Wednesday, October 6, 2021

So You Made Some Bad Art Friends

If you haven't yet, read this insanity.

Holy shit, right? Just wow.

I realize the epic that is Bad Art Friend does provide an opportunity to talk about a little discussed topic within writing: the perils of networking (or, how to gauge/temper your social relationships in a healthy way before you drive yourself fucking insane).

The very act of writing is a mostly solitary exercise, so when some writers need to approach others within their community, be it for feedback, opportunity, or kinship, well, there can be a lot of weird pitfalls. Most commonly, these pitfalls are easy to navigate. Some of us are shy, some of us are not. 

It happens. 

But sometimes, oh, sometimes all those doubts, fears, and monsters in our heads can overwhelm us and imposter syndrome creeps right into your socializing, leaving you wondering if the people you're connecting with see you as a peer or if they even see you as a fellow artist at all.

9 times out of 10, those fears are unfounded. But that single time like the one above, where your fears are validated (not discounting an IMMENSE lack of self awareness, but that's a much deeper discussion that isn't so writing-focused), what the hell do you do?

Here are a few tips to life after bad art friends.

1) What hill do you plan to die on?

OK - you just found out there are writers talking a little smack about you. Hell, you may have found out that you are - gasp - DISLIKED among a certain set of writers. 

Bluntly, take stock of your shit. Take a second to do a little reflection and see if your actions may be to blame. Now, this isn't the time to dump the weight of the world on your shoulders, but there's always a chance there's a few crossed wires that you can sort out with good communication and a proper cleaning of your own house.

If not...

Move the fuck on then. As in high school, there are many cliques within writing communities. More often than not, it's harmless, just like-minded people bonding with other like-minded people. Sometimes, it is a group of Mean Girl-wannabes looking out for themselves and thirsting for non-stop validation from fellow boot lickers. Thems the breaks. Ask yourself, is it really worth pushing back? To paraphrase something I heard somewhere, you can't wake someone up when they're faking sleep. Meaning, if someone is willfully doing something, there's not much of a chance you're going to win them over. Starve their fire by choosing not to be the oxygen in the room.

2) Don't drive yourself insane

It's really easy to get wrapped in your own head without hurt feelings. Add the latter to the mix and we all lose ourselves a little. 

I've always been of the belief that I should never assume everyone likes me, but I should also never believe everyone hates me. Temper your relationships within the community. Understand boundaries and understand the people around you. You don't need anyone's friendship to succeed. if someone is toxic, but they hold some sway, who cares? Don't fool yourself into believing anyone's favor is going to change your writing career. Your work will do that, not being friendly to any assholes with perceived power (because I promise you, they ain't as powerful as you think), won't ruin anything for you.

Besides, you have writing to do. You see the room's packed with nonsense? Guess what? You can leave and go write! Maybe even about them (but just avoid like, outright lifting shit from them. Apparently, that ends BADLY).

3) Redefine your own boundaries/goals

Take stock of your situation. What will place you in a safe space? Pulling away entirely? Avoiding certain events? We all handle our traumas differently. Try to find the best way you can tend to your ego wounds without harming your artistic endeavors.

Remember: the social aspect of writing is NOT the same as the act of writing. The only people that can hurt our writing is ourselves. Bullies, hangers-on, and other dummies can't be allowed to hurt your passion of the act itself. Now, some people may argue that smack talking can indeed hurt their career, that folks may talk crap about you to industry professionals.

Well, I mean, if you did something awful, sure, you're done. Let's call that a caveat here. In the event that you're simply disliked by a group of people who like to stir shit, then don't worry. First, if your work is good and you're a professional, nobody is going to avoid working with you because you talk about another hobby too much or you were awkward one time during a reading. And if that industry pro WERE to do that? I mean, shit, is that someone worth working with in the first place?

4) Don't hate yourself, love yourself

Not everyone in life will like us. Even if we're the most put together, compassionate, vibrant being of pure light. There will always be someone out there who wants to dim that shit.

Therefore, if there's something to fix on your end, by all means do, but don't do it for others. I started writing to heal my own traumas, not to be best friends with everyone I meet. I continue on that path, because writing has made me a better person and has helped alleviate some of my scars. I've made friends too, but that's icing on the cake.

Don't sweat the icing. Make the cake.

5) Do good to do good

An obvious issue with Bad Art Friend's kidney story is the sense of neediness based off a person's good deeds. I'm of the belief we do good things to simply put good into the world. We don't need a million pats on the back for being a decent person and we should never expect friendship or opportunities based on the perception of our actions.

I've found paying it forward is therapeutic and a great means to sort out my emotions when I feel down. In a rut because of the bad art friends? Find a way to be a good art friend to others.

Anyway, I'm hoping this is a helpful (if cheeky) rundown on how to handle the stress of high school level drama in an adult world. Be the best art friend you can be - even if it's only to yourself.


Dana King said...

Well put on all points. My first impression on reading the original article was that no one owes us appreciation for anything unless they were the object of our actions. If I donate a kidney to you, I’d expect some gratitude, but if I send one into the wild for whatever altruistic reasons of my own? Well, that’s my business. I couldn’t help but be struck by the idea the donor went public not only to alert others to this option and maybe inspire someone else to do the right thing (a noble and worthy use of the publicity), but to get people to ell her how cool that was, and she is. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Just don’t get upset if a particular person doesn’t.

As a writer, the donor must know we get ideas from everywhere; sometimes we don’t even remember where the original germ came from. Or the idea may have had several parents. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but I’d have no problem if someone used an element from my life in a story, unless I had told that person in confidence.

I was once involved with a person who had borderline personality disorder and learned in counseling the only sure way not to get sucked into their unhealthy discussions was not to engage. As you put it, that’s often good advice when faced with an interpersonal situation we don’t care for. Walk away.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

shawn cosby said...

All good points. I'll just add..don't seek true friendship..and make sure you are aware of where you actually stand with ppl