Close Friends

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When I was thirteen, Tim Dannenfelser approached me between classes and said, “Hey. I want to go jogging with you.” I said, “Sounds good!” I was sort of known in my class as The Runner, and at the time I would take absolutely any positive distinction anyone would give me. Plus, I liked Tim very much, though we weren’t close. He was a popular kid with a friendly, social fearlessness that I’d always admired.  

We met up at one end of Providence’s Blackstone Boulevard jogging path and set off. This was a solid mile-and-a-half route, and we took it slow, which gave us plenty of time to talk. And talk we did, about music, and the other kids in class, and our families, and about where we were going to high school. When we reached the end of the path we sat on a bench and talked some more. Then it was time to go, and as we stood up, Tim said, “Man. I like talking to you.”

This didn’t surprise me. I was extremely comfortable one-on-one. I liked the intimacy of it, and that this privacy allowed you travel anywhere conversationally. Talking could be as much fun as games or movies, but only if you were free to follow what both people wanted to follow together. I always felt I understood the rules of one-on-one conversation, as if I could read the signs of where to go next. I could not say the same of groups, where I often felt lost, where my impulse toward intimacy seemed inappropriate. For this reason, I did not feel popular, which seemed like a measurement of how well you faired in groups.

I think this must be a familiar story for a lot of writers. There is very little as intimate as the relationship between writer and reader. The reader allows the writer into their very mind, and once together they head off on a journey unique to that reading. Of course, we writers want to be popular, meaning we want lots and lots of people to buy our books, but this popularity has nothing to do with groups. It is a popularity based on a collection of unique friendships, where every writer is free to write what he or she wants, and every reader is free to finish a story or choose another.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.