So you’re a writer who’s just been dumped by a writer—the fourth one in three years—and you’ve decided to make a change. No more writers for you! While your parents are probably thrilled, you must be a little bit scared. How can anyone ever get what I’m doing? you wonder. Who will I find to sit silently at their desk slurping coffee as I sit silently at my desk slurping coffee as we both Google the sort of details that might get us flagged by homeland security?
But don’t you worry. Plenty of fine writers have gone on to have successful careers despite dating non-writers. In fact, a large percentage of writers are successful because they’re married to wealthy non-writers. And there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them!
Here are thirteen tips as you enter the non-writer market.
1. Ditch your favorite phrases.
The non-writer probably won’t know what you mean when you say “Show, Don’t Tell” or “Unreliable Narrator” or “Sestina” or “Sally Rooney.” Don’t get upset with them. Don’t define these terms for the non-writer—you’re trying to impress them, remember!
2. Reconsider your accolades.
Wow! You’ve been accepted into some of the finest residencies in the world, but non-writers might be concerned to learn you intentionally spent months alone in the woods writing a book that never got published. Maybe tell them about your hobbies.
3. Have hobbies.
Many non-writers have hobbies that aren’t done “for the story.” For instance, a non-writer might really like bird watching—not because they saw a call for submissions in Foliage Monthly on the subject of “rethinking the wing.” If a non-writer asks about your hobbies, respond with something believable like doing laundry or tossing pennies in wells.
4. Watch a lot of TV.
You already do this. But just watch—don’t think about it and don’t have a take. When it’s over, say, “That was good” or “That was bad.” Anything else is too much.
5. Go outside.
Why not? It’s probably fine out there.
6. Don’t mention that guy in your MFA program.
Ask the non-writer about the guy in their MBA program or that clown from medical school. Writing students aren’t the only self-centered jerks.
7. Stop saying “in which.”
You’ll find plenty of workarounds in—er, to survive without it.
8. Don’t meet their parents until you’ve published a book.
Yes, the book might have actually cost you money to publish, but the non-writer’s parents will think it means you’re successful. Do not disabuse them of this.
9. Do not, under any circumstances, let the non-writer’s parents read your book.
This cannot be stated enough: Do not let the non-writer’s parents read your book.
10. Find someone wealthy.
But wealth is relative, right? Just because the non-writer isn’t a doctor or CEO doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time. Plenty of regular people with regular jobs are richer than you. When meeting non-writers, listen for these key terms: 401k, health insurance, boss, biweekly paycheck, new clothes, one-bedroom apartment, central air, bedframe. If they mention any one of these terms unironically, they would surely make an excellent spouse.
11. Don’t be so nervous when they write something down.
It’s probably a grocery list or a birthday card to their sister. The non-writer isn’t trying to steal that brilliant thing you just said for a story they’re writing.
12. Don’t anticipate finding a muse.
It is dehumanizing and disrespectful to treat a human being as inspiration. Also, you’re probably not talented enough to truly capture their essence.
13. If you go home with a non-writer and they don’t have any books, have sex with them.
It means they’re probably normal.