Wednesday Writers: Helen Stubbs

After a holiday period hiatus, Wednesday Writers in back! And, who better to start with than the wonderful Helen Stubbs with a timely post on love? Generally, I try and pretend Valentine’s Day doesn’t exist, but Helen has managed to write such a great post that I am feeling all warm and fuzzy!

Speaking of Helen and writing, make sure you check out some of her work. There is a reason why she is one of the most exciting new voices around!

The Writer in Love.
(or I love you…can you leave me alone?)

Hi David, thanks for having me on Wednesday writers.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day I’ve chucked my initial blog in the bin folder, in favour of a piece on the troublesome matter that is balancing one’s human love with one’s true love. That is, writing.

A wise woman and published author once said to me: If something is in the way of your writing, get rid of it. I assumed this applied to spouses, too, but it didn’t seem quite fair at the time as we’d just had a baby together. So I’ve kept my partner and he comes in quite handy in a number of ways.

Continuing down the tangent of imparted advice, a good friend once said to me, with empathy, that writers need time to do nothing. I translate this to mean that it looks like we’re doing nothing, when in fact we are very busy in our heads (the best place to be). We silently toil developing realistic characters out of thin air and intricately weaving plotlines and details into our latest masterpiece then flitting off to find something to scrawl on (or tap at) to record our latest instance of, AHA! I just solved that pesky plot flaw!

Therefore, some of the qualities a writer needs in a partner are patience and respect for mental space and distance. A writer needs blocks of time to him or herself, which can be very hard to come by in this busy world.

Support, “You’re so talented!” probably wouldn’t go astray. I envy the authors who get up on stage and guff on about, “And I need to thank my wife, Regina, who believed in me even when I didn’t.”

My partner has the “Helen needs time to herself” thing nailed, but he reads my stuff and shrugs. “It’s okay.”

The problem might be with what I write about. Husbands fare badly in my work. I don’t know why. I love my father, my brother and my partner so it’s not one of those I hate men things. Perhaps I am trying to even things up against the popularity of female victims. And besides, what’s a strong woman to save a man from if he hasn’t been chopped up a little?

Before I digressed, I was discussing the time and space for writing. Writing can be compared to a meditative or religious practice. If I don’t make time for it, my calm deteriorates. Therefore, everyone in the relationship is happier if a writer has time to write.

But writers are not all selfishness and silence. There are several upsides to having a writer as a partner, though I wonder how writer-writer relationships work. I would be interested to hear from someone in a double-writer relationship. If you are reading, do comment, oh Writer in love with a Writer.

I’m going to take a stab at some generalisations on the positive qualities of writers. I believe we are resourceful. No whiney clinginess for us. (Except for “wine” wine. You know, red and white. We usually love that). Give us a pen and paper and we can entertain ourselves for hours. But beware if our story isn’t working, or we’ve received a rejection that morning. There might be a furrowed brow. A snappy remark. Even a sulk.

We are creative and imaginative. If you’re stuck in longboat on a river of sump oil with trolls waving heat tracking miniature missiles at you from the Harbour Bridge above, you want us on your team. We’ll write you a powered parachute and hurricane out of there.

We’re romantic…aren’t we? We ought to be able to create a decent love poem, at any rate.

I think we’re open-minded and empathic. Hell, I am. Things that annoy other people are fascinating to me. I want to know what goes on in others’ heads so I can add it to a character, some day. I think there’s an overlay of my own oddness here. Sometimes I see life as a work of fiction and people as the characters. Only a little. I’m not totally mad.

If only life conformed to the neat structure of fiction and it always had a happy ending.

This brings me to the point that writing and love are inextricable bedfellows. They are entangled! The reality of romantic love is always a story. Stories of death are generally riveting and so are stories of love. In reality, love often ends sadly, be it in departure or death, which is poignant.

The concept of romantic love arose from courtly love and chivalry – very recently in evolutionary terms. Everyone has heard the story of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. We also know the great romances of Shakespeare and Austen with their explorations of heartfelt love and real problems like enmity and financial concerns.

