Reading through a few blog updates today, I’m actually surprised not to have found more specifically Valentine’s Day related. I’m not particularly Valentine’s Day minded, but I am surprised that there seems to be less of a fuss about it this year than in previous years.
I did come across this post on blondewritemore (written by the lovely Lucy and The Duke of Wellington – there’s lots of really interesting lists and posts for writers) discussing ‘How To Be Romantic To Your Writer’, which I thought was a really nice idea. Some of the suggestions here are really good, and some are quite sweet, but – to me – some of them don’t quite feel right. Or, at least, felt a little one-sided.
So, I thought I’d have a go at coming up with my own list. Some points share similarities – for example, I agree with the breakfast one*. Please do click on the links above to read the original post that inspired this one!
1 Share mealtimes. Start the day well with a a good breakfast that not only sets you both up for the rest of day, but also provides you with some quality time together first thing in the morning. Sit down together for a nice evening meal/tea. Writers can spend hours alone writing, often, so remember to spend time with your writer when they are not working.
2 Be patient with your writer. Don’t rush them. Let them spend the couple of hours they need for writing, without interruption, so that they get through all they need to while it is fresh and clear in their mind. This will allow them to relax much more easily later on, and free them up to focus all of their creative energies on you!
3 Be thoughtful with your gifts. If you decide to exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day (or, other days throughout the year) then try to find something that you know your writer will want: some books, some new stationary, a mug that reflects one of their interests, some writing-related software, a soft cushion or a new chair for their writing room, a trip away to somewhere they’ve never been, and so on. A thoughtful poem you have written yourself, tucked into a card, is kind and meaningful and would be highly appreciated by your lover-of-words writer. It doesn’t have to be sappy or overly romantic – make it funny, personalised, reflective of you. Don’t rely on internet gift suggestions that believe all women want perfume, make-up, and a new handbag, and all men want cologne, underwear, and a new set of tools.
4 Be flexible with your time. Unlike other professions, writing is not a 9-5 job. It’s not something that can be put away for the day, easily switched off, or forgotten when inconvenient. Sometimes the writing muse hits hard, and we writers can become so involved with our writing that there is little room – or time – for much else. Equally, there are times when the muse is absent entirely and every single word takes as much energy to write as three pages of them would have on another occasion. As such, it is important to recognise, and honour, the muse. Try not to be offended if your writer asks to postpone your plans or needs to keep writing until 3am. If they start jotting hurriedly in eyeliner on their leg, in public, it’s okay if you want to move a little bit further away – but understand that writing their idea down is important to them. Your writer finds these things as frustrating as you do, but recognises that this is how they need to be in order to be effective as a writer. Try not to be too rigid or inflexible with (the majority of) your plans. Your understanding will be noticed, and repaid, and the time you do spend together will be better, more enjoyable, and less distracted.
5 Understand their need for privacy. It is a big thing for your writer to let anyone in to their literary or fictional world, and an even bigger thing to let anyone read something they have written that is important to them before it is ready. Respect your writer’s need for alone time, for privacy. Your understanding and acceptance will mean more to them than you can imagine, and – in time – you’ll be granted access to a side of your writer that virtually nobody else is permitted to see.
6 Be open to their work/world. Take an interest in the things your writer is creating, and be open to reading or hearing about the stories and other documents they create. Provide feedback. Use a red pen. Point out links, similarities or useful references that might be relevant or of interest. Ask questions about what your writer has created.
7 Help your writer fill the blank pages. You can’t help your writer with the physical writing aspect of their work, but you can help to provide inspiration and energy. You can add motivation, and provide encouragement and support. Find out what your writer is working on, and suggest a research trip/outing when you both have some time together. Help your writer to make notes, stimulate their five senses, and/or read through their last few pages and make some suggestions of your own.
8 Look after your writer. When working well, your writer will be consumed with the act of writing – so make sure to check in on them from time to time. Bring them a cup of tea, or a glass of water, and maybe something tasty to boost their sugar level. If they’ve been writing for several hours without rest, perhaps suggest you both take a walk together to get some fresh air, to stretch your legs, walk the dog, find some lunch, etc, before continuing.
9 Be honest with your feedback. If your writer asks you to read their work, or for your opinions and feedback, understand that they are trusting you with something important to them and truly value what you think. Be honest, and constructive with what you say. It’s not your duty to tell them you enjoyed reading it if you didn’t. If you don’t like their story, say so – and then tell them why you don’t like it. If you loved it, but thought the punctuation was a little off, say so. Tell them if you don’t like their character names, or got confused in the middle of a particular scene, or found eleven grammar errors. Writers who are in the writing game for the long haul need real feedback, even if they don’t like or agree with what you say. Don’t just tell them their work is ‘nice’, they can’t do anything with it. Tell them they used the same word three times in one paragraph, and they can re-draft.
10 Be spontaneous. Be impulsive, creative, unexpected. Do things that are exciting and weird. Create strange memories with your writer, and give them experiences they don’t have to only imagine. Embrace your inner child and build a pillow fort in the middle of your living room. Have a water gun fight in the garden without wearing shoes. Fill a room in your house with balloons. Go on a treasure hunt. Go to a beach at sunrise and have a doughnut and orange juice breakfast on the sand. Do the unusual. Play.