Why I Won’t Date A Man Who Writes

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It was recently mentioned to me that I should date someone who lives in the realm of the concrete – someone into maths, science, or other such subjects to ensure I don’t have to mess around figuring out the hints and follies of someone who resides in an abstract world. Ah, the abstract world and the people who live within it … You know, people like me who wander about seemingly aimlessly and can’t ever really settlefor less than what their abstract imaginations promise …

A friend informed me that one of my favourite authors is married to another author. Two writers – both respected (not only by me) – married. To each other.

“They make quite the formidable pair,” she observed.

A formidable pair. The words still echo in my mind. They make me think about the possibility of dating a writer … We all know I’d like to date a man who reads, but I’m not sure I could date a man who writes. I mean, let’s really consider this for a moment …

A man who writes will know what I’m talking about when I refer to the Call to Adventure and probably won’t be impressed when I wistfully speak of the tropes of magic realism … he’ll join in the conversation and, knowing my luck, know much more than I. Jerk. And what if he’s a better writer? What if his stories are more interesting and his characters are more exciting and his novels sell more than mine?! What if he has the courage to finish a novel and release it to the public while I’m still drooling over the commas in my first chapter? Will dating a writer mean I have to be courageous, too?

A man who writes will be caught up with his own ideas and I’ll lose him regularly to bouts of inspiration that render him virtually unconscious at his desk. I’m not exactly oozing self-esteem and I’m not sure I have the self-confidence to compete with the possibility of regularly losing a man to his Muse … let’s face it, traditionally they’re very pretty and attractive, and all I have to offer is … hrm … A glass of wine, dear?

A man who writes understands the creative process. He understands my love for words and he will not disturb the pile of books beside my bed. I won’t have to explain why my hair hasn’t been brushed for a week or why I am angry with one of my characters and therefore slamming cupboard doors.

While these are all admirable qualities in a partner for a writer, who will bring me back to earth? Who will take me firmly by the shoulders and remind me I have to get a paying job of some description so the bills get paid? (The phrase: You’ll just have to suck it up, what else can you do? still pops into my head sometimes, said to me by a then-boyfriend when I announced I didn’t want to work a 9-5 job anymore.) Who will make me socialise with people and get me out of the house, away from my computer and my books? Who will actively work on making me more normal, less unpredictable, and able to exert moderate self-control when it comes to bed time and putting down that damn book? Who will try to change my carefree, creative ways and help me be a more stable, reliable member of the community?

When I tell a man who writes that characters appear in my dreams he won’t think I’m crazy, and he won’t laugh when I talk aloud to my Genius.

Oh, no! What about our Geniuses? Will they get along? While mine is happily painting on the walls in the corner, will his be barging through the house all loud and stompy? I like to think my Genius is quiet and constant – what if his is the exact opposite? Will my Genius be smothered? Will there be room for my Genius next to his?

A man who writes understands language. He will write me poetry that will make my mascara run and love letters that leave me in a trembling heap of gooey love. He’ll reveal the part of me that no one is supposed to know exists: I’m actually a terrible, hopeless romantic. How will I hide behind bitter cynicism when a man is reading me sonnets in perfect iambic pentameter?

A man who writes will know me. He will understand why I am writing furiously in the dark (because switching on the light is not an option when I’m absorbed in my work). He will understand why I want to be alone sometimes and he will leave me in my solitude, when I need it. He will also know when I need to drawn away from it, when it’s time for me to be part of the world again.

A man who writes will have his own creative moments, his own bright days and his own dark days. Am I strong enough to support him when he needs it? Will we both need too much from the other?

A man who writes will know what to do when I haven’t written for weeks (take me for a walk), and he will know to tread lightly when I am editing my own work (and bring tea). He will leave me to write, won’t disturb me when I read, and … then I won’t have an excuse not to be doing these things. I’ll have the support and encouragement from a person with whom I’m intimate, and what if I let him down? What if I’m still not good enough?

A man who writes knows how to express himself, and will expect me to do the same. No more bottling up emotions or shielding what I really think and feel – I’m going to have to lay my soul bare and … what if it’s not enough? A man who writes will see right through me and know me better than anyone else …

He will see me for who I really am, and that’s why I won’t date a man who writes.

In fact, it’s probably why I don’t date at all.

Literary Love

If I could marry my books I would. Instead, they’re packed up in boxes and living in a dark attic – but I can’t think about that because it makes me sad. Instead, I think about the late nights I’ve spent turning the pages of a book with tears streaming down my face as I wonder whose heart will be broken. I think about the times I’m alone with a book and let out a loud laugh as the hero does something ridiculous. I think about the intense feeling I have when I close the book for the last time and am left wondering why I feel so lost when I leave the characters behind.

