Monday, April 11, 2011

To Love a Writer...Can Really Suck

lovewriting Click image for source.

I can't imagine being in a love relationship with a writer. Historically, we haven't had the best luck on the love front. Have you asked yourself why?

According to Arthur Plotnik in The Elements of Authorship (a really old book I've had for ages), all authors experience these three phases:

1. l'enfant terrible--the phase of the angry young writer ready to take the world by storm. "They feel the juice of genius running through their fingers, and they thrust their rough drafts into the mugs of loved ones as graciously as Cagney served grapefruit to his gal"(121). It's in this phase that loved ones sort of get shoved aside, neglected for the love of a story.

2. Euphoria--perhaps the most obnoxious phase of all, in which the angry young writer manages to gain some success. "For the average writer in euphoria, the eyes spin like wheels of fire while the lips churn out magalomaniacal ravings--'...me-my-agent  me-my-publisher me-my-major book chains me-my-miniseries me-my-subrightsrollingin...'"(121). It is in this phase that the loved ones won't be able to get a word in edgewise. They will have to put up with your overstuffed self-promotion while having to set aside their own successes and/or concerns. The only joy that will be received well is the joy for you-your-writing.

3. Crisis of Confidence--this is a phase that might actually occur before or after euphoria, but no matter what, it will always occur. Because "eventually the light dims even for the most triumphant books" (122). Those that haven't published will fear they will never publish, and those that do publish fear they are one-hit wonders unable to write something worth publishing ever again. This is a phase that torments the loved ones quite possibly as much as the writer. There's just nothing loved ones can do to make it better--no words, no devotion, no reassurance. It's a crisis a writer must work through on their own, and this leaves loved ones feeling helpless and sometimes unloved, especially if the writer turns inward.


Okay, that's how Arthur puts it, pretty much. Here's how others might think it goes--7 phases.

1. OMG, I am so freaking AWEsome, Loved One. This is the next Twilight-Harry Potter. I can write way better than Stephenie Meyer, too, and I just know it's gonna be an 8-book series that will make millions, no problem. I totally wrote it, Loved One, all 235,000 words of YA epicosity. Yeah, I sent it to everyone in my address book. Isn't that awesome?

2. I don't understand these rejections, Loved One. Who would send me back my own query with "Ha Ha Ha Ha" stamped in red across the front? Seriously. They just don't get it. It's totally their loss.

3. OMG, I suck, Loved One. I'm the worst writer in the world. I will never publish. I want to die in a totally tragic way, like of some fatal disease that makes me so beautiful they'll preserve me forever in a glass box.

4. I'm sorry, Loved One. I just can't look at a blank screen any more. I've decided to go make a living stuffing pickles into jars. I hope you don't mind. I need to retreat into the mundane for awhile. Sorry, that means no sex.

5. I'm sorry Loved One, my muse has struck once again. I must retreat into my cave to write. Sorry, that means no sex.

6. OMG, I sold!!! I sold!!!! Let's go have sex and talk about my boooooooook and how awesome I am!!!!! (and on and on and on until the book comes out and then for a long time after). Wait. Why are you leaving, Loved One? Don't leave. I haven't told you about that awesome review I just got. Waiiiiiit! The audio rights just sold to Papa New Guinea!!

7. OMG, everybody hates me. I suck. I am TOO awesome. Plus, I'll never be able to write another book as good as my first. I'm doomed. Please come back, Loved One. I need you. You're the only one that knows how to make my smoothies just right. Also, you're the only one that would sleep with me, and seriously, look at me. I'm a writer. I haven't bathed in six days.

These are possibly exaggerated, but you get the drift. Do you ever worry that so many writers have really sucked at having relationships? Is there a way for writers to avoid losing their loved ones?

Sure. Don't be a self-absorbed a$$. Do not love your stories more than your people. It's that simple. You don't have to be insane about it. Treat writing as a business. Treat your people as your life.



Source: Plotnik, Arthur. The Elements of Authorship. (New York: toExcel Press, 2000), 121-2.

