Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tips for Surviving the Writing Life - Teresa Milbrodt - Biggest Moments in Writing

1. Have supportive parents.  If that doesn’t work, adopt some.  This

is a crucial first step, since you need people to stand behind you as
a writer, ones who don’t say “You want to be a what?” and then lecture
you on living in a cardboard box.  Of course you have to be realistic
when you walk into this life--it isn’t an easy one—but you also need a
cheering section of friends and family who honestly believe in you.
Liking ramen noodles helps, too (see section below on the
writer-friendly diet).  Your cheerleaders shouldn’t always double as
your editors, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

2. Keep things simple.  Really simple.  While La Boheme isn’t exactly
the best playbook, there are good points to a thrifty lifestyle.  As a
writer I’ve found myself less interested in buying things, and more
interested in buying time to write and play with the people in my
head.  Occasionally I might get a little check because I wrote
something, then I can go out and buy a pizza or a half gallon of ice
cream, but I know I can’t expect much more than that.  It also helps
that I have a significant other who shares this voluntary pauper
philosophy, which leads me to...

3. Marry someone who can serve as your editor.  Okay, easier said than
done, but in my case I married another writer, and since writing is so
important in both our lives, the aforementioned penny-pinching isn’t a
big deal.  We can read and edit each other’s work, and we don’t need
to look for a workshop group since we live with one.  This is also
particularly helpful since my mother has to love everything I write.
My husband can offer constructive criticism (as he did on this blog

I know other writers who’ve married people who aren’t writers, but can
read a story and provide that helpful editorial feedback.  Regardless,
your significant other should understand your passion even if they
don’t share it, and they should respect the intricacies of the writing
process.  I know not to disturb my editor/significant other while he
is staring out the window, because I realize crucial daydreaming
processes are taking place.  We even added a section in our wedding
vows to allow for the writerly life: I will be a good listener at all
times, right after I finish typing this last paragraph.  It’ll just
take a second.

4. Consider adopting a writer-friendly (pauper-friendly) diet.  My
husband and I have made this into a game of sorts, seeing just how
little we can spend on the weekly grocery bill.  There are two
approaches we have taken to meal planning:
A. Be a reasonably good cook who buys only pantry staples and turns
them into something palatable (which also serves as a nice writing
break, especially when you feel an imminent need for cookies).
B. Have very good cholesterol so you can live on ramen noodles (which
are easy to slurp in front of a computer screen).
I have taken the first approach and my husband has taken the second.
According to our yearly physicals, we’re both still alive.

5. Embrace your crazy.  I don’t know why I have a compulsion to write,
but there’s nothing like the sensation of really being in a story,
then looking up and realizing there’s another world outside my head.
In a culture of sound bites and thirty-second YouTube videos, we
writers have become something of an anomaly in our ability to
concentrate for extended periods of time.  Sometimes this is helpful
when I don’t feel like being in the world outside my head, and need to
retreat for a while before I return to my life with a little more
perspective.  Not as many people can take a vacation in their minds
anymore.  Celebrate yours.

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