I Should Wear a Warning Label

By Sheila S. Hudson

I confess. I am a writer. I have been one for over 25 years. I am unable to stop. No amount of counseling has helped. I am hopelessly addicted to paper and ink.

In my research, I’ve discovered others suffering this same obsession. I propose a solution. In order to save our reputations and unnecessary verbiage, writers with this malady should always display and wear upon their person–warning labels.

Not just any label, but one befitting the mood and occasion.

And why not? We label cough syrup, cigarettes, craft supplies, food and nonfood items alike. Sometimes the label goes further and state the symptoms of abuse.

When I am working feverishly against a deadline, reasonable or not, a caution should be displayed in a prominent place like the front door or stuck on my forehead alerting all who approach of impending danger. Wording could be something like the following:

Contents under pressure.

Handle at own risk.

Caution. Approach with care.

Death or serious injury could result.

Fraternizing with an insecure writer can be a dangerous undertaking. All conversations, scandals, gossip tidbits or secrets are fair game and could possibly become part of a short story, feature, or newspaper article. A writer’s significant other is constantly at risk. That person is the last bastion of privacy to their friends and relatives. It may be up to them to advise guests and strangers of their situation. Some my spouse has used are:

High-risk area (writer has been spotted in area).

Beware of explicit lyrics and sexual innuendo (may wind up in print).

Do not puncture or incinerate (verbally or within earshot of the writer).

This visit may have harmful side effects.

A desperate writer can get 1,000 words out of taking the garbage to the Dumpster. During writer’s block, a freelancer may sift through personal experiences and “modify” a personal experience claiming poetic license with emphasis on “lie.”

Family vacations are not exempt. Vacationing with a writer is not “down time.” Writers never take vacations. I constantly scribble regardless of the local or temperature. My luggage is full of newspapers, travel brochures, and items of interest “just in case.” Writer significant others should use caution especially when traveling outside the United States. Some of the following may apply.

Never allow writer to operate machinery while under the influence of inspiration.

Too much stimulation may cause writing sessions for hours.

Do not mix writer with alcoholic substances.

Keep writer out of reach of children and pets.

Day to day routines can lose their luster for many, but a creative writer with too much time on their hands has been known to lift the mundane to bizarre and beyond. Living with a writer is difficult but be forewarned that it is anything but dull. The quirky lifestyle of a writer:

May be addictive.

Could cause drowsiness.

May result in serious injury.

Contains all new material.

Even the most conscientious discover innuendo creeping into supposedly unbiased and non-fictional reporting. It therefore lies in the realm of agent/ manager/partner/spouse (in other words YOU) to correct errors and rein in your writer when things get out of hand. This may occur at book signings, parties, or family reunions.

A writer on a word binge is no different from an alcoholic; he has no grasp on reality and cannot rest until his current manuscript is put to bed and another begun. The writer must begin another manuscript immediately else the blank page will mock both his dreams and leisure time. I know this from personal experience. That is one stress you do not want to add to your otherwise carefree life. For lifestyle happiness, I recommend basic cardinal rules.

Handle your writer with care.

Treat as highly explosive.

Do not freeze, refrigerate or expose to sunlight.

Never approach a writer who is sitting in silence and ask, “What are you doing?” The writer in question will take offense. Since our tribe is constantly tinkering with the layout of the next article or book chapter.

If you question them, they will be affronted and assume you are accusing them of daydreaming. Or, if you observe them watching a favorite television sitcom, you should never assume they are relaxing but rather untangling story formats, noting transitions, or watching for plot points and complications.

With more than fifty years of marriage under our belts, my husband suggests that I wallpaper my office with rejection slips. He wisely encourages resubmission of returned manuscripts and refuses to allow me to wallow in self-pity. He patiently reminds me that to be a writer means:

Some assembly may be required.

Batteries are not included.

Under penalty of law, this warning label is not to be removed!

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