Not that we authors are difficult to live with, of course – but I’ve occasionally heard strange and unfounded suggestions that we might sometimes be snappy when the book’s going badly, and frustratingly unavailable when it’s going well. I’ve even heard it said that we frequently ignore our other halves completely and forget about mundane things like getting dressed, going to the day job, or buying food. To counter these absurd and malicious slurs on our characters, I’ve come up with ten basic rules for those fortunate enough to share a home with an author, and whose fault it must obviously be if such problems arise. I can only suggest the following points be taken on board, and if all else fails, just stop complaining and think yourselves lucky you live with a creative spirit. ;)
I’ve referred to the author throughout as she, simply because he/she and his/her are so tedious. But with some obvious amendments, the rules and suggestions are applicable to every age and gender of author, so no excuses!
- Continually checking her Amazon ranking, and/or her sales figures, hunting for reviews and Googling her own name to see if anyone has mentioned her, is of course not self-obsession, it’s part of the job. If she becomes famous or a bestseller, you’ll be doing it too, and basking in the glory, so don’t sneer.
- There will be days when no writing happens. On these days, just be grateful for the fact that she might have time to cook meals, mow the lawn, play with the kids, walk the dog. Make the most of it and whatever you do, don’t comment. She may be having a thinking day, a planning day, or just a bloody awful day when the book’s going so badly wrong, she hates every word of it, can’t understand why she ever thought it was a good idea to write it, is close to deleting every version of it and giving up writing altogether. Trust me, unless you want to be hated and deleted yourself, don’t ask.
- On a good writing day, when it’s flowing like magic and she finally believes she might actually get to The End with this one, (you’ll be able to tell by the look on her face), try not to stand behind her looking over her shoulder asking if she’s planning on sitting there all day, whether she’d like to go for a walk, watch you play golf, go shopping for screws or light bulbs, or make other similarly annoying suggestions. If you do, don’t expect answers, or certainly not polite ones.
- If she’s excited or pleased about something that doesn’t seem too earth-shattering to you – perhaps a chapter has worked out just right, or she got a 5 star review, or had a great idea for the next book, try to sound as impressed as you would be if one of your mates scored for Man United. Pour her a glass of wine. Congratulate her. Whatever you do, don’t let your face say ‘is that all?’
- If she’s crying over the middle part – or the ending, or the beginning – offer chocolate. There’s always a chance she’s crying with happiness, or because she’s writing a very emotional part of the plot. But the chocolate won’t hurt anyway.
- Please don’t ever refer to her writing as her little hobby, even if at the beginning that’s all it appears to be. If you do, it will be remembered when she gets a bestseller and starts earning mega bucks, and you’ll wish you’d never opened your big mouth. (That's if she hasn't left you by then.)
- Don’t offer plot lines unless she asks you to. And if asked, do try to bear in mind the type of book she’s writing. If you suggest a tribe of flesh-eating aliens wreaking havoc in the middle of her romantic comedy, don’t be surprised if she ignores you.
- When introducing her to friends or colleagues, it really isn’t funny to make cracks about her writing the next 50 Shades of Grey, or claim that you give her all her ideas, or that she bases her sexy heroes on you. It’s particularly not funny the tenth time you do it.
- Writing can be exhausting. The trouble is, it doesn’t look like hard work, because it’s only the brain that’s being strained. But if you don’t believe it is, try it for yourself. That’s a better strategy than snorting derisively about her hours of writing compared with the digging you’ve been doing in the garden.
- It’s never been harder to succeed as a writer. So if she has any kind of success, whether it’s finding an agent, achieving publication, producing her own self-published book, or just actually finishing the damned thing – be proud of her, and let her know it. We authors need every confidence booster we can get. Be the one who gives her that self-belief, and you’ll get your reward in the ‘acknowledgements’. Or at the very least, you won’t have that horrible vague suspicion that the villain in the next book is based on you.
Any authors reading this are welcome to print out this list and leave it casually lying around where their other half can't fail to see it. I take no responsibility for any resultant arguments!