As I am currently very ill, I was not feeling up to writing any big topics, so I thought I would write this piece for all those people who live with writers!
So, just for you, here’s how to care for your writer.
I am extremely lucky that my partner loves that I am a writer and supports me in my often turbulent and emotionally-wrought roller-coaster journey.
Technically, this piece is more for those long-suffering partners, parents and friends who live with us writers and want to help us. (PS: If you are a writer and someone want’s to support you, treasure them! They are damn rare!)
If you are looking after a writer, you are going to need patience. Oodles of it. We writers shift our mood constantly. Everything from what we wrote to what we didn’t can affect us.
We can get deeply enveloped by our characters and worlds and ignore reality. We are not trying to be ignorant, it is just easy for us to get swept away.
Keep us grounded and make sure we check into reality frequently.
Time & Space
Give us time and space to indulge in our writing. If at all possible, help us locate a place in the house that can be our writing nook! Somewhere that when we’re there, it is designated writing space.
Understand that when we are in our writing nook or have a sign on our door saying “Writing in Progress” that it is not free time for you to come to us with random requests or for chitchat.
Even if we have written nothing, we may still have been working away in our heads building plots.
Be aware that we need this time. If possible plan a “stop time” with us so anything that needs doing or discussing can be done outside of our writing time.
If you read my 14 weird & wonderful truths about writers post, you will know writers are not good at managing themselves when it comes to food.
(It gets worse if you are like me and don’t cook anyway so live off toast, because the toaster is the only appliance I can work safely).
Check in on us at intervals to either see if we want to eat or just make us eat.
Writing is a sitting game, hunched over the keyboards we are not exactly the poster-child for health and fitness.
Make sure we get away from our screens, stretch our legs and get some daylight. If we grumble and snarl, remind us that getting out will open us up to new experiences, new sights and can easily trigger a new idea. Also, because our butts will get big if we don’t!
Read the room
If you can learn to read the room when you step into the writing space, you will be at a serious advantage.
This is where you know whether to suggest a break or to just say nothing and walk back out.
My partner has perfected the room reading. He will know instantly if he needs to stay and get me to talk over whatever is stressing more or to just put down a cup of tea and walk out in silence.
We writers are fragile, our egos inflate and deflate like balloons and most of us need constant reassurance.
This is especially true when we are having a bad day and feel like shredding the whole manuscript.
It’s the moodies again and you need to keep us from doing stupid things…. like shredding the WHOLE manuscript!
Chances are if you live with a writer you will be given something to read eventually.
The main thing is, be honest – if what we write is “not your thing” or you’re not a reader by nature, it’s better to get it out early.
Otherwise, we will continue to give you things to read and it will be exhausting for you.
The first reader, known as the Alpha Reader (usually a partner/close friend or family member) is that one that spends the most time in the worlds we writers create.
They see all the drafts, all the ideas that get chopped and changed so make sure you want to be in the thick of it.
Don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. Even those writers who really hate criticism (yup, that’s me), understand the need for it and despite the scowls and grumbles etc, we want you to be true with your critiquing.
You do us no favours if you sugar-coat everything or just gush about how awesome it was, all the while hoping you never have to read it again.
Also, if you are not in the mood or the frame of mind to read and critique, tell us so. We don’t always notice so be honest and ask to read it later.
But DO ask us for it. Otherwise, we may hide it away, convince ourselves you really didn’t ever want to read it and sulk about that rejection for years.
This is similar to reading the room – you need to read the situation – are we in the mood for a deep, full on critique of the piece we just gave you? Or are we possibly just wanting a light overview or just some validation that what we wrote is at least somewhat on the right path.
If in doubt revert to the Compliment Sandwich – make a positive point, then discuss the issues and problems, then end on positive points again. This usually tames even the most gnarly of writers.
Understand it’s hard work
Looking after a writer is hard, we don’t make life easy for those people we live with.
Many of us can be pretty high maintenance with our anxiety, writers’ block, crippling doubt, towering highs, overzealous imaginations and all the voices in our heads that we sometimes talk back to.
Remember to tell us if we are being particularly annoying or anti-social or if you want help with something. We live half in a daze so need to be brought back to earth. Talk to us plainly if you need something.
Hopefully, this hasn’t put you off letting a writer into your life, for while we can be a lot of work, getting to read those early drafts or joining us on the crazy roller-coaster can be pretty fun. 🙂
To all those incredible people who support, care for and cherish their writers, thank you for being there for us, thank you for your understanding and your patience. Thank you for believing in us, when others (and even ourselves) have not. ~Ari