54 comments:

  1. Love your 7 stages. And while an exaggeration a good reminder of priorities.

    Oh, can we have a magic wand or cast a spell to give us more hours in the day? That'd be really helpful (especially when trying to get things finished up & on the road.) ;)

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  2. Oh. My. Gosh. This is hilarious! I just got into a new relationship with a musician. A rocker, specifically. We're doing it long distance right now. It's quite comical, really. A song idea hits him in the middle of a conversation on Facebook and he's like "OH SOMEBODY'S GOD I have to write this down!!!!" and half an hour later he'll be back online with a song.

    Then there's me. Mid-conversation: "Oh damn. Honey, give me half an hour with my muse- I have to off this villain and rescue the damsel in distress!!!!"

    I don't think either of us will have that concieted issue, but it sure is fun dating another creative minded person. Thanks for the laughs.

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  3. Ha ha ha ha!! Love it ;o) Dang, if it's not true... most of it. Ha!

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  4. Very well said! I especially love the part about treating writing as a business and your people as your life. Words to live by!

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  5. I've read some other stages of writerdom before but never one I laughed so hard over!

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  6. Oh my stars!! LOL!! Yikes!!!! Oh Loved One, come back, all is forgiven or rather forgive me!! LOL!!!! Oh dear.

    Take care
    x

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  7. It's kind of like the stages of querying! At the same time though, I can edit all his cover letters so his sentences are strong and don't have unneeded words. :)

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  8. So true to enjoy life more than your stories. Actually I do make my life a priority over the writing. Which is why I'm a little slower in finishing my manuscripts, but I don't ever resent them and love the stories all the more.

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  9. OMG Carol, this is hilarious. And SO true. Makes me wanna give my hubs an award of some sorts. Maybe like, a vacation from me?

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  10. Thanks for my first belly laugh of the week! So funny. And I know this is sooooo belated but congratulations on signing with an agent! That's so amazing.

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  11. Ahahaha! Love this! My poor hubby. He puts up with a lot living with me. Oh well. We've been friends since we were 7, so he knew exactly what he was getting himself into, lol!!!

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  12. Hahaha. I loved this. It's true; our loved ones are saints.

    Also, they have to put up with seeing bits and pieces of themselves--the way they sleep, the way they lift their coffee mug--in our books, whether it's intentional or not. That's more than a little unnerving for some, I'm sure.

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  13. Thanks for starting off my week with a good laugh! ;) Ha ha.

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  14. I laughed all the way through this! Sort of a grim laugh, considering we are writers, but OMG, so funny! Thank you for my Monday morning enjoyment!

    I'm so glad Heather introduced you to us, Carol. You've received a blog award over on Critique Sisters. Love your blog.

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  15. Hmm, so this is why I made my sister read sections of my completely unedited first draft and then felt like crying/screaming when she didn't like it.

    Thanks for showing me I'm not alone.

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  16. Ha ha! So funny, Carol (because it's all true). Thanks for another GREAT post and a little reminder. We all need it:)

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  17. This is completely wonderful and the timing couldn't have been better. Lately I've been wondering if my hubs is thinking of divorcing me since I've been sleeping in my office. Hm, the packed bags and missing things on the shelves could have been an indicator. Wait! I just had a really good idea....

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  18. Hilarious! And, I bet if I showed this to my husband the only phrases that would flash before his eyes would be "no sex" and "let's have sex." And possibly "smoothies."

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  19. HA HA HA HA. This was great! I especially loved #3, which could also work in #7: I hope I die of some fatal disease and my one book will become an instant classic and they'll study my work in college English courses forever and ever.

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  20. Great points… we as writers tend to neglect those people and obligations around us, when writing takes center stage.

    Balance is key, if we keep that in mind, we might find success if both aspects of our lives.

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  21. Lol, ha ha. Yes, writers can be a difficult lot.

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  22. LOL! Loved your seven stages and I umm...don't resemble any of them. Really.

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  23. I bathed yesterday, and my manuscript's only 205,000 words. I win.

    ;)

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  24. HAHA love this post!

