Men, Women, Writing, and Getting Laid

Matt has assured me on more than one occasion that the reason men choose to do anything is, first and foremost, because they think doing it will get them laid.

Design the Eiffel Tower? Compose a magnificent concerto? Do a hundred pushups a day? Write a novel?

The man thinks “This will get me laid.” And he’s right. For a man, the secret to getting laid is to stand apart from other men—to be really good at something valuable, or admirable, or cool, to be competent, to be different than every other man a woman knows. Men don’t have to be young or gorgeous, to have great hair or a square jaw or a perfect body to get a woman or women. They have to stand apart.

If you’re a woman, on the other hand, breathing will get you laid, and sometimes even that’s setting the bar too high.

Doubt me? Think you aren’t pretty enough, young enough, whatever enough?

If you’re a woman and you’d like to test out this theory, walk with a female friend into any place where men gather to buy manly things (Home Depot, Best Buy, auto parts store). Carry a stopwatch. In an empty aisle, one of you will say, a bit too loudly, “God, I need to get laid. I want to meet someone.” The other one of you will start the stopwatch. I’m saying this line will bring at least one man into your aisle within thirty seconds. He’ll amble in casually, looking at something in your aisle…only not. He’s checking you out.

If he looks up at either of you and smiles, you have just met someone. Remember saying you wanted to meet someone? If he’s an employee and appears as if from nowhere, and asks if you ladies need help, you probably also have just met someone. (Well… he could just be the one guy working that day who isn’t avoiding working and who wants the challenge of figuring out what “one of those bendy thingees that go on the inside of the square thingee in the car” is. But what are the odds?)

Ball’s in your court.

A smile from a man is usually an invitation to explore possibilities (in public places, to smile back or to say hello), something women learn before puberty. Men smile when they see things they like. Doing so, they’re expressing interest.

The automatic female reaction to being smiled at by an unknown man is to look away or to frown. This is so automatic it’s almost instinctive, and if women don’t realize they’re doing it, they end up believing that there are no men in the world who would want them, because they’re turning down all sorts of invitations without acknowledging they’ve even received them.

Clearly, no matter who you are, not every man will test the waters with a smile because all men have different attractiveness filters… but as many men as can do so without getting shot or fired will find an excuse to amble over to the Romantic Comedy section where you’re standing to see if what they just heard might translate into something they might want.

The basic (not unbreakable) rule between the sexes is that men put together their best offer, based on their skills, talents, interests, and abilities, and they broadcast the offer—and women select from what’s offered. Women get offers by fitting into any given man’s classification of “Yeah, I could go for that.”

So what does this have to do with writing?

Men can get laid by pursuing writing and doing it well (or at least well enough to impress women.) God knows, it worked on me. I met not one but two future husbands because they wrote.

Women will NOT get laid by pursuing writing. No woman will ever get a man by casually mentioning that she writes novels. This is not a workable female pick-up line. The ONLY workable pick-up line for a woman is some variant on “I might consider sleeping with you,” or any action apart from words that would allow a man to think this.

Smiling. Blinking.

Breathing…

I need to take a moment to throw in a caveat here. Crossing gender attraction lines, I’ve noticed that in general, gay men seem to use the same filters for selecting men that straight men use for selecting women—appearance, not accomplishment. And that gay women seem to use the same filters for finding other women that straight women use for selecting men—accomplishment, not appearance. So a lesbian writer might very well attract a mate with the “I’m working on a novel” line.

This is an observation at second-hand, so I may be wrong. But I did not want to ignore this part of the discussion, and would be happy to entertain comments across the complement of gender variants in adult human relationships.

But. WRITING.

When we are sane and not self-destructive, human beings do things because they improve our chances of survival. For men, survival is wired to be broadly procreative, and while the male selection criteria for choosing a mate runs along varying lines of “breathing, healthy, would have sex with me,” attracting a mate or mates requires accomplishment. “I’m working on my next novel,” is a good line, better if you can back it up by presenting something you’ve written that’s really good.

