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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why Your Partner Doesn't Want to Accompany You to Your Writing Event (and Why That's Okay)



Last night was my local writing group's annual holiday party, and I had a blast, as I always do at these events. But as I drove home alone (as I always do), it struck me that though spouses and guests were invited, few significant others attended. Oh, sure there were some. About half a dozen or so. But most of us came alone. And I noticed that even those who had brought partners in the past to previous events came alone this time. When it comes to bringing spouses, writers tend to be a "one and out" phenomenon.

Over the dozen years I've been involved in different writing events, I can count on one hand the amount of times my husband has accompanied me. (Technically, I can count on one finger the amount of times he's accompanied me.) At one time, it might have bothered me. I might have wondered why he didn't seem to support me openly by coming along. But I've come to realize something over the years. 

We writers scare people. Hard to believe, isn't it? I mean, as a species, you really couldn't find a less aggressive group. Interview us and you'll find that 90% of us were the nerds in school, the quiet ones in the corner, the observers. We're not normally known for striking fear into the hearts of anyone.

But writing get-togethers for non-writers are like Sci-Fi Conventions for people who've never seen Star Trek. We're total geeks to the nth power when surrounded by fellow writers.

In the writing world, you're either Team Shakespeare or Team Bacon. (And only those in the writing world will understand that analogy.)

Oh, sure, we try to be inclusive. We talk about pop culture: movies, music, and television shows. But when we do, we focus on the characterization in the lyrics, or the story arc, or the brilliant writing. If we mention the hunky actor or lead singer, it's because of the emotional range he displayed or because he's the perfect model for our current protagonist. 

Bring up a bestselling author, and we'll discuss the least known book on his/her backlist in great detail because it will be our favorite. And we'll all cite the same scenes as particularly noteworthy or utter failures. We'll use terms that mean nothing to anyone who only reads when on vacation and always chooses the current hot best seller.

When writers talk about a recent trip to some European country, we wax poetic about the archaic facts we learned and not the sights we photographed or the beaches where we tanned our fannies. 

We share amusing anecdotes overheard in coffee shops and hospital waiting rooms because we know they'll someday make a "great scene."

Our standard ice-breaker in conversation is, "So, what are you currently working on?"

We play "author bingo" and games that require you to come up with a word in the English language that has a double u in less than 5 seconds. 

Mention a t-shirt seen in a souvenir shop that proudly proclaims, "F*** Google. Ask Me." Every writer in the room will raise a hand and admit, "Yeah, that's me." We can't help ourselves. Our heads are encyclopedias of useless facts.

For the non-writer in this scenario, one of us can be tough enough to deal with. But to be locked in a room for several hours with forty or fifty of us? Or more? That's a challenge even the most loving spouse can't rise to on a regular basis.

And honestly? For most of us, it's a good thing to be on our own in these situations. We're with our people, our fellow introverts and observers. The pressure is off. We don't have to worry if our significant other is having a good time. 

We can shout out, "vacuum!" to that double u question and have a group of people look at us with admiration instead of hearing, "It's bizarre that you know that." 

When we complain that our protagonist refuses to follow the plot the way we planned, we receive nods and encouraging advice instead of eye rolls or blank stares.

We can talk to the bartender about his day job as an EMT for over an hour, knowing it's actually research and not worry someone might mistake it for flirtation.

We can sit in the corner and jot notes on napkins--and no one thinks we're odd or anti-social. In fact, we'll probably have to wait our turn to find a chair in the corner! 

So, if you've got a partner who does accompany you on a regular basis, be sure to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice he/she is making for you--and not just with a dedication in your next novel. Take your head out of your laptop every once in a while to say "thanks" and "I love you" and "wow, you look great" and "when did we change the color of the walls?" and "how'd I get so lucky?" Because you did.

But if your partner doesn't come with you to these social engagements, at least wait until you're out of sight and earshot before you give that fist pump and say, "Thank God." 

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