Making it work with a writer: only mostly impossible

So I’ve been married for almost four years now. No one is more surprised by this than me. I always envisioned a life full of books and travel and occasional paramours, but a spouse? Please. I’m a lunatic, and I’m not changing for anybody. So I suppose it just goes to show that you never know where life will take you.

How does my husband put up with me? I don’t really know. But I have two bits of advice for those of you brave enough to get involved with a writer, which is basically like dating a musician, only without all the things that make dating a musician kind of cool.

My first piece of advice is, don’t take it personally. Writers are the definition of erratic. We are wrapped in babbling mania or sulking in fugue. Either way, we are not listening to you, we drank the last of the coffee and we have not yet showered. In fact, the very last time you should ever speak to a writer is when he is staring broodily into space. He is writing. Oh, I know he is just sitting there with a cold cup of coffee at his elbow, but trust, he is writing. He is working out some key bit of plot that has eluded him for weeks or months, riding the blind, twisting path of his own mind into Eurekaville. He is standing firm with a six-shooter in his hand as the werewolves circle, praying to his seven gods as the rudderless space ship hits the atmosphere, holding his true love as she whispers his name with her last breath.

Interrupt him at your peril.

And the hell of it is; none of this oddball behavior has anything to do with you. Most people don’t mind being interrupted while they’re daydreaming (I presume), but to a writer that’s a mortal sin. So if you’re a sensitive person who needs lots of attention and reassurance from your best beloved, best not live with a writer, because we can’t give you what you need. If you’ve already signed up for the rodeo, well, this is what you’re in for.

Second piece of advice: if we are not consumed by work, there is no reason for us to act like animals. We can’t help the occasional thrall to the muse, but no one is in thrall all the time. If you inadvertently interrupt a writing writer and get fussed at, he or she should apologize for being rude as soon as he is able (which honestly, means as soon as he gets done with whatever he’s doing, and that could mean twenty minutes or several hours, but an apology SHOULD be made). He probably should also take a shower and go get more coffee for you. Writers are complete weirdos but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be held to the same standards of human decency as anyone else, and anyone who is using ‘being a writer’ as justification for ‘constantly being a prick’ ought to be dumped immediately. When you get right down to it, mutual respect is the cornerstone of any functional relationship, and it takes two to deliver on it.

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