For women, who cannot parent two hundred kids because women’s bodies devour themselves in the making of each one—Angelina Jolie being the exception who proves the rule—survival is genetically wired to being as narrowly procreative as possible—to having the best possible mate we can attract (by being young, pretty and healthy…or at least receptive), and then keeping him around for protection and to take care of food and shelter while making the occasional baby.

So writing does not fulfill the ‘attract a mate’ survival need in women—women don’t need to be accomplished to procreate.

What survival need does writing fulfill for us?

I didn’t start writing as a pursuit of self-actualization, that’s for sure. Or to find my inner self, or to change the world, or to find a mate. I wanted to write because my income mattered to our survival, and I wanted to find a way of making money that would let me stay home with my kids. I’d read that Anne McCaffrey had started writing for the same reason, and I thought, “I could do that.”

Writing for me was not a love-at-first-sight pursuit. I got to know it, and fell in love over time. Like the other relationships in my life that have lasted, there was an initial attraction, followed by a lot of work, with the big payoff (true love) coming only with knowing each other well. 😀

But how representative is my experience to the experiences of other women? To you as a female writer? How valid is what I’ve observed and been told about men to you as a male writer?

I don’t know. But I want to know.

Dig deep. Be honest. What do you hope the end result of your writing will be?

P.S. Why is this on my blog?

Well, I’m working on this novel…

Seriously, though, it’s topical to a part of the book I am working on, and something about which I’d really like to get other views.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

66 comments… add one
  • Deb Gallardo Jun 15, 2017 @ 12:26

    Hi, Holly. Here’s my take on this topic.
    In retrospect, I presume the reason I was clueless about the way men and women connect was that I was not heterosexual. The thing is, I didn’t realize this until I was in my fifties, divorced and had a teenaged daughter. (So, no regrets about having been married to her dad, who is a good man.)

    I grew up in a small-town culture that still puzzles me in a lot of ways, but is also as familiar as a pair of well-worn shoes. Maybe the fact that I didn’t “get” the whole behavioral thing about gender differences also skews my reaction now. I spent a huge portion of my life “not getting” a lot of things. I tended to take most things at face value. I wasn’t looking for underlying meanings in what people said. I also was fairly passive in many areas of my life. And naive; let’s not forget naive. Make that ultra naive.

    I thought every girl had crushes on female teachers. It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t just “I want to be like her.” It was also a strong “I want to spend time with her.” I sometimes made a pest of myself in my younger days, but I wasn’t so insensitive that I didn’t realize what I was doing was intrusive. I just couldn’t seem to help myself. I also didn’t make the same mistake twice with the same person.

    Only now, in my late sixties, do I have enough perspective to examine my history and try to make sense of it. I’m not saying I have the right answers even now, but at least I’ve cleared up several mysteries from my past.

    My, this is certainly more self-revealing than I’ve ever been about this aspect of my life! So, I might as well add that I have a life partner whose late mother would have been my age. We met online via Facebook (how’s that for a cliche’?) and after our second video chat have been committed to one another fully even though separated by about 400 miles for the first couple of months. We each visited the other, and after five months, I said, “Californie is the place I oughta be. So I loaded up a Jeep and moved to…” Well, you get the idea. And, no, it wasn’t to “Beverly. Hills, that is.” But “Inland Empire” doesn’t scan or rhyme.

    I really struggled at first with the age difference. I’m nothing to look at, although I suppose my personality makes up for some shortcomings. What made the difference for me was my partner’s sixth sense, if you will. It’s much more than that, but we’ll leave it there. She knows things about me that no one else knows. A few things even I didn’t know until I checked them out. More than anyone in my whole life, she knows me, what I’m really like, and she still loves me. THAT is something I never expected. It was humbling, to say the least, because I always believed if people knew what I was really like, they’d never want anything to do with me. Did I mention low self-esteem along with ultra-naivete’?

    And so, I always believed that my view of self was the only truth that existed. I suffered from constant fear that I’d be discovered as an imposter. The only two things I wasn’t worried about were my musical theatre work (I sang before I spoke, according to my late mother—the Joy soap jingle from the radio Mom listened to back then) and my writing. I know I’m pretty darn good at both of those endeavors. My voice is no longer what it once was, and I may have a LOT to learn about writing still, but you can’t help but improve your writing when you’re a voracious reader and have been writing for over 30 years.

