Writers on Writers, And It’s Not What You Think
Nor would you want it to be. Writers tend to be lumpy. Two of them together? Yeeeech.
Cherie Priest (who, for the record, does not appear to be inappropriately lumpy) notes an inherent wariness about meeting writers:
I tend to get along poorly with other writers until I know them well enough to know that they are not the sort of writers who piss me off. This may sound unfair and I’m sure that it is, but I automatically assume that other writers are assholes and that I don’t want to meet them. The safest way to introduce me to other writers is to pretend that I’m a cat, being introduced to another cat in close quarters. Stand back. Get the water hose ready in case of emergency. Do not expect the introduction to go very well, and furthermore, be delighted if the encounter ends without blood loss.
I find this amusing (aside from the fact it’s amusingly written) because my experience is the opposite; by and large I find I get along just fine with other writers. But I also readily admit that I’ve spent almost no substantial time in the presence of writers who were not either already professional writers, or writing in a manner that subsumes individual neuroses underneath a need to get something in on a deadline (i.e., college newspaper stuff). Prior to selling a novel, none of the people I would deem as good friends were aspiring authors, and most of the people I know on a day-to-day basis aren’t writers either. I’ve never been a workshopper or writer’s circle type, so I never regularly crossed paths with other aspiring authors while I was one myself. The closest I came to any of this was the single fiction writing class I took when I was a freshman at the U of C, which served largely to establish that I’m not a "writing class" sort of person. Once I left college, I knew plenty of writers, but they were all journalists, which means (by and large) that they approach writing as a job, with daily performance expectations — i.e., deadlines and what have you.
In short, for the vast majority of my working life I’ve been isolated from the type of "writer" who sees writing as a holy calling, and have instead been exposed to the type of writer who sees it as their job, either as a journalist or as a working writer who relies on pay copy to pay the rent. These people — regardless of the type or style of writing they may engage in — tend to be fairly practical people when it comes to the "art" of writing; they talk shop the way mechanics talk shop, not the way theologians do (or are imagined to, anyway). Allowing for the general variation of human personalities (which is to say, some people are just assholes no matter what they do for living), I have to say that on average I’ve liked the working writers I’ve met. Even if we don’t share exactly the same worldview, we have a commonality of practical experience that gives us something to work with, at least until we all decide we’re bored with talking about writing and go off from there.
I don’t think I’ve met a working writer who does vomit on endlessly about the holy mission of writing and how it is an expression of their soul and so on, possibly because that sort of thing eventually takes a back seat to paying the electric bill, and possibly because if a writer is doing the "show don’t tell" thing like they’re supposed to do in the first place, they don’t need to blather on about it; it’s there in the writing, or should be. I don’t know what I would do if someone was blathering on to me about the holy mission of writing, actually. I guess to amuse myself I’d picture them in their underwear, covered in blood-sucking leeches, turning powder blue as they slowly deoxygenate. Yes, yes. That is an image which will do quite nicely.
I think it also helps to meet the right writers, frankly. At my first science fiction convention, I knew not a damn person, so Patrick Nielsen Hayden basically appointed Cory Doctorow as my "con buddy" and Cory did me a mitzvah by introducing me to a bunch of swell folks who also happened to be writers, many of whom have since become good friends. These writers are simply good people — they’re happy for their friends’ success, they’re generous in their friendship, and they tend also to be amusing as hell. Good role models for any budding writer. Next time you see me, have me introduce you to some of them. You’ll like them. Or there’s something wrong with you. Yeah, sorry about that.