How do you love a writer? He can count the ways

By M.Christian

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: writing is NOT easy – professionally, but most of all psychologically. Any writer who sends their work out for consideration, as opposed to just sticking it in a drawer, is putting their emotional life on the line every time they mail the envelope or hit the SEND button. When a story’s rejected, the writer has no one to blame but themselves. They can’t point to the actors, the screenplay, or the special effectors like a director can. They can’t accuse the opening act, the acoustics, or the crowd like a musician can. When things go wrong for a writer it’s just them, in the dark, with their mistakes.

That’s why it’s very important that you take care of yourself. Even though it’s well-nigh impossible, try to separate yourself from the work. Remind yourself that YOU didn’t get rejected, the story did. Repeat the mantra that being a writer is a work in progress, that your next story will be better. Never forget that everyone – and this really is true – gets rejected. Try to hold your own hand, pat yourself on your own back and – most of all – keep working.

But there’s a problem. Except for a few very rare exceptions, it’s nearly impossible for you to perform that anatomical and emotional contortion of holding your own hand or patting yourself on the back … or kissing your own cheek, bringing yourself a cup of unexpected but very needed tea, or telling yourself the magic words of “It’s going to be okay” or “I believe in you.”

This is where someone else comes in.

You won’t find this listed in many books on writing, but I’ve come to realize that it’s essential. Writing can be a very hard — and often lonely — life. But it doesn’t have to be. Taking care of yourself is one facet of surviving as a writer, but finding someone who understands and cares about you and your work is essential. Some writers use friends, relatives, parents, or members of a support circle for a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or a pal to laugh with.

Others are blessed with a partner who understands how hard being a writer can be, someone who knows the aches and pains as well as the joy of putting thoughts to paper. I’m lucky – very lucky – to have found that myself. I am fortunate beyond words to have a woman in my life who has given me what I’ve always wanted – someone to share writing and every other aspect of my life with. I love you, Jill.

Sorry for the Hallmark moment, but I do have a point. As I said, I’m lucky. It took me a long time and just the right set of circumstances to get to the wonderful situation I’m in right now. Before — and this is also the case for many other people — I was involved with people who may have been caring and understanding but who also simply didn’t “get it.” What’s worse is that many writers are involved with people who can’t even provide the “caring and understanding” part of that – or who are disinterested if not resentful or even hostile to their partner’s needs as a writer. I know this is a column on smut, but I want to step beyond those boundaries and say that if anyone in your life isn’t supportive then you should dump them and move on. Writing, to repeat, is damned hard – but being with someone who puts down your work, sabotages your craft, or makes writing harder than it already is not someone you should have in your life.

Beyond the obvious, though, or the supreme intimacy of sharing your bed as well as your writing with a partner, it can be very hard to notice when someone is no longer a help but has rather has become a hindrance. All too often when a writer finds a person who will even read, let alone critique, their work they hang on to them like grim death – even when they are doing more harm than good. For example, here are some questions you should be asking when you get feedback from anyone – including a loving partner:

Are they speaking from prejudice? A good reader should be able to suspend their personal likes and dislikes and comment on only the story. If they rip the work – or you – apart because they personally don’t like the sex, the setting, the characters, etc., without giving thoughtful feedback then this is someone who doesn’t deserve to see your work.

Are they jealous? Too often an insecure reader will dig for fault when none is present because you have surprised or intimidated them with your abilities. This is not to say that all criticism should be viewed with paranoia, but when comments come with too much vitriol or are making too much of small errors then you might want to raise your eyebrows.

Are they making unfair comparisons? If your story was written for TRUCKSTOP TRANSSEXUALS IN TROUBLE, you don’t want a reader telling you that your style, characters, setting, and is no where near the quality of, say, Dickens, Hemmingway, or Shakespeare.

Are they mixing you and your work? Back to TRUCKSTOP TRANSSEXUALS, you don’t want comments like “Baby, I didn’t know you were into that stuff,” or “How often do you think about things like this?” or “I think you need therapy.” You may very well need therapy, but you certainly don’t need remarks like that.

Are the comments constructive? Get rid of – as fast as possible – anyone who does not say something, anything, good about your work. If all you get are brutal criticisms or even just witty put-downs then turn right around and insult the size, shape, or hygiene of their genitals. Okay, that might be a bit harsh, but a good reader will always give good with the bad, even if it’s just that your font was pretty and you spelled most of the words correctly.

I could go on but I hope I’ve made my point. Writing is hard. Writing is VERY HARD. But the people in your life shouldn’t make it any harder. Find friends, pals, buddies or even lovers who know, understand, and sympathize with what being a writer is — and who, most importantly — will be there with a cup of tea, a kiss on the forehead, or even just a few kind and supportive words when baring your soul on the page gets just a little too cold, a bit too dark, or a touch too lonely.

You’re a writer – and that’s special and brave. You’re worth it.

The new edition of the Bachelor Machine, from Circlet

M.Christian is – among many things – an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites.
He is the editor of 25 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, The Mammoth Book of Future Cops and The Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowksi) and Confessions, Garden of Perverse, and Amazons (with Sage Vivant) as well as many others.
He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, Licks & Promises, Filthy, Love Without Gun Control, Rude Mechanicals, and Coming Together: M.Christian; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll.


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