    After an unpleasant experience with a writers’ group, I lost my confidence and my writer’s momentum, plunging immediately into clinical depression which had been plaguing me off and on for a decade. Did I also mention I am often my own worst enemy? Yep. That one probably surpasses my naivete’ and low self-esteem. And that’s saying something.

    Still, I write because I must. If I didn’t write SOMETHING, without another creative outlet I think my body would cease normal functioning. When I was involved in theatre, that alternative creative outlet sustained me, so there was a period of about 15 years where I wrote little that was new. I would pull out something from my hard drive and fiddle with it. Did I also mention I have a children’s story I’ve been working on intermittently since 1983? Literally. It’s had more reincarnations than Shirley MacLaine.

    When I retired from working for other people in 2012, I sold my mom’s house and moved from Ohio to “Aridzona” where my only sibling lives, and I did so for the express purpose of writing fulltime. That was my plan, at least. But I discovered that one of the few books which survived my backup drive’s melt-down was a romantic suspense novel that was no longer relevant to who I am. And adapting a traditional romance into a Lesbian love story isn’t as simple as simply swapping genders.

    As a result, it took me some time to figure out what I wanted to write, what my purpose was. In some ways, it’s almost easier to start from ground zero than to rework a fifth draft that’s been gathering cyber dust for more than a decade. You have to REALLY care about the story. Fortunately, the two novels that I had on my computer’s hard drive, as well as those others on my backup drive with 30 years’ worth of writing that may be irretrievable (I still haven’t given up hope. Just can’t afford to have it looked at), were the only two that are truly worthy of diving into.

    Even so, with clarity in my life on who I am now, my perspective has, in so many diverse ways, altered. It had already evolved somewhat over time. I’m not sure why I’m spilling my guts to you, Holly, or to the group. But in my mind, which I’ll agree is not always the brightest bulb in the chandelier even though it’s made of Austrian Crystal, it’s at least marginally relevant.

    I made a complete idiot of myself with my first Lesbian partner, moving all the way to England for six months, returning after the mandatory three months’ wait. Too late I discovered I’d sold or given up everything I owned for a person who may have also had the sixth sense my partner has, but NEVER saw the true me. And while I was in the States, she met someone almost 40 years younger than I who lived in England.

    How quickly three months can alter your entire life. Well, a few minutes has that same potential, too, but you get my point.

    So, Holly, some of us are wholly unreliable when it comes to sensing opposite genders’ and same genders’ mating rituals, for lack of a better term. I will say that both my former partner and my present one are also writers.

    Even my ex-husband had some aspiration in that direction, as well, but never followed through. He was always singing the same old song, “When are you going to get published?” This was looooong before self-publishing came into its own with Amazon. He bitched about every new computer we had to upgrade to. And I could go on, but won’t. He just didn’t understand my drive to write, my need for a computer and printer that were compatible with word processing software, including the method of getting words printed onto the page. It wasn’t a constant thing, but I still remember how I felt when he tried to guilt-trip me.

    I’ve learned one thing over the years, and that’s how essential it is for a writer to keep technology current in the digital age. Writing with pen and paper may work for some people. But once I was able to type on a computer, I never looked back. No need to retype on a typewriter (electric or manual) an entire manuscript page destined for a publisher because of one blankety-blank mistyped word.

    I’m hesitant to put this out here, as it may not seem relevant to you or the rest of the group. (There’s that insecurity again…) I suppose what I’ve been skirting around, and only just now realized, is that some of us never truly learn ANY social cues.
    As I considered this, my first thought was to wonder if I might have mild Asperger’s Syndrome. But my partner mentioned my prudish upbringing when I read her this, and a light bulb suddenly switched on. It was the verbal and non-verbal teaching from my prudish mother which is truly what put me at a disadvantage in all kinds of social situations, as I look back on it with my long-ago-in-a-faraway-galaxy” perspective.

    Hindsight truly is 20/20. And if you read this far, you’re probably overdue for sainthood.

