2/7/12

Non Writer Etiquette: 3 things non-writers need to know about their writer friends.



The following are 3 things you need to know if you’re a friend of a writer. Mostly shared in gest, I think that these are still relevant for friends of writers, especially those that write somewhere other than home. The three items I share here are very closely related, but are cardinal rules for writers that non-writers mostly don’t understand. I try my best to explain why they are significant, but I welcome your comments about whether these are relevant to you, whether you are a writer or an artist of an alternate medium.

1)      Not now Chief. I’m in the Zone.
This funny saying is based on a rather lame YouTube video my husband introduced me to of a guy who’s being told to do something and he says, “Not now, Chief I’m in the F-ing Zone.”
            When people walk into Starbucks and they recognize me sitting there at my computer, they inevitably wave, smile or start talking. They usually think I’m just surfing the internet or wasting my time in some way. Not so.
            Starbucks writing is my “Me” time. It’s where I go to write. If my computer’s in front of me, I’m usually in the zone. Even if my hands aren’t moving I’ve got something great going and I really don’t want to be bothered. For me it’s a laptop, but maybe your friend writes in a notebook.
            In essence, if you see this behavior in your friend: an engrossing interest in his or her laptop or notebook, even if they look super confused or frustrated, don’t say hi-you’ll be interrupting something private and the writer might lose their momentum by being interrupted.

2)      Don’t pop my bubble folks.
Related to the last listing, this one is slightly different. While some people get into a “zone,” while writing, others are also in separate bubbles. I myself write in a bubble and a zone. The “zone” is more of a momentum that you get into when you’re doing well. The writing is coming easily and the story is unfolding faster than you can catch it to put it down on paper. But, I can be in the zone when I’m writing non-fiction, my blog or even when I’m constructing a story.
            A bubble is different in that I may not even be writing; my fingers not even on the keyboard. When I’m in this state of immobility and my eyes are flittering about the room, I’m thinking about my characters, my story world and the plot line. Most of the time I don’t even know what I’m looking at; often times I get my story bubble popped by some poor bloke at Starbucks who’s creeped out at my staring. I usually do this whole apologetic, ‘sorry for staring’ look that I quickly divert to somewhere else. It’s not so bad when it’s a stranger, but when a friend enters Starbucks and sees me looking up and my hands not moving, or maybe I’m sipping my latte, they come over and always ‘just hafta,’ say hi.
            No offence, but don’t. Just: Don’t!
            My bubble can get popped or rubbed the wrong way, but it’s sometimes easy to put back into place when I realize I was staring at a stranger because there’s no personal connection, no side-long thoughts that drag my mind out of the story I’m working on. When a friend walks in or looks up from their own coffee and decides to wave, I get yanked out of my story because my thoughts shift to the person, our last hang-out, our relationship-etc. My bubble and story world are crumpled, irreversibly usually.
            If you, a non-writer friend, asks me “I’m not bothering you, am I?” Society has said I have to say no. But really, you are. Stop doing that. Stop ruining my zone, popping my bubble and then asking me if you’re imposing. You are, you know you are or you wouldn’t have to ask. Silly non writers…. (Shaking head.)

3)      My novel/book contents are mine until I’m ready to share them.
We both know what I’m going to put here. Most of my blog readers are other writers, artists, family members, or friends that kinda-sorta get the “whole creativity thing.” Needless to say that the last are non-writers who dabble in drawing, painting, etc. and have some form of ADD because they can’t stick to one thing for any significant length of time.
            I can say that because I used to be one. I’ve painted Acrylics, water colors, made silver jewelry, sewn, created fabric art, drawn portraits, made birdhouses, written poetry, and so forth. What got me settled into writing was pushing past the boredom that settles in after the novelty wears off. These people usually like the idea of “doing that,” or “being that,” but haven’t found what really speaks to their own creative soul and muse yet. Usually they are jacks of the artistic trades, like myself; only there’s usually not one art they prefer yet, or perhaps they do and they don’t have the time to do it as well as they’d like.
            As a writer I have made a commitment to my craft that felt a little uncomfortable at first; it made me really anxious when people asked me what I did in my spare time. Now, I’m pretty confidant in my writing, style and subject/genre choices. Others, not so much.
            Even amongst other writers I get the whole “what are you writing about,” 21 questions and I have to admit…
            “I’m writing an Urban Fantasy based in Vancouver.” Usually these people aren’t satisfied with, “A Novel.” Nope, they have to pick it apart and pull every loose thread in you conversation to get a glimpse of what I’m writing. Usually I don’t tell them because they don’t truly want to know. Honest they don’t.
            Especially in Canada where non-fiction or literary fiction is the norm, to even admit genre writing is considered this sin against the whole world of Canadianna. This has to stop, and it has to stop with non-writers.
            Non writers give me this look, it says… “well, aren’t you just precious?” and is accompanied by a begrudging, “That’s interesting.”
            Stop it. I know you read Harry Potter. I know you watched Underworld. I know you read Margaret Atwood, but you’d admitted to me as a friend that you didn’t find it all that interesting.  You’re a closeted genre reader and I’m not going to hold it against you, but guess what? Stop holding it against start up writers.
So, unless you can keep a straight face when someone says “Erotic Fantasy,” then you shouldn’t ask what their story is about…not that I write erotic fantasy (wink.)

It’s all about the story. Who’s to say that the story of a fictional character set in middle earth isn’t as significant as the story of a character on the downtown streets of Toronto? Welcome stories. Genres were only built as marketing tools to reach audiences who want to read that style of story. If that’s not your style, it’s not your style-but support your writer friends who do write in that style.

Thanks folks.