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10 things to know

How to date a writer: Heather O'Neill

Here, laid bare for Valentine's Day, Heather O'Neill offers 10 tips on the perils and the pleasures of a romancing a writer:
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      1. Put up with their delusions of grandeur. All writers have the idea that they are famous. You will have to listen to them talk about the pressures of success even though their book only sold 300 copies. Best just to go along with it.

      2. Make sure you like their writing. Not liking a writer’s writing is like not liking their children. Unless you find their little boy with enormous glasses sticking a plastic soldier up his nose beautiful, it will never work out.

      3. Accept that writers will be inexplicably moody. They are all inner life. They might have spent the day on a battlefield. Or they might have been a sad Martian who has given up hope on returning home — riding the subway with his briefcase full of tax manuals and broken transmitters and a paper bag with a pink glazed donut in it.

      4. Know that writers are financially insecure and don’t care for material things. You might find yourself living in a much smaller house than you hoped for. You might have a family bicycle instead of a car.

      5. Be eccentric. Writers are impressed by silly things. Remember their original loves were characters in novels. Act like a fallen aristocrat, or be impossibly whimsical like the Mad Hatter, or whine like a petulant Holden Caulfield and they will adore you.

      6. Be prepared to turn up in fiction. You might find yourself portrayed as a 1920's fop who forges paintings for a living. You might find yourself seducing and ruining the life of a chorus girl who is a fragile violet. And then you will read pages analyzing your wickedness and moral shortcomings.

      7. Don’t interrupt them at their work. If you find them in the kitchen dressed in underwear leafing through a book of photographs while butting out a cigarette in a bowl of ice cream, you must treat this scene with the utmost respect. As if you had just walked in on a surgeon in the middle of open heart surgery.

      8. Don’t yell at them for daydreaming. If you date a writer, you will sometimes think that they have suffered brain damage. You will bring them to your cousin’s wedding and they will spend the whole time staring at a styrofoam bird on a cake. Many writers were picked on as children. Why? Because they were weird from the get-go. They were often to be found at the back of the class smelling erasers, or talking to caterpillars, or walking down the street with an encyclopedia balanced on their head. They cannot help it.

      9. When they are on a roll, they will ignore you for days on end.

      10. All this said, if you have the chance of dating a writer, by all means, take it! Take it! They can find more ways to say I love you than any other people on the planet. And imagine the Valentine Day poems you will receive!


Heather O'Neill
is the author of
Lullabies for Little Criminals. Her forthcoming book is called The Girl Who Was Saturday Night


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