Thursday, November 12, 2009

rules for living with the writer

by Ashley Lister

There are only three important rules to remember when living with a writer:

Rule #1

Don’t disturb the writer whilst the writer is writing.

Rule #2

Don’t disturb the writer whilst the writer is writing.

Rule #3

Don’t disturb the writer whilst the writer is writing.

There are codicils to these rules that are explained below. However, it should always be remembered that Rule #1 through to Rule #3 take precedence.

Codicil #1: Does the writer want a drink?

The writer always wants a drink. Writing is thirsty work. Common sense (and consultation of an appropriate clock) should tell you which drink the writer desires. If the time is between 6:00am and 6:00pm the writer wants black coffee without sugar. If the time is between 6:00pm and midnight, the writer wants an alcoholic beverage. If the time is between midnight and 6:00am the writer is asleep and does not need a drink.

NB: at all times, suggestions of mineral water, fruit juices or herbal infusions will be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Codicil #2: Does the writer want food?

The writer always wants foods. Writing is the sort of work that makes the writer hungry. Chocolate, crisps, chips and other snack foods are usually most suitable. Jelly/gummy sweets can be used as viable alternatives. Main meals are best for the writer if they can be served on a bun, at the PC, without interrupting the current WIP. Circular food is best (i.e. burgers, pizza, pies etc). The writer will already have made preferences known but be warned: fruit, vegetables or other ‘healthy’ snack items will be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Codicil #3: The writer’s mother is on the phone. Does the writer wish to speak with her?

If the writer had wanted to speak to his mother, he would have phoned the old cow and instigated the conversation. Just because she has nothing to do during her day, and thinks this would be a convenient time to catch up with a son who doesn’t call very often, does not mean she has the right to interrupt his schedule. Tell her the writer will call back. Try not to smirk whilst relaying this message. Make it sound convincing even though we all know it’s never going to happen.

Codicil #4: The writer’s dog is demanding food/affection/attention/water/etc.

Whilst working on the current WIP, the writer does not own any pets and has relinquished the responsibilities of pet ownership and delegated all the duties listed above to the person reading this list. Anyone noticing that the dog requires food/affection/attention/water/etc has therefore become the responsible pet owner and, by default, has to provide said canine with whatever is necessary to satisfy its current requirements. This is the law. Animal welfare officers will enforce this if necessary on behalf of the writer.

Codicil #5: The house is on fire. Does the writer wish to evacuate the building before the emergency services arrive?

The answer to this one depends on how closely involved the writer is in the current WIP and, obviously, which stage the writer has reached within the WIP. Obviously, if the writer is working on the final chapters, it would be sensible to use appropriate fire-fighting equipment to make sure the area around the writer is safe for him to produce those all important final few thousand words. If the writer is in the early stages of drafting, ask if the current novel involves a scene with a house fire, and ask the writer if he would like to SAVE THE CURRENT WIP to a thumb drive, and then research the effects/devastation/prettiness of the current fire in case any suitable imagery occurs from the fortuitous happenstance of this incident.

NB – if emergency services have to be summoned, please ask the emergency services not to use their sirens on the approach as the loud noise can be distracting.

Codicil #6: There is a Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary/etc party. Does the writer wish to attend?

The writer kindly thanks you for the invitation, but is currently busy. Too busy. Novels don’t write themselves. And it should be noted here that repeated and/or insistent invitations will be deemed as harassment and could result in legal action.

Codicil #7: It is a lovely day outside. Would the writer care to ‘get a breath of fresh air’ and walk the dog with the rest of the family?

The writer already has sufficient oxygen in front of his PC (unless the house fire mentioned in Codicil #5 is taking place, in which case it is conceded that breathable oxygen probably is in short supply) and therefore has no need to be away from the current WIP specifically to partake of breathing. It should also be noted here that, as observed in Codicil #2, the writer does not own any pets whilst working on the current WIP and therefore the dog is not his responsibility.

It’s not difficult living with a writer. Following these few simple rules; attending to the writer’s few simple needs; and tolerating a handful of harmless personality foibles means that everyone is happy as the writer moves the WIP to a publishable standard. And what could possibly be more important than that?

19 comments:

  1. Hey, Ashley,

    Are you sure that you weren't trained as a lawyer?!

    Very funny, although I know that at some level you're deadly serious about this.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  2. Very funny post Ashley..

    I hope the members of your family have a sign disclaimer that they are not responsible for your actions when current WIP...

    Namely codicil number5

    Funny post -

    E.H>

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  3. I'm going to print this out, laminate it, and prominently display it when I'm working, lol!

    Great post:)

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  4. repeated and/or insistent invitations will be deemed as harassment and could result in legal action. LMAO!

    Does the writer call his mother an 'old cow' to her face, or is that a big bit of bluff? Just asking so I'll know how to speak then next time my old cow calls.

    Very fuuny stuff, Ash!

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  5. Hahahahaha. Terrific rhythm and construction! It starts out hilarious and just builds from there.

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  6. Ash,

    I don't know why these people think this is so funny. I agree whole heartedly with all of your rules and the following codicil list. I would add that I'm fond of chocolate and it's appropriate at any time.

    *G*

    Hugs

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  7. Hmm. My first thought, even as a writer, is that if you were my husband, you and your WIP would be out on the street corner awaiting the Monday morning recycling! LOL!

    Thought I also understand, as a writer, that writing is all consuming. I wish I could fall into it so thoroughly that I could leave behind all other responsibilities. Sadly, your codicils do not work with small children. They are a law all unto themselves.

    Good stuff, Ashley!

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  8. Lisabet,

    I'm deadly serious about every rule :-)

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  9. Erotic Horizon,

    I worried I was tempting fate when I wrote cocidil #5. However, if such an incident occur, the WIP would be one of the first things I'd have to rescue.

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  10. Molly,

    Don't just print it and laminate: give a copy to everyone in the house so they know the ground rules. That way they can't claim that they didn't know :-)

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  11. Jenna,

    I don't call her an old cow to her face but that's only because I go to ridiculous extremes to avoid face-to-face encounters.

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  12. Jeremy,

    I'm glad I tickled your funny bone. Of course, as I've just told Lisabet, I'm deadly serious here, but if you want to laugh at my seriousness, that's cool with me :-)

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  13. Jude,

    I'm glad to see that you know I'm not kidding.

    And I might have to add a chocolate codicil.

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  14. Helen,

    yes. There could never be a small children codicil. Even legalese wouldn't stretch to that delightful problem.

    And I think I do deserve to be turfed out and living on a street corner. It would certainly provide inspiration for the current WIP.

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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  15. Hi Ashley!

    All rules boil down to rule #1. Rule#3: "See rule #1"

    When we're in the dream we want to stay there and everything else good and bad seems small including calls from our mothers. I would say though if I were writing a ghost story and was told my mother was on the phone I'd write down some questions for her and take the call since my mother has been dead for a while.

    Great post!

    Garce

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  16. Ashley,

    I'm sure your family understands and loves you anyway. Mine still puts up with me!

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  17. Danielle,

    Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the read.

    Best,

    Ash

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  18. Garce,

    When I'm teaching creative writing I often tell my students there are no rules: certainly no rules to stop the imagination from going in whatever direction it wants to take.

    But, when I'm at home and writing, I do like to enforce rules on the poor sods who share a house with me.

    Thanks for reading,

    Ash

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