Every time I open a book I find I am thrown into a great love affair with an imperfect man, admiring a strong woman who I wish to emulate, and living in an intricate world unlike my own – even when I’m reading realism. You can never own a book, but you can certainly make room for a book on your already crowded shelves and hope it makes room for you in its full and beautiful pages. I feel like my home is empty for the lack of books I have around me (the three on my bedside table look so alone), even though practicality dictates I should stick to borrowing and not buying.

I love books. I like to think books love me, too. Sometimes I hear them call out to me when I pass. When I see someone reading I want to ask them what it is, which of the characters they love, what part they will miss most when it comes to an end. I cannot walk past a bookstore – I have to go inside and wander through the shelves, waiting for a book to whisper my name. There’s always one … or two or three … and I take them home as though I’ve won a great prize. There is eagerness when I reach the counter, a greed that an observant sales assistant would notice in my eyes. By the time I get my books home I am hungry for their words, the characters and story and world that exist beyond my own.

Every book I read gives something to me and takes something from me. I’ve delved into narratives that have given me strength and inspiration while taking away my doubts and worries. I’ve met characters who have made me sick and frustrated and given me an appreciation for the good in the world. I’ve been given love, grief, action, solitude … and I leave a part of myself behind in every book I close.

I feel that my love for books will not fade – despite the occasional cursing that takes place when trying to fit fifteen books in a carry-on suitcase – and I can think of nothing that I would rather do more than read books, write books, and continue with my literary love affair.

The Writing Writer

If a dog can do it ...

Do you hear it? The sweet sound of a triumphant cheer? The celebratory clink of champagne glasses (or, in my case, the coffee mug)?

I finished NaNoWriMo yesterday afternoon – and by finished, I mean I hit the 50,000 words and brought the story to a (somewhat) logical conclusion, thus completing my goal for 2011! I spent the rest of the afternoon in a bit of a stupor which has carried over into today, but I’m terribly proud of myself! Sure it’s crap, but that’s the point, right? I already know what I want to change and add and edit – and maybe I will.

This past month has taught me (and reminded me) a lot about writing. It’s been so long since I’ve sat down and just written (NaNoWriMo last year, actually) that the sudden awareness of ideas and characters and scenes in my head has left me a tad dazed and confused – in a good way. This year has very much been a year of reading and writing for me – more reading than writing, I’ll admit, but never have I been more in love with the written word. In what has been a chaotic month, I’ve made the time to write. In my flurry of boxes and (un)organising I found an essay called “Why I Write” by George Orwell which begins:

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

(the whole essay can be found here)

I found lots of other things that reminded me that, once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer. Somewhere along the way I got “sensible” and changed my degree from Creative Writing to teaching, but now I like to think I finally got where that person – all those years ago – wanted to be.

I’m a writer.

Dorothy C. Fontana has some very wise words on this:

You can’t say ‘I won’t write today’ because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then … you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer.

I have spent many years dreaming of being a writer. In fact, one of the things I’ve noticed is that if you read the advice given by any author to any person who wants to be a writer, it’s usually “write”. Pretty simple, write? (See what I did there? Punny Stef strikes again!)

Over the past month, I have been a writer. Not just someone who calls themselves a writer and wishes for more time to write, but someone who actually spent a lot of time writing. Writing. I wrote a novel. A whole novel. It has a beginning, middle and end. It has characters, events take place, and there are some redeeming factors despite the overall “crap” verdict I’ve given it. For an entire month, I’ve been a writer – more than any other time this year. And for the entire month, I’ve loved it.

After verifying my 50,166 words yesterday I sifted through my computer files to find some “incomplete” novels and see what might be rectified from the little darlings. It was like sifting through a lucky dip box and finally deciding on a package. You open it  and expect to get something useless and pretty crappy – it’s a lucky dip, afterall. Completely aware that some of the stuff would be terrible, I dipped away and discovered … that sometimes, you can actually got something decent in a lucky dip. Like the little pair of opals my sister once got in Lightning Ridge that my Dad and Stepmum had put into a necklace for her birthday.

I discovered many things with the two major ones being a novel that currently has a word count of 69,314 and is close to completion, and another novel that I still think about on the odd occasion, coming in at 35,542 words and about half way.

I also found ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. I’ve created documents with a rough outline, saved them, then never opened them again – all based around the scribbled out bits of paper stuck in my diary and text messages I’ve sent to myself so I remember that crazy idea I had while trying to choose which muesli bars to buy at the supermarket. There are more bits of paper and text messages and lingering wisps of dreams in my mind … I’ve got ideas.

My goal for NaNoWriMo 2011 was to write and finish a novel in a month.

I don’t want to think about NaNoWriMo 2012. For now, I’m looking at December. And January. And each individual month after that. I don’t want to be a writer for one month of the year; I want to be a writer for twelve months of the year.

I’ve been a writer who actually writes for the past 30 days. You know what? If I keep this up, I just gained 335 writing days in my year.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of my keyboard – I’m still writing despite finishing NaNoWriMo this year. Because I’m a writer.

