Making Author Friends is F***ing Hard

Talking about making friends as a four-time 29 year old with a husband, kid and entire wardrobe built around high-waisted leggings feels… embarrassing. But, I also have peed myself while simultaneously vomiting in the cleaning goods aisle at Target (I was pregnant and I should not have spritzed myself with that watermelon scented Febreze) so like, my threshold for embarrassing myself is also really low. So with that in mind, let’s talk about how fucking hard it is to make author friends.

Before we begin, I need to put forth the disclaimer that I don’t have many friends in general. With my lifelong struggle with depression, I sabotaged or lost a lot of friendships. And when I met my husband at the ripe age of 22, we became *that* couple who just hung out with each other and considered a late night Totinos run to Stop and Shop as “a night out”. And as the years ticked by, it seemed harder and harder to make and find friends. Sure, I made work friends but they either tended to be Gen-Z’ers who did not fully appreciate my <em>Lizzie McGuire </em>references and were honestly too cool to be seen with me in public or post-menopausal women in their sixties, on the brink of retirement, who shared my cynical attitude and hatred of work and who were also way too cool to be seen with me in public.

Eventually my new plan for friendship became “I’ll make mom friends when I have a kid”. Foolproof plan, right? Mayyyybe… if I hadn’t had a baby a few months before a pandemic shut the world down. Terrible, terrible planning.

Fast forward a few months and I got into Pitch Wars in 2020! Here we go: this would be the opportunity I was waiting for to make friends. And I definitely did and am so grateful to my Pitch Wars Discord group. My Pitch Wars family was the first place I went when I got my retinitis pigmentosa diagnosis and needed help processing. They supported me during my rollercoaster submission journey and help manage my anxiety of still being afraid to email my agent because I am forever intimidated by how important and boss babe-y she is. I also walked away with an amazing friendship with my mentor, who I deeply admire, despite our very clear differences in our opinions on exercise.

But I still never truly felt like I fit in. I didn’t have the funny screenshots of text group chats to share online, or the quirky inside jokes and cute hashtag group names or the aesthetically Instagram worthy gorgeous writing retreat pics. And I would always wonder: how did these friendships move from Twitter mutuals to texting buddies and friends who trusted each other enough to go vacation in a secluded mountain cabin without worrying one was secretly a psychotic murderer? What was this elusive friendship secret that I was clearly not getting?

And when a post went viral-ish the other day about writers hyping up their friends… this lacking feeling hit me even harder. I didn’t really have anyone to hype, or anyone to hype me up. As I read through so many posts of writers tagging each other and sharing elements of their friend’s WIP’s they loved and those tagged authors responding in kind, it made me feel like I was missing out.

And even worse, I didn’t know how to get “in”.

Over the last few months, I have been making a concerted effort to put myself out there. I joined Peanut, which is like Tinder for moms and am very liberal with my swipes. I voluntarily sat through a MLM nail sticker pitch because it involved getting coffee with a woman with cool, blue-streaked hair and I was lonely and like, who doesn’t like overpriced nail stickers that peel off in the shower?

And I also made an effort to DM and reach out to other authors in my rom com genre. And it’s been&#8230; okay. I usually get a response, which is a plus, but it doesn’t lead much anywhere. And I overanalyze every sentence, theorizing if the double exclamation mark I used made them realize ‘hm, this person might be a tad unhinged’. But a cynical part of me, the same part that needs store-bought serotonin to function, can’t help but wonder if friends will come as my book release date nears because then maybe I will “matter” more.

But when taking a step back, I think friendship requires vulnerability, which is something I struggle with. A lot of the posts I see of author besties revolve around gushing about their friend’s work. And something I don’t do very often is share my work. I only use one CP (hey, hey Noemie) because it’s scary to share my writing in such an intimate relationship, opening up myself to critique and feedback on characters who are like me: messy, flawed, depressed, self-sabotaging. That’s not something easy for me to share (why I decided to then go ahead and get a book deal to publish it is something I will need to spend the next few years unpacking in therapy).

To make the friendships I desperately want, I can’t sit back and spark superficial conversations with authors without giving a bit of myself. How to do that exactly, I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think it’s proper form to slide into someone’s DM’s and say, “hey want a Google Drive link to this book I wrote about a depressed guidance counselor who struggles with a low sex drive because of her anti-depressants and has a daily identity crisis thanks to her mixed cultural identities, but like also has some great oral sex scenes? And then maybe we can have a Zoom coffee date and share our childhood traumas and favorite TikToks?”

But the one thing I don’t want to do is give up. I want to keep trying, to keep putting myself out there and to be okay with failing. Not everyone will like me, which honestly doesn’t bother me too much because most days, I can barely tolerate myself. But I do want to try to find the other writers out there who struggle with life sometimes, who live with mental illness and enjoy dark humor, who don’t judge my excessive use of dry shampoo and who tolerate me complaining about my “stomach issues” which is really just drinking too much iced coffee, without calling me out because we both know that my daily iced coffee is my emotional support crutch. Who want to maybe meet up one day, but like at a bookstore so we can politely ignore each other while hanging out. Maybe that friendship exists, maybe it doesn’t. I think what I need to work on is accepting that I am okay if it doesn’t work out. That social media so often creates unrealistic and unattainable expectations and maybe I’m doing fine just where I am and that those pangs of loneliness that come and go are just a part of life. I don’t know yet, I’m still figuring it out but if I do ever work out the magical friendship recipe, I’ll let you. Preferably over coffee (nail stickers not included).

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