Let me start off by saying our first annual SWAG Writers Book Fair was fabulous! Great fun talking to local authors, and of course I blew any “profit” I made on book sales in buying their books. We’ll be doing it again next year, and I’ll post info in time for everyone to make vacation plans to attend. Just kidding. Not really. 😉
One of the great things about the Internet and social media is finding writers from around the world or writing-inspiration web sites. One recent find is Writers Write of South Africa and New Zealand. They offer online courses, but it’s their WordPress blog and Facebook page which provide amusing or downright hilarious sayings and cartoons about the writing life. I saw one such offering over the weekend: “Top 10 Tips: How to Survive a Relationship with a Writer.”
I was very lucky that my most recent ex was not only an advocate for my writing, but he absolutely understood the need for me to have a notebook and plenty of pens or a laptop on vacations. He accepted the fact I needed writing time and never begrudged me that time. He’d even tell relatives not to bother me while I wrote. Of course, his eyes glazed over as I talked about whatever I worked on, but he never asked me to choose between him and writing. That was one of the things I loved about him and miss.
But we all have a significant other, a friend, a relative who just doesn’t get what we do or, in an attempt to look as if they’re being supportive, who do all the wrong things. Here, courtesy of Writers Write is a little primer (with some commentary from me) for those non-writers with whom we share our lives.
How to Survive a Relationship with a Writer
TOP TEN TIPS
1. Never ask when the book will be published.
Ah, yes, this is always a vexing query from someone who doesn’t understand traditional publishing. I think our best response could be, “It’s so good, it’s worth waiting for.”
2. Do not ask a writer if he/she wished he/she had written the latest best-seller.
This happens to me when a new Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum comes out. Yes, I write thrillers, but I’d probably be less cranky if you’d compare me to John le Carre or Alan Furst.
3. Never say to a writer that you’re thinking of writing a book. Never say you’d also write a book if only you had the time.
The reason we don’t like the first statement is there’s usually a follow-on question: “Wouldn’t you like to have a look at it?” or the equally painful, “Why don’t you give it to your agent?” The second part of number three is vexing because the speaker implies that whatever it is they’re doing, it’s far more important than your writing–or that writing is so easy anyone could do it.
4. Don’t call the police if you happen to see a writer’s browsing history. The average writer is not planning to poison you, hire a hit-man, or move to Afghanistan. It’s simply research.
One day, several years ago, I happened to forget to put away multiple issues of “Soldier of Fortune” and gun magazines, which I’d used for research. That caused quite a stir with some church ladies who came over for tea. In a post-9/11 world, I’m concerned that researching bomb-making instructions and/or “how to weaponize” anthrax will get me a visit from DHS. Oh, wait, is that someone at the door?
5. Leave a writer alone when the writer is actually writing. You have no idea how difficult it is to enter the zone.
Sometimes when you vacation with family, you don’t always get a lot of privacy, but you do always get Uncle Bob or Cousin Shelly hovering in the doorway of whichever room you thought you could hide in. He or she observes you hunched over the laptop, your fingers flying, and they’ll inevitably ask, “Are you writing?”
6. Don’t pick unfair fights with a writer. Writers do get their revenge in print.
A couple of former colleagues and bosses will find themselves casualties in my stories and novels, as will a couple of neighbors who are being pretty obnoxious. What catharsis!
7. If you do want to fight, make it memorable. The writer is always looking for material.
A couple of former colleagues and bosses will find the stupid things they said/did/proposed in my stories and novels, as will a couple of neighbors who are being pretty obnoxious. What payback!
8. If your writer wanders off at a party, don’t panic. Writers love to inspect the host’s bookshelves and medicine cabinets.
Let’s face it, we piece our characters and settings together from people and places we know, and what better places to discover whom a person really is but his or her bookshelves and medicine cabinets? At least, that’s the excuse I’ll use if I’m caught.
9. Buy your writer notebooks and cute pens as gifts. Do not buy flowers. Chocolate is also acceptable.
Some of my favorite gifts from friends and family have been blank journals, especially the ones that fit in my purse. Oh, and the chocolate? I wholeheartedly agree, though for me, I’d never turn down Irish whiskey.
10. Leave your writer alone when a rejection letter arrives. After the deadly silence, screaming, crying, moaning, and muttering have subsided, offer your writer a cup of coffee or tea. And a cupcake. And a hug.
Best advice of all. Don’t get angry along with me. It’s my rejection; let me vent. Then, talk me down off the bridge. And the cupcake needs to be chocolate. The hug is mandatory.
If anything, sharing this with the non-writer in your life will result in either a tender moment of mutual laughter or one of those epic disagreements which will form the basis of your next novel. It’s a win-win!