Crazy Writer’s Relationship Guide
By Carla Kovach
10 simple pointers to maintain good relationships when writing has taken over your mind.
It’s hard maintaining your relationships as a writer. After all, you’re having a mad, passionate affair with some crazy idea every minute of the day. Sometimes this passion fizzles out, other times ideas form into full blown pieces of work or as I call them, sustainable sparks of passion. At this moment you are infatuated, everything around you becomes a blur and is technically second to your story telling life. Before you know it, you’ve sent your kids to school in odd socks with no lunch and you only comprehend your partners mouth moving – no sound comes out. They are acting out a silent movie in which you are not concentrating on the details. You’ve perfected the art of nodding a yes to everything, even when your boss has just asked you to work in your underpants at 3am on a Saturday morning, in his cesspit. Whoops – too late you nodded.
Below, I have compiled 10 relationship survival tips for congestion brained writers, which should enable you to maintain some level of normality with the people around you.
1. Be present.
When your kids are asking you a question or your partner is telling you they love you, stop and process that information. Temporarily shush those voices in your head. Close off the inner monologue that runs day and night. They will appreciate that brief moment you’re giving them your full attention. As you know, if the passion in the idea is that strong, it will last. If it vanishes, then it wasn’t meant to be, and it was a mere unsatisfying fling that you probably would’ve regretted anyway. Good ideas burn away at your brain; they don’t vanish without a fight. They force their way through until you have no alternative but to erupt text onto paper. Give your family your full attention and if the little voices come back after, grab a note book and relieve yourself immediately.
2. Feed your kids.
I know these voices relight passions in you that your kids may’ve extinguished long ago but your kids are lovely, really. Besides, not feeding your kids is neglect, even if all you can manage is a few chicken dippers with packet mash. Also, throw in a story before bedtime, they will not only adore you for it, by reading them a wide range of stories you are educating yourself and creating a spark in your child’s creativity, and yes, they may grow up experiencing this same euphoric wonder that you experience. What better gift to give to your child. Stories are powerful tools that children love. The classic fairytales provide a lot of lessons and memorable characters as well as entertainment. And, as before, be present; cherish their reactions and their enjoyment. Read to them like you are the character, like you mean it and they will so love you for it.
3. Not all your friends want to read your book.
Actually, for me that’s not many at all. For a start, most of my friends haven’t read a novel since they were forced to read Lord of the Flies at school. Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t read at all and if they do, chances are they won’t be interested in the genre you are writing in. By asking them their opinions when they aren’t at all interested, you are forcing them to avoid you in the future. Expect to never receive a like on Facebook again or for them to be busy when you suggest meeting up (with your new book in hand). Leave them be and find the gem of a friend who loves your type of literature. They are the ones who will be a valuable source of feedback and show the most enthusiasm when you come to promote your work. Treat them well and pay for the coffee. They are worth it as they’re rare, like diamonds. Don’t forget to credit them when you’re doing your dedication, they deserve it.
4. Text buddy.
By text, I mean the words on your page. Attend a writers group or networking evening. Get to know the other attendees or members, offer to critique or edit their work. In turn, they will do the same for you. This is one relationship every writer should work hard to maintain. They already know something about writing; they read (a lot); they will be honest and if you choose the right buddy they will be there to support and fully sympathise with you when you think you’re going crazy. Seriously, they are the only people who will understand the voices in your head – far more than your child’s ‘head of year’ during parents evening. Be kind to them and reciprocate. Bear in mind that this relationship, as with all the others, is a two way process. Take too much, they will tire of you. If you give too much, you will tire of them. One point to remember is that you don’t have to take all of their advice, it is still your work. You are the boss, with the final say. Learn to sift through the worthy advice and dump the trash.
5. Me, myself and I.
As in point one, be in the present. Sometimes you may desire to be alone. Allow yourself to listen to the birds singing without being interrupted by Alison murdering Sebastian, the murder can happen later, when the birds have moved on. Make writing plans so that you can’t forget key points in your story. When the desire to rest in total aloneness comes over you, just for a short while, force the voices out. It really helps to recharge the batteries when you clear your mind for a short time. Don’t forget to let them back in, only when you’re ready though. After all, you need them, they are fuel for your desires that you play out with your pawn characters. They are the imaginative, let’s pretend, play characters that you’ve never grown out of. They are essentially all possible sides of your fantasy life and you love them. Basically you don’t need to eat all the sweets at once. Picking one that you really desire and sucking it slowly, is far more satisfying; do the same with ideas. Allow a select few to grow in your mind leaving it feeling like a tidy topiary rather than the entangled depths of the wilderness.
