Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lines Between Friends and Colleagues

I've been running a series over on my own blog about lessons I've learned from my day job that have trained me for my writing career. There have been a lot of interesting discussions, so I thought I'd challenge the Word Whores this week for their own working life lessons.
This weekend my friends and sister Word Whores Laura Bickle and Marcella Burnard have been visiting me. They are also my critique partners. It's a multi-layered relationship. We talk about writing a lot. We know each other's books nearly as well as our own, so it's easy to wind into conversation at random over some plot point we're mulling. They're also good friends, so we talk about our lives. We can invoke the Cone of Silence and save all our writer rantiness for those conversations with each other, that we trust will go nowhere else.

They are both my friends and colleagues. They, along with a few other writers, form my first circle.

Now, I am also friendly with both of my editors, and one of the executive editors. We have easy relationships where we exchange emails and and tweets. There are several agents I'm also friendly with and I enjoy those relationships.

However, I never forget that these are professional relationships.

At my day job, my immediate boss is someone I've been working with for over ten years. Laurie has been with the company a few years longer than I have, she's a few years older than I am. We have a close and rewarding working relationship. Because we travel extensively together and because we naturally mesh well personality-wise, we have become good friends. One of my closest friends, in fact.

However, I never forget that she is also my boss. I can make jokes about various things, gripe from time to time. But would never discuss with her something that would put her on the spot. Like if I was surfing the internet instead of working, for example. (Laurie - if you're reading this, I would totally NEVER do that. :D ) I know where the line is and I'm careful to observe it.

My presses have authors' loops that the editors also participate in, to greater or lesser extents. They're meant to be discussion forums for us to help and support each other. The editors wade in on questions from time to time, or to banter on various topics. But sometimes authors get ranty and the editors are forced to put on their corporate hats and explain the rules. Those things are based on business - that's their job. Still, sometimes the writers get offended.

This is blurring the lines.

The upshot is, the relationships between writers and those in the publishing industry are professional ones, first and foremost. Being friendly with and enjoying the people you work with is one of the great bonuses of a good professional life. But the line should always be clear.

And the Cone of Silence is the place for venting. No exceptions to that.


  1. Mmmm - good challenge, and great post. So important to observe those boundaries, and to know where they are. Especially with online relationships, I think.

  2. Great post!
    I have some colleagues that I consider friends, but there are many others who I'd never tell sensitive stuff to. It's difficult to know which ones to trust at times, but I usually go with my gut feeling and luckily that feeling is rarely wrong (it used to be wrong in the past sometimes, but it has learned over the years ;-) )
    @Kerry: I hear you about online relationships. I've had it happen at one community that one person got nasty and posted parts of private chats he had with some of the other members. Egh....

  3. Very true, Kerry!

    Ack! That's just awful, Sullivan. It really is so hard to know who to trust. Which is just too bad.

  4. Great post. And I look forward to seeing what the other whores have to say this week. =o)

    I don't work with other people in my offline life, but I remember making friends with co-workers is a fine line to walk. Heck, even being friends with my husband's co-workers is a tightrope. I always have to remember anything I say can and will be held against him.

  5. It's so true, B.E. Office friendships can be rewarding, but you always have to keep the tightrope in mind.