This guest post, from Michele Reisinger, combines the wisdom of many of the StoryADay Superstars. Make sure to leave this open in a browser for the people in your life to ‘accidentally’ read! 😉
My husband would deny it, but he is a romantic at heart.
We’re all struggling with the effects of pandemic pandemonium, but recently he’s given me some pretty awesome gifts that have not only helped me cope with our “new normal,” but also develop a writing practice that will last far beyond this shared crisis.
Even better, while their value to me is priceless, their cost was almost zero. As writer Chari Schoen points out, “Sometimes it is just the little things” that mean the most.
So, what are the most romantic things you can do for the writer in your life?
My amazing cohorts in StoryADay’s Superstars shared their stories and wish lists.
Here’s the countdown:
5. Give them TOOLS.
No writer uses the same tools to create, so indulge them with their preferred method.
For Laura Porter, that means figuring out exactly what kind of notebook and pen she prefers and buying them in multiple colors.
StoryADay founder Julie Duffy agrees. “My husband stalked one of my favorite writer’s blogs to find out what fountain pen he used (my husband has not used one), and then bought me the same pen. Which I still use every day five years later!”
Marta Pelrine-Bacon would appreciate a subscription to a literary journal that publishes in her genre, as well as ink for her printer. “I’ll love anyone who buys me ink and paper to print out story drafts,” she says. “Ink is hella expensive.”
At my house, working remotely means competing for “office” space and supplies. My husband needed a new color printer/scanner for his engineering job, and I sweet-talked him into a wireless one that I could also access. I had to sync it to his laptop first, but still! I can even print from my phone.
4. Give them SUPPORT.
A familiar bit of writing advice is to SHOW, not TELL, and the same applies to caring for the writer in your life. For many of my fellow Superstars, support means feeding their bodies as well as their creative souls.
Neha Mediratta appreciates a partner who can be both muse and helpmeet, whereas Margo Mertz wants someone to bring her dinner while she Zooms with her writers group, even if she prepared the meal beforehand.
Maery Rose suggests putting forth the effort to plan and prepare dinner. “Especially when I’m in writing crunch mode,” she says.
As someone who loves to eat but hates to cook, I completely agree, particularly now that Covid restrictions have severely limited our go-tos for dining and entertainment.
When a family emergency required my husband and me to live six hours away from home for nearly a month during the early weeks of our state’s shut-down, he planned several neighborhood road and walking trips to introduce me to the area and provide creative inspiration.
My favorite was an excursion to an historic cemetery dating back to the early 1800s. We wandered for hours, and I left with several new story ideas.
3. Give them SPACE.
Virginia Woolf had the right of it when she said a writer must have “a room of one’s own” in order to flourish. Preferably one with a lock, the key to which only the writer possesses.
Gabrielle Johansen’s husband understands that, which is why he gave her “a membership in a local writer’s space.”
Likewise, Leslie Stack’s husband once rented her “a studio room on the seventh floor of the Star of the Sea in Rehoboth Beach … for a week.” On occasion, he also drives her to a campground several hours away from their home, sets up their trailer, leaves her alone to write, then returns a week later to pick her up. He’s even offered to build her a she-shed. If she designs it, he’ll build it.
For years, I have dreamed of converting one of our bedrooms into my own office/library. However, someone would have to move out for that to occur, and that’s not happening anytime soon.
Instead, my husband helped me rearrange our bedroom furniture to create a writing nook in one corner. I repurposed a 2-drawer cabinet, bought a set of antique cast iron bookends to set on top, and gathered my writing tools and resources formerly scattered throughout the house. I’ve angled my comfy chair between two windows overlooking my butterfly garden, and even on rainy days the space is bright and cheerful. My own private paradise.
2. Give them TIME.
Every writer’s process for turning an idea into a polished piece varies as much as the stories we tell, yet we all need time to navigate those steps.
“There is no gift greater than time,” Marta says, and Chari agrees. Just “leave us alone so we can write,” she says.
Bonus points if you can occupy the children, as opposed to one of Julie’s pet peeves–“Walking in the room and saying ‘Whatcha writing?’”
Although our children are young adults, my husband still runs interference for me when I need to disappear for a while.
He also encourages me to take long, solitary walks when I have a story knot I’m trying to untie. Somehow, the slap of rubber on asphalt jostles solutions into focus. I’ve figured out more than one plot hole using that technique.
1. Give them RESPECT.
According to American poet Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Writing is neither a hobby nor an interest, but a significant part of our identities. Writers write because we have to.
Recognizing and celebrating us is absolutely the most romantic thing you can do for the writer in your life because doing so says you respect who we are, not who others think we should be.
That’s why Gabrielle’s husband recently surprised her with a scene he’d painted from her work-in-progress, a YA fantasy novel. Likewise, Anita Gorman’s husband mails copies of her short stories to his friends.
Their partners not only appreciate the writers in their lives, they’re proud of them.
Of all the things my husband has done for me in recent months, by far my favorite occurred without any deliberation or foresight on his part–When he introduced me as his wife Michele, THE WRITER. I’ve been writing stories, essays and (really bad) poetry since elementary school, yet I still struggle with the confidence to introduce myself as a writer. His affirmation felt like a five-star review on Goodreads.
So pay attention to your writer. Observe what he needs. Ask her what she wants, and help them create a writing environment that’s key to their success. Who knows? They may make you the hero in their next novel.
Michele Reisinger’s short fiction has been featured in the 2019 anthology Stories That Need to Be Told andonline at Prometheus Dreaming, The Mighty Line, Dreamers Creative Writing and others. She teaches English at a New Jersey high school and lives with her family near Philadelphia. Find her online at https://mereisinger.com/.