    Hope this is marginally useful in the discussion.

    • Holly Lisle Jun 15, 2017 @ 13:23

      No matter where you’re coming from, figuring out who you are is never easy. I’m glad you found your way home.

      I remember your trip to England, by the way — and not hearing from you for a while after you went. Now I know why. And I’m sorry, but I’m glad you found the right person eventually.

      Hugs.

      And thank you so much for posting this.

  • mehong Oct 6, 2016 @ 19:04

    awesome post!

    • Holly Lisle Oct 11, 2016 @ 5:55

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Dawn Jul 4, 2009 @ 20:27

    Oh and smiling at the wrong guy can get you right in the middle of a sexual harassment triangle gone wrong… and searching for a new job, new friends, and a new life.

  • Dawn Jul 4, 2009 @ 20:26

    While we were dating, my husband wrote a novel with one of his buddies. I was thrilled! He shared my love of writing. Twelve years later, he hasn’t written another marketable thing. His interest took a left turn into role playing writing, so he IS still writing just for his own enjoyment. I can respect that, but it’s not as exciting as thinking we’d one day be published together.

  • Krista Jun 29, 2009 @ 16:58

    Interesting timing. I’ve been thinking about my pursuit of publication vs. the actual act of writing. Other than reading, I can’t think of anything I enjoy more. I love surprising myself. I am continually surprised by the detours my characters make while making their way steadily toward their individual goals.

    Oh, sure, sometimes I get frustrated and overwhelmed, worried that I’ve lost my way and the characters have mutinied. But most of the time, it’s the rush that keeps me going. That feeling of being a conduit rather than a creator is addicting.

    The pressure of publication on the other hand is paralyzing. It dampens the rush of creating with a dose of reality. Suddenly I’m writing for an unknown audience. Mistakes will get me thrown out of the game, at least temporarily. Suddenly there’s pressure and fear, uncertainty and second-guessing.

    Still, I want to be published. I want to see my name on the book cover and on the binding. I want to walk into a store and know that something I created from nothing could provide some stranger a night or two of entertainment. For that is probably my ultimate goal, I want to entertain someone other than myself. Sharing is half the fun, right?

  • Anambika Jun 29, 2009 @ 8:39

    Why is that my comment awaits moderation, while the latest ones doesn’t need any? Holly, Are you sleeping over it, so much, whether to accept or discard it? Do it what you wish I don’t mind 🙂

  • Sean Jun 28, 2009 @ 15:39

    Thanks, Craig..I enjoyed the story of you and your wife a lot. Working on reading your blog, too…though it’s feeling slightly over my head at the moment. Maybe another coffee…

  • Sean Jun 28, 2009 @ 12:04

    Crazily, I just put up a little piece of writing that features an attractive but unreceptive woman, and an interested but not-standing-out fellow in a two-minute cartoon. I would be so honored if you clicked my name and looked! Oh my gosh! Holly might be coming over! We gotta clean this place up!

    • Craig A. Eddy Jun 28, 2009 @ 12:29

      Sean,

      Interesting cartoon. You definitely appear to have the attitudes right. 😀

      Craig

  • Sean Jun 28, 2009 @ 11:59

    Hey Holly. That was a fascinating article! Thanks!

    I would say you’re on target, as far as the different priorities of men and women in finding a mate (short or long-term). Men are wired to find sex – or (sexual) attention from women…as many women as possible. And a woman needs to be beautiful, I think…attractive to US (and please know, ladies…there is a vast, diverse field of what we dudes consider ‘beautiful’. No matter who you are, it’s likely you are considered beautiful by some of the guys out there!).

    Of course, a woman who is confident, independent and smart is highly attractive. Self-posession is hot! Whereas an ugly personality or negativity or arrogance can make the sexiest woman become…uh…not so much.

    The pursuit of a mission in life is another reason to pursue writing. Maybe writing could potentially help a man get laid if, like you said, he stands out at it. My artistic pursuits haven’t helped me there, I don’t think. Maye I’m not that good at it. haha. But to pursue something fulfilling is very important, to.

