7 Tips to Find Your Kindred Writerly Peeps
No. 131 | By Christine Carron
For the bulk of my teenage years, I was on a mission to find a best friend. A true “kindred spirit.” I fully admit the somewhat rabid intensity of my undertaking was one hundred percent fueled by Anne’s adventures in and around Green Gables. I mean, if an orphan girl could find her one, true peep, then certainly so could I, right?
Yikes, did I come on strong to potential besties. Following them around, giving them gifts, pushing for too much closeness too fast. My intention was pure but, wowza, I wish I could go back, give my younger self a hug, and gently coach her to dial it down a bit.
Let her know that friendships take time to grow and develop. Share Dunbar’s Circles of Friendships with her, along with Jeffrey Hall’s research that shows it takes about 200 hours of invested time to move someone from an acquaintance to close friend.
Some of that friendship-making clumsiness stayed with me well into adulthood, but slowly I got better at it. Which is a really good thing. Friends are awesome in general, and I find my writing friends—my writerly peeps—to be a particularly enriching, energizing, and supportive part of the writing adventure.
It was definitely a journey from the fervid Anne-idolizing, kindred-spirit-seeking teenager I was, to where I am now. One that has paid off with dear and cherished friends who are also fellow travelers on the writing adventure. In honor of that journey, here are my seven top tips for finding one’s peeps from all that I learned along way.
Tip #1: Make a plan.
Making friends takes time. It is work. Lovely work, but work nonetheless. Work that needs to be prioritized and managed. If you think your writerly peeps will land on your doorstep wrapped in a bow, that is a fast path to very lean circle of writerly friends.
Tip #2: Craft, do, and review a variety of friendship forays.
Part of your plan has to include putting yourself out there. Big forays like going to a conference. Trying out a local critique group. Enrolling in an online writing course. Within all those big forays, you then have to craft smaller forays, like: during each break between speakers I will say “hello” to one other writer.
Once you craft your forays, you actually have to do your forays, and then assess how they went. What were the results? Which felt fun to you? Which do you want to repeat again and which do you not? The assessment process will give you data for crafting your next forays.
Tip #3: Align your friendship-making forays with your nature.
If you are an extrovert, design forays that leverage your extrovert nature. If you are an introvert, design forays in a way that maximizes your introvert nature. If you’re somewhere in between, make in-between forays.
For example, an extrovert may have more fun mingling in a big crowd, meeting folks right left and center. An introvert may do better networking in a seriously thinned out crowd in a ballroom between breaks in a conference. The point of this tip is to work with yourself, instead of against yourself.
Tip #4: Be willing to move into your discomfort zone.
While you do want to design the bulk of your potential friend-meeting forays to align with your nature (per Tip #3) to make doing them easier, you also have to be willing to stretch yourself. Make some forays that do bring on an internal gulp. Not—and I repeat not—an internal panic kind of gulp.
Just a nice little, “I gotta take a deep breath, square my shoulders, and do this” kind of gulp. When you do, you will be broadening your possible avenues for finding peeps, as well as beefing up your inner gumption. (And a little extra gumption is always good to have on the writing adventure.)
Tip #5: Strengthen your awkward tolerance.
There are going to be awkward moments when out and about making new friends. Moments where communication goes sideways, zigzag, or completely upside down. Where you misread signals, or the person you’re chatting with misreads the signals. Where you attempt to join a circle of writers chatting and . . . they don’t make space for you.
Totally awkward. But not, and I repeat not, fatal.
We’ve all been there. Even the people you perceive as the most glittering social butterflies that ever glittered—they had (and continue to have) awkward moments.
Tip #5: Change rules of the game.
Often we make socializing or networking an either/or situation with very harsh scorekeeping. It either went well, and I’m worthy. Points = 10.
Or it went poorly and I’m a total loser who will never meet my writerly peeps—what is wrong with me?—and I’m destined to be a lonely, friendless writer for the remainder of time. Points = 0.
If you are locked in such a rigid, frustrating, ungenerous dance, change the rules of the game. Decide you get points for everything.
- 3 points for every fun conversation.
- 5 points for every awkward conversations. (Awkward ones are tougher to handle so you earn more points for acing them!)
- 6 points for listening.
- 3 points for talking about yourself. (Being interested is a more powerful friendship-building strategy than being interesting.)
- 3 points for every friendship foray–big or small—you make, no matter the outcome. (The more forays you make the more chances you have for meeting someone that ends up being one of your long term writerly peeps. Honor and celebrate all forays!)
When you change the game and make your inner scorekeeping more playful, then the game doesn’t feel so dire. So life and death. That will tell you brain to stand down, and you will no longer have to spend the entire networking cocktail hour white-knuckling your wine glass. Phew!
Tip #6: Be openguarded.
No, “openguarded” is not a real word, but I wanted to smoosh open and guarded together as both are critical to navigating the process of making new friends. You have to be open about yourself, and definitely about being interested in learning about someone else, BUT you also have to trust your instincts.
If someone is pushing for too much closeness too fast—hello, younger me!—you don’t have to go at their speed. You can slow it down. You are in charge of your friendship-making process.
Tip #7: Accept the “cup of tea” factor.
You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Even if they are absolutely, most definitely your cup of tea. That, yes, is a total bummer. And feels bleck in the moment. It also, however, is a good thing.
Sometimes people have liked you, felt like you were their cup of tea, and you so didn’t feel the same way, right? Would you like it if you were forced to be friends with them just because they liked you?
When their is a cup of tea mismatch and you are the “not chosen” one, first remember to give yourself some points for putting yourself out there, and then pull out this mantra: Some will. Some won’t. So what. Who’s next?”
That phrase comes from the sales world but it’s really useful in many situations, including friendship-making.
There you have it. My seven top tips for filling out your circle of writerly peeps. Go forth, foray, and have fun! You’ve got this!