6. Your dog (or pet).
I know how the hours tick by and how you forgot to have lunch, how you even forgot to get dressed or do your hair. But, please, please, remember Fido. He needs you for his toileting, his food, his vaccinations and affection. Don’t keep Fido crossing his legs because you got carried away, besides, he may just go on your carpet. He loves you, he needs you and you are his best friend in the world. Have a break, brush your hair, throw some jeans on and take Fido for a walk. He will pay you back tenfold. Being hunched over a desk in poor light with no fresh air isn’t healthy. He’s helping you as much as you are him and looking at those sad dog eyes will remind you of that. Also, a good walk allows you to think. Fido doesn’t need answering back or listening to, so you can let your mind wander while you throw a few sticks across a field. Oh, and don’t forget to feed him when you get back. Not feeding Fido is neglect also.
7. Love thy body.
We all know that feeling when you’ve just reached your deadline. You’ve finished an article, novel or a project, and you feel an enormous sense of hooray. The next thing you do is reward yourself. My poison is chocolate, yours may be a gin and tonic, or a victory dance to Showaddywaddy around the living room. Dancing is good but chocolate and alcohol not so. Remember you need to look after your body, one chocolate or a little drink is great. If however, you’re anything like me you may treat yourself for a few days after until your liver is crying or you’ve depleted the world’s stock of Pepto Bismol. Have a good relationship with your body, don’t ‘freak fuel’ it with junk. It will rebel, I promise.
8. Social network relationships.
I know you know, but I’ll go on. Facebook and twitter are the strangulation of creativity. If you have your phone or computer constantly beeping; you will be distracted. Imagine it. You are just in the middle of the best paragraph you’ve ever written. It has meaning; it is grammatically perfect; the words keep coming; it is your heart on a page and then, beep. What, erm, brain fog, erm again? It’s gone, your heart is now a dodgy bowel, and your creative flow is about as compliant as a sink blocked with hair and pork fat. Good advice that, I know you know. Turn them off during your allocated work time, don’t let these messages abruptly kill your creativity. Save the catch up for your break. That brings me to your break. Tweet and Facebook as much witty stuff as you can, re-tweet people and quote them; comment on their Youtube shares. Do all this, they may share the links to your books for their followers. Again this relationship is give and take. You help them spread their work and they do the same for you. Lastly on this point, unless you are one of the greats like Stephen King don’t treat your followers like they are your fans. This is arrogance, you are not there yet. However, if you are Stephen King or at that level, we are your fans and we love you.
9. Neighbourly tolerance.
That dratted Mr Hamilton-Moreton is hammering again, not passionately but aggressively. Last week, he was making a love seat for the garden, this week he’s building a climbing frame for his cat. Out comes the electric sander and on it goes all day. To complain or not to complain? that is the question. Look at your watch. If you are writing your masterpiece at 10am on a Wednesday morning then he would be justified in telling you to go to hell. You are not all that matters, Mr H-M has needs too. He desires a cat climbing frame. He summons up all his passion and love and treats the wood as if it’s the most beautiful women he’s ever placed his splintered hands on. His passion rivals yours and in answer to the question proposed, of course you have no right to complain. Grab your laptop, migrate to your local library and continue work there, or alternatively crank on some Vivaldi or buy some ear plugs. Mr H-M has a right to do what he likes at 10am on a Wednesday morning. Why not pop by and have a look at his work, he may listen to you about yours. Make friends and be understanding. Remember, the world doesn’t revolve around you, learn to work in different conditions, that way you’ll always be able to deliver. If however, it is 10pm on that same Wednesday night and Mr H-M is still hammering away, get your shoes and angry face on right now and hammer on Mr H-M’s door.
10. You and downtime.
Remember to have a rest. Didn’t make a deadline, don’t punish yourself. Love yourself and look at what you have achieved. Don’t mentally bash yourself for all the things you haven’t done. Writing is a positive experience and you need to create a positive relationship with the craft. If you don’t, you may just fall out of love with it all together.
I hope all the above relationship pointers help you with your crazy writers minds and you continue to produce much work for many years. Best of luck and toodle-pip x