It’s after he’s asked me the question for the third time that I stop following the developing plot line in my thoughts, mentally plug back in to reality, and replay the words that have been spoken repeatedly in my direction.
“Can you pick up dinner on the way home?”
It’s an easy question, with an easy answer, which I give him right away. He’s used to living with a writer, so instead of an argument about my lack of attention, he just gives me an eye roll and a heavy sigh because it took three tries to get that simple answer. Only three. Not five. Or six.
But then, he’s used to the perils of living with a writer.
All the writers that I know have supporters–the people who enable them emotionally, intellectually, professionally, and even financially–to continue the quest for a life as a writer. I’ve had many conversations with other writers that express gratitude for what these supporters provide. I’ve seen many similar posts in the WU Facebook group. Sometimes, however, it is good to acknowledge our supporters—whoever they may be—directly, and to recognize them for their patience and at times bottomless good humor. Below is my gratitude list, acknowledging what my supporters deal with.
If you see yourself in any of these situations, then please take the time today to say thank you to one of your supporters.
Could you Ask that Again?
There are periods in writing when the work takes over a writer’s consciousness. Some call it ‘immersion,’ or ‘flow,’ or being ‘in the moment’. Whatever you call it, it means a writer is more deeply enmeshed in his or her thoughts than in the surrounding physical world. This complicates planning daily existence. It is why my supporter asks me the same question three or more times before getting an answer. And that can get frustrating very quickly. Over the years we’ve learned to minimize arguments with a simple strategy. I tell my supporter when I’m at a stage that requires me to go deep and get lost in my fictive world. This lets him know that slow answers don’t mean I’m ignoring him and he can be more patient. Then he’s able to wait until I plug back in to reality before he asks the question. He isn’t repeating himself, and I’m not feeling neglectful.
Friday, 9am. Comment to supporter—I just finished re-reading what I wrote last night and it’s brilliant. I’m genius. I’m the next great writer.
Friday, 9 pm. Comment to supporter—I just re-read what I wrote this morning and it’s dreck. I’ll never finish this. I can’t write. I should just give up this crazy idea and live a normal life. There’s nothing wrong with just living.
Your supporters put up with this emotional and spiritual rollercoaster on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. It’s draining to watch, draining to try to figure out how to respond, or how to stay out of it. And yet they do. And they often develop responses that are more than hollow reassurances or exasperated affirmations of your brilliance. Thank them for it!
I’m sorry I can’t do that, I need to write.
Scenario: You are a writer. Your supporter invites you to a movie or to an event that you’ve been wanting to do together, or that you used to do together all the time, and you say no. Because you ‘have to write.’ You say no to everything, even fun activities, so that you can have ‘time to write.’ This can last for hours, days, weeks, months. You, the writer, can’t plan any breaks in your schedule, because you are immersed in your story. And if pressed to limit your writing time—say like scheduling it as an event on the calendar to ensure you get undisturbed time—then you are unable to decide if 4 hours, or even 8 hours is really enough. You miss out on even basic, everyday things so that you can write. Sometimes these are just stupid little things, but sometimes they are big important things. Writing is a job, and should be treated as such. And sometimes work needs to take precedence over leisure. But a writer’s ‘job’ is relentless. You are writing in your head if you are not writing on the computer or on paper. It is part of you. And sometimes, you need to say yes. Yes, I’ve had enough time to write, let’s go for a picnic. Thank you for asking.
I’m sorry, you can’t do that, I need to write.
Believe it or not, I have asked my supporter to delay doing something he wanted to do all his life because it would disrupt my writing. Because when I am deep into writing, I develop a fear, almost a phobia, that any change in my daily existence will disrupt that immersion. This need for stasis can be difficult on people who live in that reality. Of course my supporter did what he wanted to do, that was never really the issue. The issue was my need for some sense of stability. Before he left, he helped me manage the disruption. We set up a plan to keep my daily schedule as normal as possible while he was away.
How about you? Can you pinpoint another peril of life with a writer? Can you offer a coping mechanism for it? Have you thanked your supporters recently for putting up with it? Or helping you deal with it?
Image Credit: By Giligone (My own work using a Sony a 200) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
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