Writers may talk about many things -- the weather, the presidential election, the high price of a Starbucks mocha latte -- but we rarely talk about writing itself.
I've been to many events with other writers, and not once have I had the pleasure of expressing my controversial views on the proper use of the semi-colon or the common misuse of the word Kafkaesque (it's not the same as Orwellian, folks!). Like so many freelance professionals, writers mainly talk about the difficulties of finding and keeping clients. Writers also talk about money, far more than bankers. Whereas bankers might seriously discuss the idea of escaping their humdrum life among the 1%, stealing away to Tahiti to finish that novel they've wanted to write ever since college, writers will always bemoan their lack of job security and the underappreciated nature of their genius.
On more than one occasion, as I've listened to another writer drone on (with a face contorted in existential pain) about how hard it is to make a living, I've often wondered why they don't just work as a supermarket cashier or park maintenance worker. Why a writer's "wasted" genius is any more tragic than a gardener's or a plumber's is beyond me. Everyone makes compromises and learns to live with them (ask them). Just because writers might express their existential angst better than a plumber doesn't change anything.
Are writers generous in helping other writers? This is a good question, and a delicate one. A writer who's doing better than you might help you, but might also resent any success you may have. Like political candidates and pool cleaners, writers compete for money, attention, and respect. Those things are in limited supply for writers, so they tend to be overvalued. Generosity does happen. Think of the young and internationally-famous novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald befriending an unpublished fellow writer named Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald hooked Hemingway up with an agent, a publisher (Scribner), and Fitzgerald's own legendary editor (Maxwell Perkins). More than anyone, he was responsible for bringing the unknown Hemingway to the attention of the world.
How did Hemingway repay his mentor? By undermining him behind his back, by writing a memoir ("A Moveable Feast") that sought to humiliate Fitzgerald as a drunk and a weakling, by seeking to eclipse his mentor at every turn. Which side of this equation is more common? Well, for every generous writer, you can just as easily find a hyper-competitive backstabber like Hemingway. You'd also find everything in between. I'm not taking sides here in terms of literary quality. Both men were giants, but Hemingway could also be a giant jerk. Genius and jerkdom have often gone hand-in-hand, as often go stupidity and jerkdom.
As you may have guessed by now, I don't go out of my way to curry favor with other writers. I try to let my work do the talking. When with other writers, I try not to complain about my clients or my lack of money (I'm doing okay, I guess) or my thwarted genius (maybe it's not thwarted enough!). Most of all, I try to make friends with people because they are curious and kind and willing to share who they are, not because they've achieved literary success, whatever that means. You're often better off reading a writer, because so many are their best selves on the page, than hear them talk about the vagaries of the writing life. It's tough out there for everyone these days, but let's stay calm and carry on!