Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Advice for Writers & Their Lovers

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While it’s hard enough managing the everyday trials of a writer, most of us, hopefully, don’t have to face these struggles alone. Just as essential as an editor or agent, family and friends encourage and support us while we cry over another rejection slip or pull our hair out during revision. On behalf of our loved ones, we might want to stop and consider how to keep our inner artistic beasts at bay as we wrestle with the craft.

Here are some of our thornier traits to be aware of and how to counteract them:

  1. When we write, most of us try to slip into a trance, akin to “the runner’s zone.” In this
    state our hands and mind are busy in the creative flow. If workspace is public space distractions can raise conflict—and not the good kind. It’s important to devise ways to alert cohabiters when we’re at work. Set schedules of time and let family or roommates know that to intrude is to break the flow and tempt fury. If your son or daughter must cross your writer’s path tell them do so quickly and quietly, and tell them perhaps, to leave a wholesome snack, or a bottle of water. Their presence might be welcome with offerings of food.
  2. We can often be peevish after a day’s work hammering on the keyboard and should make every effort not to let our literary frustrations rub off on our loved ones. To clear our head and rejoin the rest of the world, consider stepping away from the laptop or putting down the pen to invite a friend on a leisurely stroll outdoors. Writers throughout history have relied on the curative powers of fresh air and moderate exercise with amiable companions. A walk can do wonders to alleviate creative blocks and spark new perspectives while nurturing quality time with a mate.
  3. There may come a point when we seek non-writers’ opinions on our projects from girlfriends, fiancés, or our co-worker. This is an extremely slippery slope and should be approached with every ounce of rationale and sobriety. Before we entertain such requests, assess the following:
    a. Will I be able to remain friends, spouses, or roommates after receiving honest feedback?
    b. What if my wife dislikes my work, finds it boring, or simply can’t finish my manuscript?
    c. What if my brother reads something that reveals me in a completely different, and, perhaps, unsavory light?
    d. What if my best friend spots a character or situation that is unmistakably a reference to our past?
  4. If you’re unable to handle any of the above situations, then, for the sake of the children, consider finding someone else. Be willing to pay for expert critiques and request for professional editorial assistance before sending off manuscripts to editors or agents who expect nothing less than your absolute best, polished work. Do not rely on family and friends as your sole reviewers.
  5. If you’re keen to the idea of sharing your work, let your brother know that honesty is the best policy. Your wife should respond as an average reader. We don’t need an academic treatise. We simply want to know if the characters spark interest, if a stanza resonates, or if the dialogue reads awkward. After your wife has been kind enough to set aside time for your manuscript, don’t forget to return the favor. Good meals and a nice glass of wine are more than just kind gestures but make up life’s necessities.

If we are to keep one single truth in mind as we race to meet deadlines or rush through research, we should take to heart the simple fact that without our family and friends we would not have the insight or compassion to pursue our craft. Our loved ones, undoubtedly, are steady and much needed sources of inspiration, sanity, hope, laughter, and, often times, food. Those who stand by writers make the impossible seem possible. And, without our nearest and dearest, we would not have the capacity to experience life to the fullest, which is, at its very essence, what living and writing are all about.

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1 Comment

  1. Was just wondering, wouldn’t it be better that those close to you saw your manuscript first and alerted you to possible problems, before it goes into print? You know they are likely to read it once it does, and then it can’t be altered.

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