Miss Write's Advice: Living with a Writer
Our resident Agony Aunt is back with some advice on living with a writer. If you've got a writing dilemma, don't suffer in silence! Send your problems over to Miss Write.
I’ve recently moved in with my partner who is a writer. I’m keen to support her but I’m a bit nervous about approaching the subject. Do you have any advice? David
It’s wonderful that you’re being so supportive, but writers are a fragile bunch and it can be difficult to find the right balance.
Here are my top tips for living with a writer:
1. Don’t ask for a daily word count
Unless you fancy getting your head bitten off, avoid asking for a daily word count. Phrasing your question like this will only add pressure but a word count doesn’t always accurately reflect the quality of the writing. Instead, ask more general questions about writing or a piece you know she’s working on. That way, you’ll still feel connected but you’ll avoid causing any unnecessary upset.
2. …and don’t ask for too many details
It’s usually a bad idea to ask for too many details. This isn’t because writers are precious or terrified that you’ll steal their ideas. Well, some might be, but for most writers ideas, plots and characters are constantly evolving and often a piece of work doesn’t start to take proper shape until a first draft is finished. Trying to distil a piece of work into a couple of snappy sentences can be a terrifying prospect in the early stages, so if you do ask, don’t expect to get a quick answer!
3. Look after the boring adult stuff
Writers can be so consumed by what they’re doing that they forget to do the sensible adult stuff like eating and sleeping properly. Offer to cook and help out with any life admin if it’s a particularly stressful or busy time. Your support will be massively appreciated and a well fed and rested writer will be far happier and more productive.
4. Don’t question the routine
Every writer works differently, so unless this routine is massively disruptive to your own life, don’t question what works for her. If, however, you catch your partner tweeting about writing more than actually doing any, try sneakily turning off the Wi-Fi for a few hours. You’ll be thanked eventually.
5. Be flexible
A writer’s life can be unpredictable and a solid routine may be a completely unachievable thing. Writers often have to drastically alter their plans to accommodate an important deadline or project. Be flexible with your approach to making plans, just as you would with any other busy person in your life.
6. Understand how difficult it is (even if you don’t)
You might not totally understand your partner’s choice to dedicate part of her life to writing but you can guarantee that the pressure she will put on herself is enormous. Having the discipline to sit down and write every day is difficult, especially when you’re juggling another job and other commitments. Be patient but don’t feel afraid to gently speak up if you’re starting to forget what she looks like.
7. Be prepared to talk about fictional characters like they’re real people
When you’re in a writing bubble, it can take over your every waking (and sleeping) thought. Be prepared to discuss fictional characters at great length. You might even need to help with bizarre research and you’re likely to be woken up by midnight scribbling as inspiration strikes. Invest in some good ear plugs.
8. Represent the bigger picture
It’s important to get some perspective on what you’re doing and writers often struggle with the balance of keeping a foot in the real and fictional world. If the pressure of a deadline is getting too much, gently remind your partner of her previous successes, her passion for writing and her role in the wider community of writers. Or just give her a hug (we all need those from time to time).
9. Take inspiration from her example
It takes discipline to turn up at your desk every day, whether you’re a full or part-time writer. Use her example to inspire your own choices. Is there something you’ve always wanted to write, make or do? Why not use more of your spare time to follow your own passion?
10. Be her cheerleader*
Finally, every writer needs a cheerleader. Whether you provide detailed constructive criticism or you simply ask how her day has been, your voice will matter and give her a boost when she needs it most. But be mindful and respect the boundaries in place- she might not want you to read her writing! However, you could be the perfect person to give that encouraging nod to send out her work. Find the balance that works for your relationship and stick with it.
Rummage around in Miss Write's archives here.