7 Things Your Support Network Needs to Hear

It’s me, Colonel Shifty again! (You lucky ducks.) Last week I counseled Support Network Personnel in the things their writers need to hear. This week, the message is for writers. What does your Support Network need from you? Now, I know writers are inherently selfish (at least, one in particular that I know well). However, think of it like this: If your Support Network is drained and resentful, how well can they support you? Nourishing that Support Network is in your best interest, believe me.

So what do they need? I polled* some Support Networks and got the answers for you, right here:

1. Thank you. Put it in the dedication, or put it in the acknowledgments page. Write it in the sky. Write it in a card, an email, or spell it with cookies on a daisy-patterned plate. Or just, you know, say it. Your Support Network needs to know you appreciate them. Please remember, certain methods of showing gratitude will be more effective than others, depending on circumstances of ability on the part of the writer, and tolerance on the part of the Support Network (e.g. Beth, please do not sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” to Homes. You can totally sing it to your mom, though; she’d dig it).

2. Go out! Have fun! I’ve only had twenty-nine different writer-related outings this month. Tonight’s your night! You can leave me with these two short strangers who may or may not be my children. Is it all right if I call them by the names of my main characters? In all seriousness, you writerly types can be downright selfish when it comes to sucking up all the free time for writing. Give your Support Network time to pursue their own passions, even if it might not be your idea of a good time.

3. Let’s talk about you. Some writers I know (cough*Beth*cough) can go on for days talking to their Support Network about their writing. Whether it’s plot issues, or characters, or querying, or agent drama, it can really fill up the conversation, until the Support Network is sitting on the other side of the table (or worse, trapped in a moving vehicle) looking like a blinking piece of haggis. Remember to share the conversation time, writers.

4. What kind of story do you want to read? This is a fun one, and can get you thinking of different genres, or of blending genres. Look out, though, because you might have a snarky Support Network, and you may not appreciate the answer (e.g. “How about a story where your whiny main character drowns on page ten?”). But if all goes well, cool things can happen. If your support network is heavily into magical realism and you write westerns, imagine the possibilities! Naturally, being a gopher, I don’t have a lot of time to read, but if I did, I’d be reading that.

5. Bad day? Help yourself to my emergency chocolate stash. Writers, it may seem like a big deal to give someone the key to your sanity-preserving dark chocolate peanut butter cups, but remember what I said above: Nourishing your Support Network is in your best interest. Who else will run to the store for more chocolate the next time you’re in need?

6. No, the bad guy isn’t based on you. Your mutual love of haggis is purely coincidental. Sometimes your Support Network might wonder, since you’ve stolen every good piece of dialogue they’ve uttered, what else you’re stealing. Their appearance? Their quirk of wiping their face with a napkin every time they take a bite of food? What about their childhood dreams? Are you some kind of psychic vampire, or what? Take the time to reassure your Support Network that this is FICTION and any similarity it bears to any real event or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental (or whatever that legal jargon is that writers use to save their butts).

7. This book is going to Make It Big and then you can quit your soul-sucking job and retire into the life of luxury to which you should be accustomed. As long as your Support Network realizes the minuscule chance of any book “making it big,” no matter how beautifully wrought, this message can give your Support Network hope, and an opportunity to dream with you. As long as these dreams aren’t replacing Real, Actual Writing (TM), use this for the boost in morale it can give you both.

Really, all those other things are great, but no matter what, your Support Network needs a Thank you. (Although rumor among polled* participants has it that massages, favorite foods, and other tokens of appreciation wouldn’t hurt.)

*No participants were actually polled. Sorry, there wasn’t time.

The No-Nap Blues

The No-Nap Blues: I’m singin’ ’em.

Yesterday, I, the Ever-Suffering Mother, sat through an hour of listening to my child whine in the next room. “I don’t want to sleep. Let me up. Let me up!” (As if I were physically holding her down on the bed. However, if she’s going to continue believing herself stuck in bed, I’m not gonna enlighten her.)

Later in the afternoon, I spoke with one of the members of my Maternal Support Team (a.k.a. “Mom”).

Ever-Suffering Mother: Why didn’t she go to sleep? I think I don’t like her at all.

Maternal Support Team: (makes indistinct noises without committing the blasphemy of speaking against her granddaughter)

ESM: (wails) I just wish I knew what I did wrong!

MST: (finally kicking into supportive mode) You didn’t do a single thing wrong. Sometimes these things just happen.

