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A Nano widow writes

November 15, 2009

Today I thought you’d be interested to hear from the other half of your Sunday Writer, on the trials and tribulations of being a NaNoWriMo widow…

I have lost my husband. Not permanently, you understand, but for the duration of the month of November, it’s as though I am merely haunted by the ghost of Paul Anderson, pacing the bedroom, tap-tapping away on his keyboard, bleating periodically for another cup of coffee. This is the third year running that Paul has participated in NaNoWriMo, and I’m just about getting the hang of this temporary widowhood. So here are my tips for the spouses and partners, especially the first-timers, on how to cope.

  1. Bring coffee. Or tea. Or gin. Or beer. Or whatever it is that helps your honey write like a demon for several hours straight. Make sure the kettle always has water in it, and that it’s just off the boil. Having to fill the kettle up and wait for it to boil saps creativity and is responsible for trains of thought disappearing into the ether, never to be seen again.
  2. Stock up on snack food. Crisps, biscuits, crackers, the odd Pot Noodle or instant pasta meal. Anything that requires minimal preparation. Because there’s nothing worse than coming in from an evening out and finding the writer in your life trying to make a meal out of a block of cheese. Paul will do this regardless of whether or not it’s NaNoWriMo, but at least for the other 11 months I know he has time to prepare a meal if he wants to and that it’s simply laziness preventing him from doing so (and the plaintive wail of “But I like cheese!”).
  3. Don’t ask anything of them. If you have any paperwork, get it out of the way in October. If shelves need hanging do it yourself or get a handyman in to do it. If your writer does the cooking all the time, subsist for the whole month on microwave meals or take-away pizza. Just make sure you take up running (see point 4 below) and consider stocking up on vitamin supplements.
  4. Take up a hobby or indulge in your existing favourite pastime. This is perhaps the only month when you can go off on your own without feeling remotely guilty. Gardening is my pleasure, but unfortunately November in Britain is the dreariest month of the year, with nothing whatsoever to recommend it, leaving me bored and frustrated indoors with only the seed catalogues for company. Organisers of NaNoWriMo, I beseech you to move it to September or April, or some month when the sun warms my back and the rain is kept to the minimum needed to encourage growth!
  5. Don’t interrupt them in the middle of their work. Set up some kind of signal – a sign to let you know when they are amenable to interruptions (when they’ve just finished a five-hour writing session and are now messing about on Facebook) and when it is absolutely, categorically a Do Not Disturb moment (the plot has just come together, the muse is with them, the bells are chiming and they know – just KNOW – that this is the best chapter they have ever written). Door open versus door closed, music on versus music off – that sort of thing.

Above all, indulge them in this. It is, after all, only for one month, and it is actually worth the inconveniences of having an absent partner to be able to crack open that champagne with them at 11:59pm on 30th November and see their faces lit up with the achievement of it all. Get in touch with the other widows and widowers in your spouse’s writing circle and swap tips, rants and sympathy.

And give back rubs.

Paul cannot stress enough the importance of that final tip about back rubs… You might also be interested to know that I’ve completed my second year as a Write Anything writer – time flies!
  1. November 15, 2009 12:36 am

    Hehee, awesome! I’m not married–is there a way I can get my sister to do all this? 😉

  2. November 15, 2009 2:05 am

    I want back rubs, too!

    Sounds about right. 😀 I warned my boyfriend months in advance what November was going to turn into…

  3. November 15, 2009 8:10 pm


    You realize anyone involved in any future CWs who read this will now try to work the line “But I like cheese” into every book.

  4. November 16, 2009 4:03 am

    When we were writing Captain Juan solidly last year Dale, we would pick lines from Monty Pyton and challenge each other to weave it into the narrative.

    But I’m all for cheese references. I’m reading a great book at the moment where they call Jesus – Cheeses Christ and I get a giggle out of it every time.

    Good on Julia. All I can get out of Dave is to be left alone and permission to leave the house (to be left alone!) We do have an extra body in a small son, so I guess that uses up all the time which he could be indulging me in all those other things on the list. Great post Julia!

  5. November 16, 2009 2:13 pm

    Hmmm, maybe the next volume should be “The Cheese Book”…

  6. November 16, 2009 3:54 pm

    To keep the color theme going you could call it “The Bleu Book”

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