How to Live with a Writer

Writers are an enigmatic bunch. Or at least we would like to think so. Unlike some artistic temperaments, we aren’t necessarily difficult people with whom to live. (Looking at you, rock stars). But, we do have our peculiar brand of quirks and habits. Some of them are individual, some are unique to our occupation, and some are across the board attempts by all artists, to manage that mysterious and coveted flow of creativity. If you are a new housemate, roommate, or just mate, of a writer, here a few things you can expect.

Movies/TV–If you watch a movie or television show with us, don’t be fooled into thinking you are gleefully enjoying a piece of entertainment. You are there to critique a screenplay. Not only is your writer picking apart the story, characterization, and dialogue and comparing their skill level to that of the screenwriters, but just like in English class, your writer is critically evaluating the piece for themes, metaphors, and the overall message of the film. It’s not our fault. We really can’t help it. Blame our English teachers. So, while you may have watched a relaxing comedy, your writer just sat through an editorial, and will spend the ride home pensively evaluating the validity of the message.

Throughout the film, your writer may also be gathering techniques and tips–especially if there is a writer in the movie. Note: Anytime the plot of the movie includes an English teacher lecturing on a piece of literature, your writer will later be reading that book, if they haven’t already, to see where screenwriters were trying to draw a parallel, and how deep the parallel went. (Because trust me, there is a parallel, it’s a cheap screenwriting trick).

Don’t question the creative process. This is a pretty common sense one.  But there is no one way to write anything. We are constantly reinventing our creative process. As we gain experience, we will develop specific habits, but  we will always be thinking of new ways to do things. So,  bear with us as we walk through various stages of writing editing/development, and what it may look like to you.

The truth is, our creative processes can look really strange. Depending on the writer, it could be sitting quietly in a chair, while staring out the window. It could throwing stress balls against the wall repeatedly. It could be intermittent smirking, and laughing while typing.  It could be laying on the floor of a darkened room, blaring Celtic music, and staring blankly at the ceiling. It could be pacing the floor, while reading a printed copy aloud or to oneself. It could be acting out a dialogue scene in a mirror, complete with body language. It could be long, meandering walking through the neighborhood. It could be writing until dawn, and then not writing again for three days.

We are creatively organized. We may not necessarily be organized people, but our pieces must be organized or we will have no readers. We know this, so we work hard to try to organize the chaos inside our brains into organized pieces. We may need lots of tools for this. This may include stacks of papers all over the floor, that are disorganized to everyone but us. Or index cards in different colors and sizes and stickies…everywhere.

It could also include random purchases of dry erase boards in various sizes for various functions. Some of these boards, we may fill with color coded scrawl and diagrams, others, we may abandon altogether  and settle for markering up the mirrors and windows, a la John Nash (A  Beautiful Mind). Oh, and by the way, cheap deodorant erases permanent marker, so if we ever come home with a package of colored Sharpies, and a stick of deodorant, relax. (This is also good information for you to know, just in case in our creative excitement, we accidentally grab a Sharpie instead of the dry erase). But, if the markering up the house becomes too much, here’s a tip to reign us in. Buy that chalkboard paint, and give us a whole wall to chalk up. We will love you forever.

Buy printer ink in bulk…(and hoard your own cartridge). We edit as much as we can on the screen, but there’s a point where we can’t see the forest for the trees anymore. Having a printed copy of our work, is sometimes the only way to see the piece for what is. Unfortunately, this may be an entire 400 page manuscript…or all 40 pages of chapter 2, which need to be reworked, marked up, and then printed out again, and then reworked and printed out again….you get the point. We need lots of ink. Sorry. We know you needed that 1 little pdf form your boss sent. We really didn’t mean to use up all the black ink. Honest. Will your boss mind if it’s in blue ink?

It may be worth it to talk to your writer about investing in a high volume printer for the household–that is, one that is intended for a small to medium office, and can handle several thousand pages per cartridge.

If you are having a dead end conversation with us, it may not be personal. Check for a couple of occupational clues first. Have we been writing for three hours, and are now mindlessly chopping tomatoes, and giving monosyllables to your anecdote about the lady at the grocery store?  It’s not that we don’t care, we are still in book land. It may look like we are making lunch, but we are actually writing… in our heads. Ask us what we are writing, and you may snap us out of it.

The other possibility is that we have written until we are brain dead. We have this vague headache, it’s usually described as a fog. But it’s this numb, or tingly sensation in the brain that mildly feels like when your foot “falls asleep.” And in that moment we don’t know what the word, “tomato” really even means. While we are trying to remember, tossing the word over and over in our fuzzy head, you are continuing your story and we are completely lost….When we get to this point, suggest a nap, and make sure we literally don’t walk into walls. Writing is intense thinking. And when done all day, every day….Well, let me put it this way. When I think about the amount of mental energy, focus, concentration, habits, and dedication, I expound every single day as a professional writer, I realize that if I had given this much to my high school studies, I could have done the Ivies. Oh, what I wish I had known about life back then..

