Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tips for living with a writer? A list, deconstructed.

A few weeks ago, I was reading my Facebook news feed when I came across a graphic posted by one of my friends, offering yet another "Top 10" writing advice list. Its title? “How to Survive a Relationship with a Writer: Top 10 Tips.” The graphic offered no author for the list, but a website was cited at the bottom: Writers Write.

Graphics such as this often are played at least to some extent for the humor, with some tidbits of truth and/or wisdom thrown in to anchor the whole thing. I went through the list, conjuring memories or pet peeves that matched up with the “tips” listed, or things my wife, kids and friends have to endure as they tolerate the writer in their midst. So, I decided to post each of the infonuggets here, along with my take on them:

  1. Never ask when the book will be published.
    This one makes no sense to me. I love when somebody asks me this question. It (usually) means they’re interested in what I’m doing. I’m always telling people when my next book will be out and I keep a running “monthly wrap-up” on my blog, detailing the progress of every project I have in the hopper. My regular readers appreciate these updates, and they know they can ask me about the status of a given project at any time. What can I say? I’m an attention-whore.

  2. Do not ask a writer if they wish they had written the latest best-seller.
    I’ve never gotten this question, but 1) All writers wish they had a best-seller, and 2) It depends on the book in question. I’m okay with not having written Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, but I wouldn’t mind writing something like Darth Vader and Son.

  3. Never say you’re thinking of writing a book. Never ever say you’d also write a book if only you had the time.
    Okay, this one can bug me on occasion, mostly because it’s probably the one statement I’ve heard the most over the years. I frequently get asked some variation of, “How do I become a writer?” The most fervent askers of such questions don’t seem to like hearing that to be a writer, you have know...write.

  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 hitman, or move to Afghanistan. It’s simply research.
    This, of course, is what we want you to think.

  5. Leave the writer alone when the writer is actually writing. You have no idea how difficult it is to enter “the zone.”
    I agree with this one, for the most part. When I’m in my home office and the door is closed, that’s the universal signal for “Writer at Work.” Family and friends know that they open said door at their peril. You’ll know when I’m on a crash deadline, as I’ll have enabled the office’s protective guillotine and laser grid features.

  6. Don’t pick unfair fights with a writer. Writers do get their revenge in print.
    And the dumber the fight or argument, the more painful your fictional namesake’s demise. For example: If you want to argue with me over how much you think the latest Star Trek film sucks, I’m sending you and your hovercar over the cliff on some winding Martian mountain road. Political discussions usually mean I’m going to make you the main course for a horde of zombies. Your mileage may vary.

  7. If you do want to fight, make it memorable. The writer is always looking for material.
    I actually did craft an exchange of dialogue in one novel based on a string of comments from a Facebook discussion. Some of the more memorable conversations and/or arguments definitely make good fodder. However, no one from the original discussion died in the resulting book.

  8. If your writer wanders off at a party, don’t panic. Writers love to inspect the host’s bookshelves and medicine cabinets.
    I can honestly say I don’t peek into cabinets or drawers in other people’s homes or offices. That’s just rude, but I do peruse your movie collection, if for no other reason than to see if you’re bold enough to display your porn alongside the mainstream titles. I’ll also definitely be checking out your bookshelves...mostly to see if any of my books are there, and I then judge you accordingly.

  9. Buy your writer notebooks and cute pens as gifts. Do not buy flowers. Chocolate is also acceptable.
    I’m not much of a flower person, but I imagine at least someone out there would appreciate the thought. I’m okay with notebooks, but feel free to substitute “vodka” where it says “cute pens.” In fact, sub it for “notebooks,” too. On the other hand, the chocolate is always welcome.

  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. Add a huge hug.
    I know no writer who gets that worked up over a rejection. It happens to all of us, and it’s just part of the game, right? Personally, I shrug it off, see if there’s anything in the rejection letter I can use to improve the story I submitted, and then I move on. This goes double for bad reviews, which we all get, too. Stuff happens, but feel free to send along the cupcakes. They can’t hurt.
Most of these, we’ve heard before in one form or another, though the one about browser histories is something I’d never really considered, and any tip involving chocolate is a proven winner with me. Anyone have their own unique tips for successfully cohabitating with a writer?


William Doonan said...

And number eleven, if you like what the writer has written, leave a review on Amazon!!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Very early on I got a bit down about rejections. Not violently so of course. Now I don't have an issue.

Unknown said...

The list had some pretty funny points. I once did an interview with our local electrical association about how one might actually go about killing someone on a power line. The man who helped me was amazingly unruffled by the whole conversation.

Liane Spicer said...

"Leave me alone, goddammit" just about sums up my advice.

I'm with you on all except the flowers and vodka. I like flowers and they're always welcome. Substitute Bailey's Irish Cream for vodka and we're good.

Dayton Ward said...

Julie, that story made me chuckle :)

I have friends who are police officers, so I occasionally ask them research questions. They like being my "technical consultants."

marti parham said...

Great post!Now if I could only get the necessary people to read it.

Unknown said...

Give me flowers any day. Notebooks? Well if we're talking about a laptop type note book that is definitely welcomed. I'd take notes in a notebook using a pen if I could read my own writing.

Dayton Ward said...

I still like to scribble notes/ideas/etc by hand on occasion. When I take my kid to Taekwondo class, I take a notebook and a pen and jot down this or that, or work out the kinks in a scene. If I take a laptop/tablet/etc. I usually just end up surfing the net. Doing it "old school" keeps me focused :)