They live in two places at once
To write is to pull away from the moment
To analyze, to dig deeper, to relive, to repackage, to rebind.
So, to be a writer is to live in at least two places: the reality as it is in front of you, and then everything else that exists in the abstract — inside your head, in the future, in the past, in emotions and thoughts and logical (and illogical) extractions, extrapolations, hypotheticals, and illuminations. To write is to funnel, to sift, to search. It is to mentally exit the door only to walk back in again, over and over, and then stand outside staring in through the window just to see Was it really like that? Could it be this way? What if it was — or was not? And if that’s true, then what else? like some silent, motionless psychological disorder with no physical manifestations beyond that glazed-over, distant look in the eye.
To write is to step away from the current moment. Or to step much deeper into it than you need. Either way, it is always to be one foot askew.
And to date a writer is to live alongside someone who exists like this, always slightly akimbo from where you are.
Writing means quiet time
And quiet time means no talking.
Not all writers are assholes — most of us aren’t — but it can come off like this.
Because — and you may not realize this; it seems many people are wholly unaware — but writing is actually a pretty introverted process by nature and, far more importantly, a highly precarious one, with “the work” often suspended in a delicate and fragile state.
(Does that sound self-important? That’s just the “asshole” talking.)
I know it looks easy to interrupt us. I know this thing we’re doing looks a whole lot like things that are easy to step in and out of — like, “ah, yes, I’ve used a pen before!” or “oh, I type all the time!” — but writing is much different than “other things that look exactly the same,” and when you interrupt writing, it’s much harder to come back to it than, say, a grocery list. And sometimes “writing” doesn’t even look like writing — because sometimes writing is really thinking, which looks a lot like “zoning out” or doing “nothing” and only makes it harder.
But when it’s interrupted, sometimes it can take hours to salvage. Sometimes it’s lost and gone forever. I don’t mean to get melodramatic about it —but that is how it often goes.
I once dated a dude who was so bad at interrupting me while writing that I’d slip out of bed early on weekends and hide in the coffee shop below us to steal some quiet time. His response to this, as an extrovert and real fanatical doer, was of course to come on down and interrupt me anyway, trotting up smiling like, “so whadya wanna do today??” Sweet guy, but as you can imagine, that whole thing didn’t last.
As writer Shante Cosme said,
“Dating a writer means having to quell the jealousies and irrational fears that arise when they disappear for hours on end. Resist the urge to send out a search team. All writers possess the rare ability to vanish for hours in a coffee shop or bookstore. Forgive them for not answering your text messages, BBM pings, phone calls and carrier pigeons. They were just in the middle of unloading an epiphany into their Moleskin.”
You can laugh at that concept — “epiphany!” ha! — and that’s cool; whatever. Just so long as you do it out of earshot. Or at least wait until we’re done.
Because regardless of how important or “good” you find their writing, understand that:
Interrupting someone while they are writing is as rude as interrupting someone while they’re talking.
How anyone could fail to realize this is remarkable, and yet so many people do.
When it comes to “emotions,” there are only two types of writers
We either emote All Of The Emotions, or we emote next to none.
Some writers write to “get their feelings down on paper;” to “work through them.” Others use emotions only as a keyhole for thoughts.
Some of us are feelings-forward, and use writing as means of self-expression and authenticity.
Others are observation-forward, and use writing as a vessel for universal truths outside ourselves.
These, as you can imagine, are two wildly different types of writers, both outwardly and in their work.
Writers repeat themselves
Like, verbally. Like, with you.
Like we’ll come back to an idea or a thread or a storyline or a thought or a theory or whatever the hell it is that we’re hung up on and we’ll say what sounds a hell of a lot like the same exact thing more times than you ever thought could possibly be reasonable for someone who had even half of our intelligence, so like how?
Because we’re working on it. And because we often date people we like, so we end up bouncing ideas off of them.
We chew on an idea or a feeling over and over and over, turning it around, coming at it from a different angle, sometimes saying the exact same thing with different emphasis, or with more or less degrees of certainty.
On the upside: unlike the actual writing, this is a time when we’re often looking for input — either validation (usually the feelings-forward writers) or other ideas — so feel free to jump in accordingly. It’ll make it stop faster. (At least until the next one.)
No, fuck that for a second, because we all misremember. Human beings are notoriously terrible at remembering anything, and writers’ major sin is not that we misremember, but rather that we have the nerve to put that shit on paper.
But that aside, we do also misremember. Because see item #1 — we were probably only half there to begin with.
As Shante Cosme said,
“Dating a writer means having to repeat yourself often. Writers are bad listeners and you will always be competing with the background noise of their thoughts, which are wild, rampant, and prone to racing at high velocities.”
Most of us, anyway.
Do with that what you will.
You won’t want to read their work
That, or you’ll lie and say you don’t want to read their work even though you’ll secretly be dying to, which — all things considered — seems highly unlikely.
I know this because every partner I’ve ever dated has not wanted to read my work.
Like when I asked one if he ever read my many notebooks lying around, and he looked at me baffled and then asked, “why would I want to?”
And like just now, when I told my current partner, on the couch next to me, that I had just finished a piece on “what it’s like to date a writer” and asked if he wanted to read it, and he shook his head no and said, dead serious: “I already know.”
(Which made me laugh so much I said, “I’m adding that.” And then I did.)
You’ll always wonder if you’ll end up in their work.
You’ll secretly hope you end up in their work.
And then you will either never, ever end up in their work, or you’ll end up in their work in all the wrong and worst ways.
Writers like life — a lot
And we live it richly; deeply.
As writer Shante Cosme said,
“Every moment, every seemingly insignificant milestone becomes imbued with meaning. There is no one better to watch a sunset with. While a less literary-inclined person might observe the sun setting and simply remark upon its beauty or the color of the sky, a writer will describe the scene with adjectives you’ve never heard spoken aloud, causing your heart to beat a little faster and your skull to open just a little bit wider. You will remember this sunset forever…
Life’s ups and downs becomes subtle undulations, every seemingly meaningless twist of fate becomes narrated and illustrated, a plot point of a story that is always unfolding, and you are one of its most colorful characters. The mundanity of everyday life regularly becomes illuminated and infused with with substance and unexpected passion.”
And all of it goes down on paper.
Sometimes it’s even close to the truth.