To be clear, this is a collection of largely bullshit aphorisms that have formed, stalagmite-like, in my head over the last few years. Please take with as many or as few grains of salt as you like.
— The vast majority of people are nice. Even those whose first impressions make them appear to be an asshole. This has to do with introversion, awkwardness, social phobias, and the like. Therefore, first impressions may be golden, but they may also be suspect. Be patient, and open to change.
— Parties are fun, until they aren’t. Coping mechanisms include: excessive drinking (the first few years) standing off to the sides and nursing a drink (later years) or drive-by appearances. An hour one-on-one over coffee or a bar is a hell of a lot more valuable use of your time and forges way better connections/friendships, too. But if you are at a party, don’t take it so seriously.
— We’re all on the Internet in some form or another. Sometimes there will be some crazy shit flying. Most of it is easy to ignore/write off/not take so seriously. But from past experience, if someone writes something overtly harsh about a person, there’s a covert, harsher reason as to why. Overt > Covert btw. (Related: direct is the only way, but I’ve said that before.) Or, it’s like Amis and Hitch getting into it when basically it was just two friends trolling the literary scene in a big way.
— Stop being passive-aggressive. No, really. Just stop it.
— For the love of god, don’t spend all your time in bookish/cultural pursuits. I know we all make fun of Jonathan Franzen for bird-watching, but he does have a point. The people I respect the most have a lot more going on than books & publishing and aren’t afraid to show it Related: the Internet is great until it isn’t. Please put down your phone once in a while. (Note mostly to self.)
— The people and publications that appear to be important are actually not taken so seriously by those who matter, i.e. those with real money and power.
— if you figure out someone you thought was a friend is, in fact, a climber, that is okay. Climbers are actually very amusing, largely because they often have no idea how their behavior comes across. So they overestimate some factions and wildly underestimate others. So why is it okay? Because they can be useful. And when they aren’t, or especially when you’ve ascended into a new strata, you can draw on your long memory to be blithely kind and enjoy the satisfaction of it.
— Even a minute of kindness has a multiplier effect more than you could ever possibly imagine.
— Answer your email.
— You have more intel than you think. Most should be kept to yourself, but share strategically — and if you share something you shouldn’t, own it and ‘fess up and deal with the consequences.
— The people you really have to watch out for are the narcissists and the sociopaths, because they are tough to spot, since they seem charming and lovely at first and might even become your friends for a while. But once spotted, you’ll find their behavior appalling, especially if they have some modicum of success. The only solution is patience. As in years, or decades. Oh, and sometimes the narcissists pretend like they worry about being narcissists, but that’s a lie. I know. Hard to wrap your head around. The best thing, if you can, is to avoid such people like the plague. If they were your friends, cut them out of your life immediately. There is no cure.
— The minute you stop loving books and/or writing, get out. Or switch beats/genres/attitudes.
— Remember to laugh. This world is pretty damn absurd.