Some authorities on the matter tie romantic love to the development of the novel. Parents and governesses have long been concerned about the silly notions novels put into their daughters’ heads. Now we have Barbie and the Internet for that.

But love runs deeply; it fills our hearts, it burns in our veins. It most certainly wasn’t invented less than a thousand years ago. I suspect feelings of lust and adoration evolved with humans and animals. (I believe animals love, in a slightly different way.) But, back in those days, love may have been a minor concern compared to imminent death, hunger, disease and social standing.

So, are writers to blame for all this romantic love business? (Romantic love being alleged as a great oppressor of women and hijacked by commercial purveyors of chocolate, jewellery and roses.) I shrug. Perhaps. We did think up space travel, too. You can’t win them all, right?

Where am I heading here? I’m not sure, but I better find somewhere to go. AHA! She races to the keyboard…

If writers gave us love, then we must give love to our writers.

You, partners of writers out there, who are being forced to read this amazing insight into modern times and the human condition…

Treasure your writer. We are wonderful, sensitive, intelligent individuals, so talented that sometimes we don’t know what to do with ourselves. You can admit it; you don’t know what to do with us, either.

Bring us a coffee and our laptop in bed. That’s better than breakfast. Give us half a day at home to write. A whole day? Did you say we could have a WHOLE day? See us leaping onto your lap, yelping with joy, our paws raised, our tongue lolling with joy! We will love you forever for the gifts of time and understanding.

HELEN STUBBS will be on a panel about Birth, Life and Death in Speculative Fiction at the Conflux Natcon in Canberra in April. Her fan group, GC Speckies will attend Gold Coast Supernova in April, too, so come say “Hi,” if you’re there. She is one of the fans. They are not her fans.

Her upcoming publication is “Casino Five,” in Next. Please ask for her autograph; she loves that. Her short stories are also in Tales from The Bell Club, Midnight Echo, Winds of Change, and Dead Red Heart. She won the Aussiecon Four Short Story Competition with “The Perforation,” and was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award. On twitter she is @superleni. Disregard the hat.


5 thoughts on “Wednesday Writers: Helen Stubbs

  1. Janis Hanley

    Excellent blog, Helen. It takes a Superleni to bring together Valentines and spaceships. I’m sure people have wanted to travel the stars for as long as they have had romantic notions about each other. Perhaps writers help us jump on the coat-tails of ideas to make them real. The word begins it.

  2. Nalini Haynes

    Your post serves to emphasise (to me, anyway) that we are all alike and all completely alien to one another.

    Alike in that we have loves, not all of whom are human. Alike in that coffee and wine are essential: my cure for most traumas is a bottle of red, preferably accompanied by chilli of some kind, and a good cry.

    Different in our perceptions of romance (don’t give me breakfast in bed, not even coffee – leave it on the coffee table) and same with the laptop.

    My laptop is dying – it was inevitable: having been neglected for the past few years, I dug it out to use at uni. This being the first week of uni, it’s dying so I have to purchase a new one. But even if my laptop was humming with vitality, I prefer sitting at the computer to type, facebook, tweet etcetera.

    In the evenings hubby & I tend to watch TV. After finishing Chuck (about which I feel extremely ambivalent but gave 3 out of 5 stars), I told hubby that I won’t be watching as much TV this year. Not only did the enormous and repetitive plot holes in Chuck make me want to hyperventilate in spite of the comedy (I know, I’m harsh) but I was SO FRUSTRATED that I could have been doing OTHER STUFF instead of watching it. If hubby wants me to sit with him while he’s watching TV, I’m happy to read if he wears headphones. Or maybe, if I have a working laptop, maybe I could bring myself to write on the couch while he watches TV.

    Maybe we’re not so different after all…

  3. David Post author

    Thanks for a great post, Helen, and thanks to everyone who commented…

    I know that if my loved one didn’t support my writing I would still be unpublished. It’s not just the writer who makes sacrifices for their art.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *