Friday, June 10, 2011

I Would Hate to Live with a Writer

By Kim

The last few weeks have been crazy in the Bullock household. Teacher conferences, field trips, dance recitals, business trips (for my husband), appliances breaking, one child bored and the other suffering from a combination sinus and ear infection – you name it! My manuscript took a back seat to my life and, while I often kept a smile on my face, there have been days my temper got the best of me. At times, I may have been a bit unpleasant to be around.

The more I connect with other writers, the more I realize that as a group we share certain traits. We play nicely with each other because we baffle our friends and families. I tried to imagine what it must be like for my husband and children, trapped in the house with a writer. I don’t envy them. Here’s why:

Writers are easily distracted

I used to say I had “Mommy Moments” but it’s not really fair to blame motherhood. I had to turn the car around a block from home to assure myself I closed the garage door long before I had kids. In the past week I’ve left my car keys on a counter, neglected to bring in the groceries, left the back door unlocked (though I did set the alarm), and burned a grilled cheese sandwich beyond recognition. My excuse? While my body is in 2011, my mind is in 1916.

Writers may forget to eat

They may also forget that they are in charge feeding everyone else until it is six in the evening and someone asks the inevitable question. “What’s for dinner?”

Writers are selfish

If we hope to get anything accomplished we must neglect something, be it our jobs, our housework, or our family. I’ve been guilty of playing a DVD for the kids so I can finish writing a scene. I’ve spent evenings with Carl and Madonna instead of my husband. I’ve put off errands, rescheduled doctor and dentist appointments, said “no” to volunteer opportunities with the PTA, and ignored the dishes piled in the sink. I’ve lamented my lack of a real office, though in all fairness it is pretty quiet around here during the work/school week.

Writers are poor

Very few of us will ever make a living wage from our writing. We must either work a day job and steal time from our families to write, or rely on our spouses to support us. Neither option is ideal.

Writers come with unpredictable muses

Those muses may remain silent during our regular writing time and wake us at 3:00 AM. They may speak to us in the middle of a meal, while waiting at a stoplight, or while listening to our children talk about their day. We can’t help it.

Writers are slightly nuts

We hear voices. Enough said.

Writers often appear to be daydreaming

No one but another writer understands that staring out the window is part of the job description. Zoning out in the middle of a conversation is an occupational hazard as well. Please don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s us.

Writers are anti-social

Most of us are hermits and loners. Some of us can be extroverts when the occasion calls for it, but we would likely much rather be left alone. If I don’t have a few hours of complete solitude several times a week I become anxious and irritable. That’s not always fun for those who share a house with me.

Writers are slobs/neat freaks

Okay, I don’t know if this is everyone, but it certainly applies to me. When my writing is going well, I live in sweats and a T-shirt and the house has no flat surface without clutter. Laundry baskets will be full, dishes will pile in the sink, and I don’t recommend that anyone venture into the master bathroom. When I’m stuck, I declare war on the dust bunnies, and my kitchen is sparkling. My poor kids never know if I will get after them to pick up their stuff.

Writers are always observing

No one is safe! We eavesdrop on conversations We store away images of fashion blunders. We ruthlessly steal cute lines from our kids or have our characters rehash an argument we had with our spouses. We scan other people’s bookshelves or music collections. We ask nosy questions. We read everything.

I’m very glad I don’t live with a writer! If you live with one, or are one, and I left something out, please clime in! How many of these fit you?


  1. For me writing is an extra activity, not something that takes over my life. But I share some things with you. When you write, you enter into the story and sometimes live in two places. You feel that your body is in 2011 and that your mind is in 1916. Sometimes, I feel that my body is in Canada, while my mind is in China. I don't think that you are selfish or anti social as a writer. You have a project to finish, so naturally you have less time for other activities. Maybe you can involve your husband and two daughters in your writing, making it into a family event. For example, twice a week you can have a reading evening, when you read to them a chapter and discuss it like a reading club. They might enjoy it and also will appreciate what you do and why you are distracted.

  2. Hi Giora,

    My elder daughter (age 9) shows some interest in the project and actually wants to read it, but there are some themes in there that would be inappropriate for her age. It may be fine by the time it hits the shelves. The younger one (age 5) is way too young yet. I think for the most part they understand that this is my job, at least.

    My body is in Dallas but my heart is in Canada - always good to hear from someone up there!

  3. All of the above fit me, except for the slob and clutter parts. I can easily ignore dust bunnies for weeks, but if I appear to have spent days in bed or if my surroundings look out of control, the latest scene I'm working on gets jumbled. Putting myself together and organizing where I'm at helps me put the right pieces together.

    Two days ago discovered just how dangerous the distracted bit can be. I left a burner on for hours because while making lunch my head was in a pseudo Texan steakhouse within southern China back in 1998.

  4. Mom,

    I wouldn't say I would go so far as to look like I hadn't gotten out of bed in days but, as you know, I loathe constrictive clothing of any sort and I find it a distraction while I work.

    If the work is going well and I see the dishes in the sink, I'll think to myself that the ten minutes I would spend cleaning up would only lead to my realizing that the pantry needs to be organized, too. Before I know it I'll have spent an hour or two cleaning instead of writing. Best to ignore everything!

    I left the oven on through dinner last week. Thankfully, Max noticed.

  5. Sorry if I came across as putting down some of your habits and/or implying you look a mess when you write (you don't). You are who you are and you got to do what you need to in order to write. I respect that.

    BTW, I don't like constrictive clothing either, especially when I'm writing, and cleaning is far from conscious thought when I'm writing well:)

  6. Mom,

    I didn't feel your comments were actually directed at me, just responding to what I said in the post. :-)

    And, in all fairness, my surroundings would drive a lot of people nuts!


  7. Anonymous12 June, 2011

    Oh my gosh! This was such an amusing post! Your kids are going to have some interesting stories when they grow up.

    Thanks for that. I needed a good laugh.

    K. Nunez

  8. Thanks, K.

    At least my kids can't accuse me of not being able to laugh at myself! :-)


  9. I'm sure there are a few of us, Tessa! Oh, and so funny you live in Des Moines. I went to grad school in Ames!

  10. Anonymous27 May, 2012

    Hallo Kim,I enjoyed your article, but then I normally do when I take the time to read them! You discribed me and my household in this article,unfortunately for diffrent reasons.Altho the need to write has always been there for me I seldom make or take the time for it and as you know with each passing year it is less likely due to health issues... Best of luck to you and your family as you continue your writing path and its great to know that now only do ur kids and husband support you but so do your parents....


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...