One of the things a writer must come to grips with (at least, this writer must), is how many expectations one can lay at the doorstep of friends. It’s a constant inner struggle—probably for both sides of the friendship.

Asking friends to read and comment on a work is an uneasy thing from the start. One invites honesty. Desires it. And fears it. One invites ideas. Hopes for them. Doesn’t always get them. Most of all, the writer comes to the asking with an expectation that the reader will dedicate to the reading the dispatch and attention that honors the guts it took to share the thing in the first place.

That doesn’t always happen. And when it doesn’t, it is, at best, disappointing; at worst, it’s devastating.

Writers know full well—too well—that the world is not waiting breathlessly for the latest outpourings of the writer’s soul. Friends do not, should not, stop their lives to do what the writer has asked them to do. Writers know that friends have lives of their own.

But. But.

The asking is, in a way, a partnership. A please-take-this-a-fraction-as-seriously-as-I-do hope. A “don’t begin if you don’t think you can commit” request. When the unspoken agreement is not honored, when too much time has gone by, one begins to feel like a neglected girlfriend. That hope, nurtured in silence and fed by endless hours of effort, sours. All that one was willing to do for the partners in the relationship (of which the reading was just a small part), retreats to a place where resentment festers.

Disappointment is a very disappointing thing.

The answer, I suppose, is not to ask at all. The answer is, sadly, to wait for the request rather than to make the offer. And to let the friendship be exactly and only what it is. Whatever that is.

I write this probably because I can’t say it. Oh, those damned expectations.

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