ESM: No. Something went wrong. I did something different, and I will figure out what it was so it never happens again. (shakes fist at the other room where Z happily plays with her stuffed animal friends)

MST: Really, sometimes these things just happen, and you can’t control them–

ESM: Can so. I know I turned around three times in the kitchen before her naptime. That might have influenced it. Or her sound machine…maybe the volume got adjusted up or down after we brought it back from your house. Or I sang the second verse of her second lullaby in the wrong key. I will figure it out!

MST: (laughs)

By the time my Spousal Support Team (a.k.a. “Husband”) returned home from work, I was a total wreck. Still in my sweatpants, hair tied back in a nasty black scarf (the color of mourning), wondering if I’d ever have time to work on my manuscript again. Feeling a little sick from self-medicating with half a bag of Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Oh wait, that’s every evening. Tears optional. Maybe change the color of the scarf.)

Really, though, what do stay-at-homies DO when their child stops taking naps? Do they have a second child to distract the first? Do they run away from home? What I’d like to do is institute a three-hour Solitude and Quiet Time. And, yeah, maybe run away for a couple of days.

It’s a Disease

A Friday Free-for-All Entry

One thing that I love about reading Janet Evanovich and Sarah Dessen is the food. All kinds of snack food–everything you can dream of. Donuts are practically their own character in Evanovich’s books, as well as fried chicken and pineapple upside-down cake. And the teens in Dessen’s novels are constantly guzzling giant sodas and buying snacks from the gas station mini-marts. Ah, what wouldn’t I give for that sort of fictional metabolism?

The other day (it doesn’t really matter which day, as in this respect most days are the same), I had to have chocolate. Any kind would do, and the chocolate chips were long gone from their hiding place on the top shelf in the spice cupboard. Taking a leaf out of one of Dessen’s books, I strapped Z into her stroller and headed to the nearest Quik-Zip (in real life known as the Tower Mart).

On the way there I consoled myself with thoughts of how I had been working out every day (until I came down with that blasted cold), and would soon resume the exercise habit. I reminded myself of my virtuous salads, made from the lettuce growing in my own back yard (which of course makes it even healthier). I thought, Why, I’m walking to the store! That should burn the equivalent of the calories in one almond in the candy bar I am about to purchase!

With thoughts of chocolate-coated almonds distracting me, I could totally ignore the part of me wondering what sort of example I was setting for my child. And when I could ignore it no longer, I berated it, because Z isn’t even two yet! She won’t remember one tiny trip to the Tower Mart taken on one March morning when she was nineteen months old. (Whether she will remember repeated trips taken frequently throughout the rest of her toddlerhood remains to be seen.)

As luck had it, chocolate bars were on sale. I bought two. Okay! Fine! I’ll be honest!

I bought four.

As I stood in line, clutching my chocolate, I looked at the woman in line to the front of me, buying a pack of cigarettes. Then I turned to the man behind me who held a case of Budweiser.

I’d like to say that I drew the appropriate conclusion, put the candy back on the display, and wheeled Z out of the store. What actually happened was I drew the appropriate conclusion, bought the chocolate anyway, and ate one of them as soon as Z went down for her nap that afternoon.

Okay! Fine! I’ll be honest!

I ate two.

Eh. Nothing much else to say about that.

Mood Enhancers that Do Not Come in Capsule Form

1. ice cream–the ultimate comfort food

2. learning that my mother is bffs with an editor at a big-time publishing company (I can’t speak from experience here, but I know this would cheer me up)

3. Clarkie, my cat

4. Sarah Dessen’s novels This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever

5. Pride and Prejudice on film (the BBC version…but when do I have 5 spare hours?) OR, you know, the book is okay, too

6. movie Blue Crush (I love sporty girl movies–the inspiration comes in handy for after I indulge in #1 above)

7. Louise Rennison’s book Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

8.  movie Bend It Like Beckham (see #6 above)

9. a walk (again necessary to counteract negative effects of #1)

10. watching Z dance

11. an empty kitchen sink–no dirty dishes!

12. reading Abridged Scripts from The Editing Room

13. perusing paint swatches (see post Baby, Let’s Paint the Town Coral Expression)

14. gardening (unless there are slugs)

15. circling everything I want in the IKEA catalog

16. NAPS–mine and Z’s

17. chocolate never hurts

18. new pens and/or new diary books

19. emails from the library telling me a book I’ve been waiting for has arrived

20. having prettily-painted toenails

There are so, so many more, but rather than list them all, I think I’ll head out and enjoy some of them.