When you get as honest and real with other human beings as we do, it’s hard not to fall into a trap. It’s not a trap, really. It’s a crevice. A skinny space between two sky-high buildings. I mean, we’re straddling the two buildings all day anyway. One little slip (of the tongue) and ker-spluntch. We’re trapped. Wedged. Between client and friend.
I mean, we learn intimate details of our clients’ lives day in and day out. They trust us, deeply, with their ideas and secrets. With their stories. And we never betray that trust. Sometimes, in fact, we do things to solidify the trust. We tell stories of our own or whisper our secrets through the phone. I, for one, often send pictures of my son, Abraham, to clients in an attempt to “level the playing field,” so to speak. All this sharing makes it pretty hard not to feel like friends.
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And we are friends.
But we’re not friends friends.
We’re work friends.
See the difference?
Keeping a clear but gentle boundary between work and friendship is a waffling feat. Forgetting a birthday feels like a slight, but no one would actually expect a present. We risk hurt feelings if we step too far to one side of the line or the other. And as all client relationships end, we’re left wondering, Do you still want to talk? Should I still send you pictures of my kids and you can still complain about your mother-in-law? We do want to talk. We do want to be in touch with our clients after their projects are over. But in order to provide honest feedback, true critiques, and real communication, sometimes the friendship part must be cast aside for the sake of the project. (After all, our clients first came to us to write a book, not to be friends.) We try and keep up our end of the friendship as best we can while still focusing our energy on staying the course, bringing it on home to the finish. And hey. The end is always bittersweet, for any friend.
So, perhaps friendship is the wrong word. I often say that our clients are family. But family is quite different from friendship, isn’t it? Family is family despite conflict, despite differing opinions, despite obstacles like time and distance. Family goes through ups and downs and comes out, in the end, still family. It’s undeniable our clients are our family after the life-changing, eye-opening process of writing a book. Family doesn’t quit, and neither do we.
Welcome to the family.