Granted, I occasionally miss the Sunday funnies. But, I think I’d have remembered that Marvin’s mom (the comic strip “Marvin” by Tom Armstrong) wrote a romance novel somewhere in the past. Apparently I missed that, because as of yesterday, she’s on her SECOND romance novel now. I don’t know why this shocked me so much, but it did.
Then I started to wonder why Armstrong would choose romance writing for the mother of this… precocious?… infant of his. For a chuckle? Somebody who lives with MARVIN still has stars in her eyes? Or does he know first hand what it’s like to live with a romance writer and is throwing that into his creative mix? Given the topic of yesterday’s strip, that just might be the case. Marvin’s father starts out thinking about all the things his wife does. . . running a household, helping the grandparents who just moved in adjust to life with them, and writing a SECOND romance novel. She’s so busy, he starts to wonder if she’s tending to HIS needs enough. He ends up presenting himself to her as she is typing away on her computer with this dialogue: “You’ve got male.”
Given the discussions and “spouse” panels I’ve heard and participated in over the years, many spouses of romance writers think they don’t get enough… um… “research time.” Yeah, okay, that’s what the old boy and I used to call it when we took time out for some major lovin’. We joked about it. But apparently there are plenty of romance writers who sometimes have to wedge in a little quality physical time with their spouse or significant other. Hmmm. Sounds like Marvin’s dad speaks from experience to me.
Except, just when does a married man think he’s getting plenty of sex? How about NEVER. If it’s not romance writing, it’s scrapbooking or needlework or reading or volunteering or spending time with her sisters/friends/relatives or even (Heaven forbid!) working and parenting that occupy a wife’s time and thoughts! Not her mans libidinous needs. Which of course is foremost in her husband’s mind, so why isn’t it foremost in hers?
Um… we’re wired differently?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the male preoccupation with sex. Wait, did I just write that? Because without that pesky “thinking about sex every 45 seconds,” the human race would probably have ended a few million years ago. Females of our species (see Marvin’s Mom) have a few trillion things to do besides hungering after their favorite male and the world’s favorite sport. Things like, oh, keeping families, workplaces, and the world in general together while testosterone-fueled males keep trying to blow it up. Yes, I know that’s stereotyping, but I never said I didn’t have a few prejudices. Very few wars in human history have been started by women.
But I digress. My point here, if I had one, is that romance novel writing is everywhere these days, sometimes as comic-fodder, sometimes as a genuine peek at the world behind the scenes, and sometimes just because “romance” is bigger business than it used to be. And for that you can thank us, the real romance writers of America. To quote both admirers and critics: we make it look easy.
And we all know it’s not.
Writing a book of any kind is hard, time-consuming work. Yes, sometimes it’s joyful work and give us such pleasure that we don’t think of it as work, but it still requires effort aplenty and dedication to the same story and the same blank page over a long period of time. And yes, almost everybody thinks they can do it. Who knows? Maybe they could. It is often said that there’s a book in everybody. Personally, I would revise that statement to say, there’s a STORY in everybody. Only writers have a book in them and not everybody has the introspection, stamina, or desire to bring forth their story onto a page for others to read, talk about, and just perhaps enjoy.
A writer acquaintance of mine has pronounced publicly, again and again, that “Anybody can do this,” meaning that anybody can write and publish romance. In this age of internet access and the democritization of publishing, that may be literally true. But I still don’t think that just everyone can write a novel-length work of fiction that tells a coherent, creative story borne forward on themes that engender hope and satisfaction. Because that’s what we do, we professional romance writers. It’s a tall order. You writers out there… think of the last time you faced putting together a new story, a “fresh” new proposal and stared at a totally blank page. How easy did it seem then?
That’s not to say we don’t encourage people who want to write romance to do so. Heck, we have a whole 10,000 strong group of people willing to join an organization at $90 a pop just to be with other people who share the same goals and obsession. Imagine the number of others out there who’d like to do so, but don’t have the time or the cash at the moment to do so! And we writers share the “secrets” of publishing and teach our craft FOR FREE to pretty much anyone who wants to try it.
Some days, that’s just too amazing to get my head around. As a writer friend’s husband said: we’re training our competition.
Yep, that’s us. We’re women and we stick together and share and cope and hold things together. . . we help each other reach for dreams, knowing that our kids are watching and learning from our experiences. With each bit of sharing and growing and writing and publishing. . . the world becomes a better place.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
What about you? Where was the last “unexpected” place you saw romance writing as an occupation? And do you think “anyone can do it?” Do you read “Marvin?” Do you also think that’s it’s about bloody time the kid got a haircut and was potty trained?