    Hey Holly –
    I’ve been bummed out a couple times when I smile at a cute woman in line at a store and she frowns and/or turns away quickly. To learn that that is an instinctive response absolutely makes my day! I just thought I was a disgusting toad!

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    • Holly Lisle Jun 29, 2009 @ 12:04

      We smiled back at the boy in sixth grade who then took that an an invitation to put an arm around us and bluntly stare down our blouse to see if our boobs were real…yes, they were.

      Okay. So this wasn’t “we.” This was me. But most women have an early experience where we discovered that someone had changed the rules when we weren’t looking, and a smile no longer just meant “Hi.” It carried baggage. So we stopped smiling.

      It took me years to get past that, to be able to smile at men again. Some women just don’t. Those first few experiences can be pretty rough.

      • Jennifer Jun 30, 2009 @ 11:44

        True. You don’t smile back unless you are immediately 100% sure that you want to be chased by this guy right now. If you’re not 100% sure you want to go there this second, you look away.

        Man, heterosexuality sucks. Reading this post made me wish I could go for women sexually, because I’m far more of a “showoff” than a “just let any old dude come to me” girl.

  • Anambika Jun 27, 2009 @ 20:33

    It is 3 AM in the morning, I just toss around in my bed thinking of my life, where it’s taking me: 30 and running, nice job, single, not yet got laid, (you have to get married to get laid in India, at least in most of the cases), and “will I get married?” I ask, “No!” the answer hits me like a surf that booms into a rock, but the next wave of thought is a little less ferocious, “May be, I may get married, but I might not want it. It may not work.” reason – I cannot be a protector. A man needs to be a protector, right? “drive my wife to her work, take her to the hospital in a two wheeler at least when she is not well, pick up the bill and pay for the dinner at a restaurant, buy tickets in a theatre booth, look into her eyes and understand – Eyes is all that matters in love, a girl had told me once, what can I do, I am visually challenged (to put it mildly), blind, (to put it bluntly), and I want to be blunt, even if it offends you. I can put food on the table and a roof over the head, enough and more, I have a lucrative job that pays well, but that’s not all that’s needed.
    What do I do?
    I write, … one fine afternoon, inspired by a story plot that emerged slowly but strongly, on a bus journey, I start writing, tapping the keys of my computer, desperately, before the image fades away (the image in my mind’s eye), before the edges become blur, the colors dull out, simultaneously letting another part of my mind to wander around for new possibilities, the plot has to progress in all directions. I think I become a writer.
    Writer? Why? Want money and fame? (my heart is content with what I have, but that’s not enough, I want more) why? “Fame is the last infirmity of a noble mind” Milton’s lycidas would say, and I want fame. Money will also help. Isn’t writing, my childhood dream? I had always wanted to write, poems, short stories, novels, hadn’t I?
    Today … Now … the second I opened your page, and read those words, rather heard those words read by my screen reader, I got another reason for my doing, or at least what I am trying to do. The reason that should have been lurking underneath all those facades – fame, money, recognition, duty calls, not letting the talents waste away. No, the reason was that I desperately, hanging-from-a-cliff-holding-on-to-the-smallest-rock-protrution-with-two-weak-fingers desperately wanted to accomplish, prove, not to myself, but to the female world, that I am a man, A MAN … not because I wanted to have sex, to boast that I am a man (I wonder what is there to boast in being a man), but, I have to prove that I am a man, else I would lose my identity. Even now, I have lost a bit of it. Of late, I like to identify myself with tiresias, not just because he was also blind, but because he was both a man and a woman, or even the Mahabharata’s Bhrihanalla would do, I think, (Hero Arjuna’s name when he was a eunuch). But, in reality, all these days, unconsciously, I have been trying to prove myself a man. Why? I don’t know, I had no qualms over losing my identity, many a times, I have longed to be a no-man. …
    Let’s leave it at this. Enough of my rambling. Let me turn to my writing. I have to prove myself a man. Thanks holly for opening my eyes to my inner motives for wanting to become a writer. Will I do?