    And thank you for my comment! <3

    I hope you enjoy your concert!!!

    :)

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  25. Treat your people as your life - I love it! Excellent advice.

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  26. "Do not love your stories more than your people. It's that simple. You don't have to be insane about it. Treat writing as a business. Treat your people as your life."......These are words to live by! Substitute ______ for stories and you could be speaking to pretty much all of LA, not to mention other places ;-)

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  27. Heh! Love it. The no sex part is all too true. Sometimes Superwife refers to a certain female protagonist of mine as 'the other woman'!

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  28. Wait, those are exaggerations? Because I swear, I've had some of those conversations verbatim.

    I wonder what comes after a crisis of confidence, though. Acceptance, maybe?

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  29. Don'tlovemystoriesmorethanpeople? Surely, you jest. They are people!
    Okay, I've been in my room too long.
    Carol, this is brilliant and why I love coming here. :D

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  30. I know what you mean. I've gotten better. Now, when I can, I try to wait until loved one is asleep to write. That's not to say that I don't maybe try to get him to sleep early some nights.

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  31. Loved your advice in the last paragraph, and the best part is "don't be a self-absorbed a$$" works for every one regardless of career.
    - Aaron

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  32. Yay, welcome back! Man, laughed so hard at this, then had to tell Husband I was laughing at nothing, noooooooothing. No need to break it to him about some of the future phases ;)

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  33. I loved this. It is so true and funny. I've only experienced the hard ones, not the I've finished my manuscript, I've got an agent, etc. ones.

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  34. Hilarious!

    I am definitely in the crisis of confidence stage, except it's not because "I SOLD a book and am worried I can never write another one that good."

    More like "I wrote a book, don't know if it's good, and am pretty sure my next one is even worse."

    My husband is so lucky.

    Thanks for the laugh, Carol. Loved this!

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  35. As the original framer of those three writer's phases, I take my hat off to your seven. But I'm happy to say that after eight books and one divorce, I've learned to behave and be a proper companion to my (second)wife of 26 years, an artist and peerless companion in her own right.

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  36. I actually pee'd my pants reading this. Then I handed it around to the girls in the ICU who also pee'd their pants reading this.

    You made our very early morning...

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  37. What does it say that I'm always afraid to have my loved ones read my work...that I'm much more comfortable with strangers? This was hysterical!

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  38. Oh god, so true. Especially the no sex part o_O This made me realize more than ever that my boyfriend is awesome (and saintly patient)!

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  39. Hahaha

    I wish I didn't relate to everything you describe...but I do!

    Great post!

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  40. I remember that Cagney/grapefruit scene! What an asshole. We aren't that bad, are we? I do love the stages - both the 3 and the 7, and I am very much looking forward to the euphoria stage. I feel like I've been in crisis of confidence stage my whole life.

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  41. Funny, but also a little sad. As creative individuals with at least some sensitivity, it's hard not to go through some of this.

    I don't talk to my family about my writing, except for my one kid who wants to be a writer, and only when she asks. It's just too time consuming to try to get them to understand things that they will never understand.

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  42. Oh, no! Your 7 phases are hilarious (and frighteningly true!) But, you last two lines hit it home; writing = business, loved ones = life. Perfect. :)

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  43. Baahhh, can't stop laughing at your post. This is great. Love it. Such valid points. So sad that there are people that can let this happen to them.

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  44. Great post! I've been getting the sick-to-my-stomach nausea about pleasing my the agents and publishers. My stomach sure turns! This is SO like a writer! ;)

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

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  45. PS---thanks for the kick in the arse. I really needed this. (My hubby says that I can't be working on my book all the time, I need to be with him, too.) *sigh* And it wasn't too long after he said that that I came across your blog!

    xoxoxoox

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  46. This is freaking brilliant. Dude! Hilarious, but not really :P

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  47. Beautifully (and hilariously) said. Thanks, Carol!

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  48. This is AWESOME. I needed this. It's so easy for me to lose myself in writing that I forget my "life."

    Thanks for grounding me. :)

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