Date a Man Who Reads

Advice to writing women: Date a Man Who Reads

Quite some time ago I was stumbling about various WordPress blogs and came across a lovely repost of a post: You Should Date An Illiterate Girl and was later directed to a very sweet response. I read the first post and laughed, then I wept, and then I realised that my relationship problems were staring at me from the screen. Later, reading the response, I felt calmer knowing that I’m not alone. The thing is, I’d like to date a man who reads …

Date a man who reads. Date a man who reads everything.

Date a man who isn’t afraid of saying he likes Jane Eyre and who recites Neruda as you fall asleep. Date a man who isn’t intimidated by your literary knowledge and owns up to loving “trashy” fiction, too. Date a man who is your flawed hero, and be his equally flawed heroine. Date a man who would fight for you and rescue you from dragons; date a man for whom you would fight and conquer demons. Date a man who understands the importance of motivation, denouement, climax, language. Date a man who makes sure there’s a sequel.

Date a man who reads so that when he uses cliché pick-up lines, you can both laugh and find it adorable. And when he uses original pick-up lines, you both know they’re all the more special. A man who reads will be honest, will have an opinion, and will know how important it is to lie when you ask if the first draft is good, and will be honest when the eleventh draft still needs work. A man who reads will have ideas worthy of your creations, and your creations will be worthy of his ideas.

A man who reads understands that the reason you left the coffee he made for you turn cold and gradually congeal has nothing to do with the amount of sugar he added and everything to do with the leaf outside your window that has held your attention for the past three hours. A man who reads knows that, eventually, your attention will come back to him and that attention will be fierce, passionate, and true. A man who reads knows that he will lose you for days at a time. Instead of asking you for attention or querying the last time you changed your clothes, he will bring your tea and biscuits; small, silent offerings left beside you, out of the way of your elbows and rapidly writing hands. Date a man who knows that November is the month he might see little of you, and knows that it’s worth it.

Date a man who reads so that when he wants to propose he will be able to read your emotions and know the right time – and know when it would be best to just curl up and hold you, and not make you think about the future until you’re ready. Date a man who has the vocabulary to articulate his innermost thoughts and feelings, who understands how important words are to you so that when he uses him, he knows exactly what they mean – and don’t mean. The conversations you will have will be all the more meaningful when you have a mutual respect for the language you share. Date a man who understands why you want to honeymoon in Ireland on June 16th and why standing on the stage at the Globe gave you reason to shout with excitement.

Date a man who will read stories to your children: in fact, date a man who will read your stories to your children. Date a man who understands that the children haven’t been fed because the hero is battling the villain and you cannot leave him mid-fight. Date a man who finds this quality endearing, and makes sure your children do, too. Date a man who knows that when the house is spotless and the kids are fed and the smell of fresh, home-cooked food wafts from the kitchen it’s not a good idea to ask how the writing is going.

Date a man who reads and can contribute to your literary life and love. Date a man who loves that you contribute to his literary life and love, too.

Dump the man who abuses your books and questions the quantity that burst from your shelves and scatter over half the bed. Dump the man who doesn’t understand why drink bottles shouldn’t be next to paperbacks in bags, who doesn’t appreciate bookmarks and dog-ears the pages instead, who bends the spines and tosses the pages carelessly. Dump the man who has shelves of books that have never been opened. Dump the man who talks about books as though he understands them, but has never actually read them.

Date the man who, when you’re stressed or cranky, takes you to a bookstore and watches you calm down in a matter of minutes. Date the man who watches you with amusement when, away on a romantic weekend together in a little self-contained apartment, you stand in the kitchen reading the final Harry Potter novel (just released), spoon poised over the pasta sauce on the stove top. Date the man who has already read the book, but doesn’t ruin the ending. Date the man who reads the books you recommend; read the books he recommends. Talk about them with each other.

Date the man who hands you a book as your rush out the door, late for the train. Date the man who neatly stacks the books that cover his side of the bed and builds you new shelves to put them on. Date the man who finds your books face-down on your chest as you sleep, and gently bookmarks them and puts them next to you. Do the same for him. Date the man who sits beside you as you read your own copies of the same book, and who reads ahead to anticipate when he will need to bring you wine, or chocolate, or tissues. Don’t blame him when the lovers fight, though he’ll understand if you do. It’s best if you don’t take sides in the fictitious lovers-spat, though.

Date a man who worships you as much as you worship him; when he is absorbed in a book, bring him coffee. When he is staying up late reading, appreciate the sound of the pages turning. Know that, when dating a man who reads, you are dating an equal. Buy him books that he will cherish, buy him books that he will consume with zeal; write messages in all of them.

Dump the man who demands your attention over your creative flow. Date the man who sits in the same room as you while you write, reading your drafts and making notes for you to come back to. Date a man who reads because he wants to.

Dump the man who tells you to “get a real job”. Date the man who tells you that you need to write; believe him.

Date a man who reads because he understands why you write.