In a college book group, I read Donald Hall’s collection Without, a poem cycle chronicling his wife Jane Kenyon’s battle with Leukemia and his first steps into mourning. The way they spent their days, quietly, Kenyon writing her poems downstairs and Hall writing his upstairs before sleeping together in the same bed, touched me. I remarked to my professor and fellow writer, “I think being with another writer would be fascinating.” She was not so sure, and reminded me how cranky we wordsmiths can be when our words just aren’t smithing, or when there are major social disasters that stir our hearts, or when our coffee is just too damn weak. Well, it happened. Is happening. I’m a writer, dating a writer. In the way of Buzzfeed’s numbered lists that are all the rage, here’s a list of what you can expect when writers date writers.
1. Flirting is hard.
Just ask Neil Gaiman, who has tried to help us, the bookish, get a little action. We’re too used to analyzing words to “just go with” a pick-up line, and too deep within the rain forests of our minds to recognize when someone is flirting with us. Or even likes us. We might be kings and queens of Show, Don’t Tell, but sometimes we just have to be told.
2. Important conversations can take place via text messaging or e-mails.
I know that having super-serious-talks should generally be reserved for face-to-face conversation, but when that’s not available, writers are already conscious of how wonky words can be, and therefore might be more careful and clear than the average texter. With these limits in mind, we’re also ever-ready to say, “Screw this, I’m just gonna call you.” This also has a tendency to lead to overly long text messages, but Verizon can handle it.
3. The best revenge is a hidden copy of The Chicago Manual of Style.
Just don’t hide it too well. You might need to borrow it later.
4. A successful date can include absolutely no talking.
When I say, “Hey, let’s go on a reading date,” we grab our books and hit a coffee shop. And read. I even pack headphones to drown out obnoxious music. Then, when we’ve reached good stopping points, we sigh, “Okay, I’m done.” And we pack up and walk quietly home.
5. Everyone’s a critic.
Really. My boyfriend will probably assess this blog post, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, and we’ll have a conversation about which points are most true in our relationship. Writers are used to people ripping into to them, with love. So, if you’re not up for it, you gotta say so. We’re a bunch of well intentioned sharks.
6. Your fan club knows what’s up.
That said, even though your significant other could tear your life’s work apart, they probably won’t unless it’s really, truly, deeply awful and you need a dose of tough love that you won’t get from Grammy. It’s more likely that your partner actually likes and even respects your work. Imagine being in a relationship with someone whose work you couldn’t stand behind. So when that writer who I happen to have a serious crush on likes what I write, he’s specific and knowledgable, and that’s nice.
7. Passive-agressive Post-It notes are always well proofread.
Unless he’s just trying to piss you off that much more.
8. You don’t actually want to have a character based on you.
Or to inspire a poem. Trust me.
9. When he says, “I’m killing my darlings,”
you know he’s probably not coming for you next. It’s a figure of speech, a melodramatic way to say, “Hey, I’m editing and cutting out content I’m emotionally attached to. I need a hug and maybe a cookie. Later, after the massacre.”
10. You’re cynical about relationships and tell it like it is, while in love.
He might text that he’s writing in a cafe when a well-to-do middle-aged CEO walks in with, presumably, a mail-order Thai bride. And you (aka I), having watched numerous documentaries on this phenomenon, might reply that he shouldn’t be so harsh: “They are super in love. There’s no way their relationship is held together by mutual racial fetishes, his bank account, collagen, and Viagra. I would never say that. I love you!”
11. Those love letters.