Sunday, 31 August 2008

How to Care for your Writer. An Owners Guide.

Me and Sy have learned to live quite happily together over time, but his little foibles have taken some getting used to.
If you come from a background that has no experience of writers and how they live, i thought i would write a section on their general habits, firstly so you know what i have to put up with and what i do as a writers wife, but also a general pointer to anybody out there who is considering living with someone who writes for a living.
Maybe i should add a disclaimer here....Not all writers are the same.

1/ It is imperative you ration their drinking to two caffetieres of coffee before 12.00 o'clock. If they hound you for more, do not give in. You do not want them bouncing off the walls causing havoc.

2/ After midday, they will head for the Scotch bottle. Do not let them have too much too early if you are hoping to have any form of conversation with them at any point.
If they tell you it helps the creative process, nod in an understanding way and tell them that until they get an advance on the book/ piece they are writing, you can't afford any more.

3/ Your writer will not ask for food very often, as he believes he can live on coffee/alcohol alone. Check on your writer every so often, and see how they look. Make him a sandwich, but don't expect him to leave his work to eat it.

4/ If you are going to cook a meal, make sure you tell him the day before, and also leave post-it notes stuck to his computer, with the time of the meal.
If you are really lucky, your writer will come and dine with you.Try not to be offended if they don't.

5/Never let them bring reading material to the table.
If they do dine with you, expect to be regaled with the literary history of the food you have served; for this reason, oysters are not a good idea.
It might be a good idea to stock up on ready meals, as at least your writer can grab one from the freezer when he feels like it, and you don't waste you're time cooking meals that end up in the bin- or the dog.

Some writers work through the night, which can create problems for you as you can't monitor their food and drink intake.

6/ If your writer is on a night mission, just leave a sandwich for them and hide what's left of the Scotch supply.
If your writer is working nights, do not try to adjust this-you are likely to incur a psychotic episode. All you can do to help is to impose a blanket ban on roadworks, school buses and military manoeurvres in your street during daylight hours.

7/ Your writers bathroom habits can be a problem if he is wrestling with a particularly difficult piece of writing. He will not leave his work until it is finished, so keeping him clean can be quite difficult.
There is only one way forward with this one.
Approach your writer slowly from behind, tell him that he looks tired and would he like it if you ran him a bath?
This one normally works well, as any writer will tell you, all their best ideas happen in the bath.
That is why a writer will insist on sitting in his bathrobe all day long-in readiness for that 'great' idea.
If your friends find this sort of behaviour off-putting, reasure them it is only temporary, because writers can't see the point in putting on clothes to sit at a desk.
That, or drop the friends.

Some other points to note when your writer has told you he is NOT to be disturbed (and believe me, he means it).
Make sure you take all phone calls, don't ask friends round for a cuppa and make sure any friends or family who turn up unexpectedly can be dealt with, without them even leaving their vehicle.
In addition to this, try to instil in your children Victorian values- they are to be seen and not heard-and if this fails, gag and tie them to their beds until your writer dictates otherwise.

 Whatever else happens,DO NOT ask how the work is going.

Never, EVER, throw away any scraps of paper- even if they only have a single word written on them.

Don't bother even thinking about trying to clean a writers workspace- There is no hope of you getting any where near it until your writer is dead. And buried, come to think of it.

Always listen to your writer when he wants to talk to you about his work, even if you don't understand a word of what he is on about.
Always be there for your writer, particularly when they feel they are getting nowhere. From your point of view, this would be better during the day, but in all probability it will be between midnight and 5.00am.

Try to have some interests of your own. This is vital because there will come a point when your writer will want to know what you've been doing (it will be a massive shock- be ready!).
When you reach this milestone with your writer, the last thing they will want to hear is that all you have done is clear up after them.

If you need to talk to your writer about something (and it had better be important), be prepared to tell them several times over several days, and then initiate the same plan as per food (Post-its).

Understand that although this man is first and foremost your husband, his writing is his work and it is not, and never will be, nine till five. Because of this, you are going to have to do everything, and you will manage to cope as there is always the belief that the next book will be the Booker winner.

So, bearing this in mind, to make life easier for all, try to get up in the morning two hours earlier, seven days a week, so you can fit in all other jobs on top of your working day.

Be prepared to go out and have fun at a moments notice.If your writer has finished a piece/book, he will want to go out and celebrate.
Not next week, or tomorrow- now. It really will be immediate.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx


  1. You ask if anyone will read your posts - I will and I shall also link to you

    Ted de Stratford

  2. I have been laughing my head off at this blog - brilliant! I remember it well (and don't miss it) You could add the struggling back a mile from the food shops on a regular basis with heavy bags because said writer wouldn't leave work/bed to pick you up (always happy to eat/drink it though)I shall forever resemble an orang utan. Nicely written S.H. I look forward to continued updates.

    Shakespeares Ex Housekeeper :o)

  3. Thanks Ted and Vicki-

    Vicki, i have to say, i've not had a problem with the shopping...because i'm the one with the car, i always tend to fetch and carry it all anyway!
    Having said that, Sy does come and greet me at the door when i've got it home.
    Normally in his dressing gown though, and i tell him i'd rather bring it in myself, than have the neighbours see him dressed like that at 5.00pm!
    You need to start a 'Shakespeare's ex houskeeper' blog...

  4. Nooo, I'm a useless blogger, you only need to look at mine to see that. I'm happy to send you any annecdotes I remember though. Remind me to tell you about the time my parents discovered that he had 2 names!

  5. Gosh...what a life (for the pair of you!) What if you get a book deal? - that could be a very interesting scenario.


Your words are every bit as important as Mr Shakespeares.
Put some of them together, and leave me a comment...but don't worry if it takes me a few days to get round to reading them- i have nine jobs and a writer who needs me!

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