If you can’t think of a topic to discuss, ask us about: 

  1. The illiteracy of people on the internet.
  2. The Coffee Wars (Starbucks, versus McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc…versus the indie shops…)
  3. The Oxford Comma. Trust me. We know what that is. And we would be glad to explain it to you and give you our opinion on it.

The Principle of Creative Energies. The principle of creative energies states that in any physical space, there is a finite amount of creative energy. This means, that if we write in any given space for too many days at a time, the creative energies will dry out, and we cannot write in there for a time. We must find a new place to write,  until the creative energies in that space have a chance to replenish. Then we can come back. This may sound a little…mystical. But, it’s true. This is why writers throughout time, have had offices or, “studies,” as they used to be called. But they also haunted cafes, bars, coffee shops, parks, lakes, beaches, bull fights, etc. Creativity is a fickle mistress to serve, and those that are successful at it, know how to manage her, and still stay on deadline.

We enjoy fun new methods to write. Typewriters, particularly antique ones, are making  a comeback, and I don’t know a single writer who wouldn’t love to have one, if even just for show. Then there are always leather bound journals, and nice hardback ones. Chances are, your writer will enjoy the exciting flavor of something new.

We love our beverages and laptops. Writers come standard with coffee makers and laptops surgically attached.

The bonus upgrade, the MacSnob Writer, comes with a top of the line Keurig, and the latest iPhone/iPad combo. (The Budget MacSnob Writer comes with an older model iPad/iPhone, and includes a twice daily whine alert about the newest Apple gadgets and their capacities). The Party Writer comes with a standard six pack of beer, and the Writer Sophisticate model, includes a daily bottle of wine.

Writers are usually generous with their coffee, and will probably educate you on new flavors and brewing methods. We may also be into teas, and optional accessories to the standard writer package may include loose leaf tea kits as well as pour overs and other coffee accessories. These are geared toward the MacSnob and Sophisticate Writer, but can be added to any writer package.

However, do not ask to borrow the laptop. We will probably let you, but we won’t like it.

We don’t really like small talk. We spend our lives thinking and bleeding the meaning of existence onto a page or screen. We have to work really hard to understand why the benefits of various shampoo brands are important. If we like you, we will really try, and probably succeed when we understand the philosophical meaning of shampoo to you.

Help us by explaining the deeper meaning. For example, shampoo represents a value system of ranking of individuals based on their physical attractiveness. Your need for it, represents your desire to compete in that system, and thus your desire for status, acceptance, and ultimately love.

Love is the primary drive for all humans, and physical beauty is the currency you are using. And physical beauty, whether it is right or wrong, is a valid system of human ranking in our culture. And, if you choose to use that, that doesn’t make you wrong, it is just a choice that you are investing in to compete for love and status.

Now, when we can see it that way, then we can talk about shampoo with you. And it’s interesting. Really interesting.

We can be moody, but it will pass. Just learn to read our cues, when we want to  be talked to, and when we don’t, and you will be just fine. We don’t hate you. We probably just hate ourselves, or at least our inability to get published. And if you love us anyway,  we will  love you back, with a deep, soulful connection.

Remind us to eat every once in a while. We get so wrapped in our heads, sometimes we can ignore time wasting inconveniences, like….eating. And, in many cases, reminding us to eat, will probably fix the point above on moodiness. But on peril of your life..DO NOT TELL US THIS!!!

But you can remind us every once in a while that paying attention to our bodies, can actually go a long way in improving our work. When you put it that way, we will probably listen.



2 thoughts on “How to Live with a Writer

  1. Soooo helpful to have read this. It lifted a burden of guilt from my day. Thoughts of what have I done or doing wrong? I love my partner but once the honeymoon ended and day to day living began many times I feel left out.

    I have, and do go between feelings of rejection and aloneness to resentment , frustration. sometimes anger.

    However my one constant underlying effort is to support.

    Because when I’m doing my almost life time work which requires creativity & focus across many scopes. I am reminded of the need to not be distracted because I’m in the moment or passion of doing.

    Being recently retired with the liberty it provides to do what ever It is I choose for the moment it also brings times of boredom and the presence of too much idle time.

    I strive to “stay in my own movie “ and understand when it’s time to go walk-about and leave the artist to be.

    Thank you again for this very helpful insightful piece. Both reminder and revelation! 🙂

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