind of gave me an ick feeling, but that's just me. The only person I ever put on an pedestal was my grandmother. Everybody else is just plain folks.

Shelley Munro said...

My hubby :)

The other thing about successful authors leaving groups is that they get busier and have more demands on their time. Something has to give. Good post, Maria.

Cate Masters said...

Definitely my hubby, then my sisters. I might pass out after that.
Bigger publishers likely make greater demands on authors' time, and there's only so much one can fit in a day. Hopefully they have a few friends they hang on to for the long haul.

Melissa McClone said...

I would tell my cats because they would be right there with me if I got a call. Then hubby and kids.

I think part of the issue and why authors move on is as you start selling more and more (and I'd imagine if you really started to hit the big time like some of the authors you mentioned) needs change. The reality of publishing is pretty harsh. Unpubs and newer pubbed have this almost rose-colored glasses view. They (generalizing here but for the most part this has been my experience) don't want to hear anything bad. If a pub author happens to mention something going on that isn't particularly good, the others think she's complaining and can get upset. That pushes the author to go find somewhere else to talk with people who understand.

And you're right about peers vs. friends. I have many peers. Not so many friends. But I know those friends will be there through thick and thin. I've also been somewhat surprised based on what's been going on in my life recently to realize who's a peer vs. a friend.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I see this a lot too. It's never bothered me. Things change. People get busier in a new way and something needs to give. I've never seen it as personal.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I would pass out, and then I would tell everyone I knew. I hope I wouldn't disappear from the blogosphere.

Renee Miller said...

You've hit the nail on the head as usual, Maria. I've found the same thing in writing forums. I have in no way "made it." I've published none of my fiction and still debate on the path I should be on.

I do find that I'm reluctant to participate in things that have no useful result for me. I do it anyway in the end because someone was there for me when it became old for them and I think it's only right I do the same. I think paying it forward is something we all should do.

As to your questions? Shit, who wouldn't I tell? First would be my parents though, because they've always stood behind everything I do, no matter how nuts they thought it was. And they did think this writing thing was pretty insane.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: I kind of balk that time is more precious to a big league writer than to someone like me. This is why I think it has more to do with them preferring the company of others.

Cate: These particular authors do. They hang with each other. It's a very closed circle.

Melissa: I think that was part of it. They were answering the same questions over and over again, or trying to set the newbie straight for the umpteenth time. It gets old and it was time to hang with people closer to their level.

Ref: peer vs friend
Isn't that the truth? I'm rather careful who I let into my inner circle. Some confidences are not for public consumption.

L.G.Smith said...

I used to be active on a forum several years ago where I interacted with a few women who have made it BIG (movies and huge book deals). It's funny, I'm the one who moved on, and I think they stayed there and still chat from time to time. One of them continues to blog at the same site too, though, of course, she doesn't do memes and awards and blogfests. She doesn't have time!

If I got a big deal, I have two friends who I'd tell first. My critique partners.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I don't take it personally either--unless they start acting like a Grand Pooba, then it's adios, muchacho. I don't need that kind of drama.

Barbara: Well, if you were that big, you might not have time to answer the comments on your blog. We would have to worship you from afar. :)

Renee: I do what I can, if I can. It doesn't cost me anything to share my experience and it might be useful to someone else down the road. Like the blurb says in my "About This Blog": What is knowledge worth unless it is shared?

LG: If it's comfortable to them, it doesn't surprise me that they still continue to chat. In the forum I was on, it was strictly a learning loop and the veterans got tired of teaching.

Jennifer Oberth said...

I'd tell my Mom and Dad first! (They've been with me from the beginning - literally and for my dream of making a living at writing.) Then my sister and then everyone else.

As other commenters have stated, there is a difference between forgetting your roots and naturally moving on to a different place. I know I'd want to drag my peers up with me, the writing group ones. The ones who work just as hard as I do but I got that lucky break first. I wouldn't forget or outgrow them. (I'm not actually in a writer's group at the moment but I was for years and will start looking for another one soon.)