Terms and conditions for marrying a writer

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Tom and I met for lunch today and traded the usual “How’s work going?” stories. As an account manager, his work woes are mostly about corporate politics or the sale that got away. As a writer, my concern is almost always the same: “I need an idea.”

Whether it’s a newspaper column, a website post, or a scene for a novel, I’m continually hunting for a seed of an idea that might grow into something bigger. As I whined, Tom nodded his head and wisely suppressed the eye-roll he must have felt. Because we’ve been married for more than 20 years now, he isn’t fazed by the ritual of misery I go through when a deadline is approaching.

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After lunch, we each went back to our desks, and I started thinking about how Tom had no idea what he was in for when we said “I do” two decades ago. Because the truth is that writers should come with a warning. People who love writers (or artists of any kind) should have to checkmark an “I Agree” box before they seal the deal.

Below is my version of a “Terms and Conditions” agreement for anyone marrying a writer:

Please read these terms and conditions carefully before marrying this writer. This agreement documents the binding terms and conditions of successful cohabitation between you, herein known as the Spouse, and this crazy person, herein known as the Writer.

By exchanging vows with this person, you are agreeing to be bound by these terms and conditions. If you do not agree to abide by the terms outlined below, do not marry this Writer and instead run for your life.

The privacy policy states that said Writer will need material throughout the course of her career. As such, Writer will automatically use you for ideas as well as any possible future offspring your union may generate. This means, for example, that if you one day wear a hard hat and goggles while coaxing a family of squirrels out of the attic, there is a high probability your neighbors will read about it in the newspaper or a forthcoming book.

The privacy policy also states that any personality quirk you may have will likely end up attached to a character in a novel. Any changes you may wish to make to said character will not be permitted, as all content is the sole property of the Writer and, as such, is protected by intellectual property laws.

You may register critiques or complaints about the writer’s work as long as such complaints are not defamatory, negative in any way, or hurt the writer’s feelings, especially if she told you it was just a rough draft. Writer reserves the right to interpret your response of “It’s fine” as an insensitive, hurtful comment made by someone who “doesn’t get it.” Writer agrees to the stipulation that such a conclusion is not necessarily accurate or fair but is nonetheless part of the cycle of self-torment Writer endures as part of the creative process.

Because she was likely thinking of words and not actually listening, Writer shall not be responsible or liable for the availability or usefulness of any information transmitted to you in the hours preceding a deadline.

Writer also reserves the right to shoo you away, as she sees fit, if you attempt to read over her shoulder. You are also solely responsible for maintaining confidentiality about the true extent of the Writer’s insanity, although she stipulates that you may complain about it to a licensed therapist bound by privacy ethics.

We strongly advise you to carefully consider the terms and conditions contained herein. Writer loves and admires you and respects the internal fortitude required to live by these terms and conditions. Your participation will constitute acceptance of the above agreement. Good luck and Godspeed.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at rockwoodfiles@cox.net. Her book is available on Amazon.

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