This weekend I saw something that caught my eye and stuck in it long enough to wheedle its way into my brain. Allow me to set what to me is a semi-familiar scene. A writing group breaks up. Members pick up the bags and electronic devices, still discussing this critique, that project. An attractive female writer holsters her purse over one arm and walks away. A geekesque [spell check wants to change that to squeegee – no idea why] male writer of near age bounces over to her with pages in hand, drawing her attention by calling her name. She glances over to see who called her, adjusts her posture to throw up a wall for the body language savvy [he’s not] and listens showing every sign of impatience. He bubbles on about the piece of work in his hands, trying to get her to take a look.
Her voice raises. “Look, I’m not interested in you.” or “My boyfriend’s waiting.” or “Get away from me freak boy.”
He blinks after her wake, eyes tight as he tries to unravel what just occurred.
I’m the old man, so I smile inwardly, having stood in his place, so I can tell you what he’s thinking. “What in the twelve universes of gronk was that?”
Writing is a wonderful way of life. Of all the things I’ve experienced in my years gravity bound here, its a world filled with people who encourage each other, look out for one another, pay backward, forward and slantwise. I’ve enjoyed a hand up or wise word from countless people further along in their writing life and some not quite as far along. [Out of the mouths of babes if you will, but don’t knock it wisdom and inspiration can come from anywhere even if it is on accident.] I take every opportunity to help where I think I can even if I’m not to a place where I consider myself a master. To be honest, I hope I never do – good writing is about continuous learning in my book. I digress.
As part of my own quest to enable as many writers as I can, I have currently under my wing a young woman perhaps two-thirds my age. I don’t know exactly, a gentleman never asks. Similar to our boy hero above, I’ve had many a furrowed grey eyebrow bent at me as well as a wrinkled scowl or twelve. Okay, some were younger, but still they all asked – some literally, “What are you doing trying to sleep with a woman half your age?”
Blink. Blink. “Excuse me?”
Many years ago I encountered a woman, about my age maybe a bit younger, who was an aspiring writer. I read some of her work and found it inspired. I was excited, exhilarated to know her – what wonderful things could I learn from someone whose writing was so good? By some random happenstance I moved to her home town and ended up in her place work having forgotten all about her over the years. It was a library people, I’m a writer.
I recognized her, dredged up her name from my memory and remembered also her praise for her local writing group. I approached her, reminded her where we’d met and asked about the writing group. She raised the body language wall a bit, but promised to give my number to the group leader. I asked her about her writing and watched as the wall went up further. I did recognize the wall, though I didn’t know if it was about me or perhaps she was struggling with her writing and didn’t want to be reminded – we all have those moments. I picked up my books and headed on my way.
I’m happy to say I did get into the group – it was a great group – but she stopped coming. I asked one of the other writers why she stopped and was told point blank that she didn’t like me and didn’t want the stress of being pursued romantically.
Once more with feeling: Blink. Blink. “Excuse me?”
I love writing. I love being a writer. I love being around other writers. I love sharing my love, my writing and my enthusiasm. Hey, its a tough job where we seek out rejection letters trying with each project to make each editor work harder to give us one but we still collect them like bottle caps. I liked the woman’s writing. That’s it. That’s all. End of story. I was absolutely not interested in her romantically for reasons that are my own and not germane.
Just the same, like our hero and heroine above, a major misunderstanding crashed down into the situation and grinned. I can’t say I liked being cast into the “he’s only into you for your panties” role, but to be honest what really troubled me was that she’d give up writing or a good writing support group over a misunderstanding. I told the other writer my intentions or rather lack of intentions and offered to resign from the group. I was the new kid after all. The other writer agreed to pass along my offer, but the woman never rejoined.
Girls, sometimes its actually about your words, not your curves.
Boys, sometimes her interest is in your work, not you.
Everyone, jumping to conclusions is a great writing device but bad in real life.
We’ve all heard the arguments about men and women and friendships. I don’t care which side of the argument you fall on and I’m not going to rehash it here. In general I have a rule against dating people I work with – specifically at the same company regardless of chain of command. The writing world isn’t a single company, but its a small world filled with countless interconnections like a corporation. I include editors, publishers and agents in this world as they should be, but thought I’d point it out just to be sure everyone is on the same page.
Perhaps our young hero above would throw up his arms in disgust, ” Look Mike [Please don’t call me Mike], I never said anything to give her the impression…blah blah blah.”
Sure you didn’t junior, you only got excited around her, showed interest, tried to share an intimate part of yourself. Didn’t say a damned word. Learn to read body language, kid, if for no other reason than to improve your writing. [It’s kind of cool to be old enough to throw out junior and kid.] Recognize what you might be saying with your stance and realize that perhaps this subject might be one you should broach.
“You want me to walk up to an attractive girl writer and tell her I’m not into her?”
“But what if I am?”
“It would be cool to have a girlfriend whose also a writer.”
Amen. Also scary as hell, but I address that later.
The problem is perception. As a writer we leave clues or truths like breadcrumbs. Sometimes we put two together that have nothing to do with one another [your love of writing and your excited body language] to bend the reader’s assumptions in the wrong direction. It’s wonderful, but in reality it invites these situations and worse [in my opinion] it breaks up writing groups.
Let me make it pretty simple:
Of course, it could always be about both.
I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the fantasy of finding another writer to share love and life. The fantasy still has a few glowing, molten edges, some of which just make me smile but then I have a penchant for seeking out challenge. I’ll argue just for the sake of pitting mind against mind and stubborn streak against like – though I try to do it with people who know me well enough rather than just starting arguments with concealed-knife-wielding strangers. Once again, I digress.
I can just imagine spats over editing, critiques, style differences, etc. Then there’s the issue of mistresses. Writing is a pretty demanding mistress, for her I suppose master is the right word – less ham handed than male mistress. We’d have to learn to share with those other partners, but I’ll stop there before this becomes awkward or silly.
Moral of the Story: Sometimes, boys and girls, its all about the words and a pencil is just for scribbling….