by | Mar 30, 2022 | Jenny Milchman, The Writer's Life, On writing | 7 comments

Jenny Milchman: Writing is a perilous business. At its best, the writer journeys through a portal deep into a fictional realm, and lives a multi-verse away from their nearest and dearest, causing all sorts of glitches like burnt dinners, or no dinners at all. At its worst, said fictional world does not appear on the page, causing said writer to turn into a roaring, demonic creature seldom seen outside of a William Peter Blatty novel.

The demonic creature your writer becomes

Below are five ways to ease the process. If you’re a writer, share these with the people in your life whom you occasionally cause to be hungry, tired, or terrified of you. If you know a writer, put one or more of these into practice. And if you’re a reader, you might find something on this list to do for your favorite author, perhaps at their next live event.

Writing isn’t easy, and most writers would probably tell you they wouldn’t even want it to be. But that doesn’t mean a few cookies don’t help.

Caffeinate your writer
  • Drinks. Ditto. I say aim for the caffeine versus alcohol end of the spectrum, but you do you. Or your writer. Have the kettle full, coffee beans ground, flavored water or seltzer or sodas in the fridge. A couple of bottles of wine never hurt.
  • Streamline. The less there is to take care of, in the house or otherwise, the happier your writer will be. Especially during those tough spots—ragged plotlines, a pressing deadline—take over as many chores, errands, and tasks as possible. Keep bills paid and the car fueled up. Make sure kids arrive at school on time and pets get their tick treatments. Ideally, lay out a clean, uncluttered path of carpet straight to the couch, with Netflix queued up and a blanket neatly folded. Or maybe just straight to bed.
  • Engagement. This is the trickiest item on the list. Sometimes your writer will want to talk—and talk and talk—about picayune character details, scene possibilities, or word choice until you feel a little dragon-like yourself. At other times, they wish the whole world could be selectively mute. Learn to recognize the subtle differences between rabid looks in your writer’s eyes, which signal: Talk to me; Listen to me; Stay far away.
  • Infusions of Joy. We all need the proverbial carrot to keep going, but writers perhaps especially so. There are long, arid periods when the words seem encased in cement and responses don’t come no matter how frequently email is refreshed. Not to mention brutal periods of rejection or plot holes big enough to swallow the whole book. So keep those treats coming. Give your writer a chocolate bar, plan a night out or a weekend away. Fill a tub and light some candles. Learn what refills your writer’s bank.
donkey and carrot, infusions of joy

Finally, keep these words in mind that Mario Puzo said to his children while he was working on The Godfather: “Keep it down, I’m writing a bestseller.” By taking care of your writer, you could be helping usher the world’s next great book into being. Even if that doesn’t happen, you’ll at least avoid a few fiery breaths from your cared for, contented writer.

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Small Bodman

    You really nailed it, Jenny — terrific suggestions here about keeping things running smoothly at home while we ruminate about our stories in our heads (as well as putting them down on our computers). I agree with all you are saying – especially the part about having chocolate available!!!

  2. Tracy Clark

    Preach! Boy, this pretty much pegs us. I second the cookie thing. Send ’em! Send lots. Brava, Jenny!

  3. Laura Hernandez

    Okay, but this doesn’t fit neatly on a frig magnet!

    • Jenny Milchman

      Ha ha ha, Laura! I will work on that.

      Karna, Tracy, Alex, clearly we all are on the same page, so to speak 🙂

      Hey, Lisa, tell him you never know, and then go on vacay!

  4. Alex Kava

    “Infusions of joy.” I like that. All of us could probably use more of those.

  5. Lisa Black

    But…Puzo really WAS writing a bestseller! I don’t think my husband is going to accept that excuse.
    Oh, who am I kidding–I could write a dozen bestsellers, it still wouldn’t get me out of any chores in my household!

  6. Tosca Lee

    Yes, yes, and amen. Especially on the snacks (“like a naked mole rat” LOLOL). And the coffee. And the infusions of joy. And engagement. And cutting back chores. Or just getting rid of them completely.