  • Grace Jun 26, 2009 @ 17:15

    Holly wrote above: “Women will NOT get laid by pursuing writing. No woman will ever get a man by casually mentioning that she writes novels. This is not a workable female pick-up line. The ONLY workable pick-up line for a woman is some variant on “I might consider sleeping with you,” or any action apart from words that would allow a man to think this.”

    Hi Holly:
    I was just talking to a friend about this last week. She is forty, single, and started writing in the last five years or so. For most of her thirties she gave up on dating after a painful breakup and put all her steam behind becoming a writer. This brings me to why I responded to your post. She and I discussed how her dating life exploded (I noticed this) after she became a novelist. I have been there when men hear she writes and immediately their interest in her grows and they focus a good measure of attention on her. I’ve also known many men that were attracted to her, sight unseen, because they read something she wrote.

    From what I saw I think men find a woman that is accomplishing something, especially writing, very appealing because there are numerous qualities that must be present in order for her to do so. She has to be disciplined, tenacious, hopeful, intelligent, etc. My friend has a great outlook on life too and this comes through in her work. She is no bedhopper and doesn’t use her writing as a pickup line but I often see it work that way. Men from their 20’s to 60’s have reacted positively to her because of it.

    I really enjoy seeing this happen because sometimes there is a stigma around being a woman that is forty and single. But she is having more fun, feeling more attractive and vivacious, than she did in her 20’s. She told me that what shocked her most is that just when she thought the romantic side of her life was over is when it became better than ever. I have to wonder if the same would be true if she had not decided on becoming a writer.

    I just wanted to add my two cents on this. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • Holly Lisle Jun 29, 2009 @ 11:57

      😀 Finding people you want to keep is an entirely different issue than random initial sexual attraction.

      The absolute best way to find someone you want to keep is to take yourself off the market, devote your life to doing something that you love, and then go places where there are other folks who love the same thing.

      And again, THIS goes back to self-selected communities.

      • Your friend moved herself out of all association with the community of women desperate to meet men, women looking for a husband, and women looking for a credit card with sex benefits, three communities that men avoid out of a well-earned sense of self-preservation.
      • She turned her life into the life she wanted to live, fulfilled her ambitions, and made herself happy.
      • Then, as a happy, self-fulfilled woman, she started associating with men who A) value reading, B) like what SHE writes, and C) have already met and liked her mind and her viewpoint on life.

      So, yeah, she’s doing well. Any woman who follows those steps will do well—and age is not a factor. I have no doubt I would be able to find good, worthwhile men who would be interested in me if I were looking. I found Matt, my best friend, husband, and fellow life traveler, using those exact steps.

      Stop looking for someone to save you.
      Save yourself; make your own life matter to you.
      Find other people who share your values.

      Easiest thing in the world…and most people will never do it because it means they have to figure out what they value apart from what anyone else values—and then they have to take action.

  • Betty Jun 26, 2009 @ 12:30

    I’m looking over these lofty ambitions, and wow …. I just want to scare people or, failing that, make them puke.

  • Brian Cansler Jun 26, 2009 @ 10:55

    Holly, as always, I see that what you’ve noticed matches with what I’ve noticed in human nature. Although the generalizations you’ve made above don’t apply directly to me, they apply to 98% of the males and females, gay and straight, I’ve encountered in my 18 years of life (hopefully, my age will not discount my opinion for many readers here as it has in so many other discussion groups outside this site).

    I break the mold often. In a sense, Rick was along the right track when he said that “too many exceptions invalidates the rule.” However, I think that statement should be reworked: “Too high a ratio of rule-breakers to rule-followers invalidates a rule.” If we counted every individual exception to the generalized rule Holly observed above, the number would be overwhelmingly high and make anyone who agrees with her sound insane. However, when we take into account the standard rule-followers when looking at the exceptions, the number seems much lower and less shocking.

    Anyway, back to me breaking the mold. I’m an 18-year-old guy who is very popular in many social groups. However, I was not a sports guy–I was drum major in the band. I play the piccolo (a manly instrument, right?), and I’m probably the most hopelessly romantic guy any of you will ever meet. I’m quite sure that almost everyone who observes me and my actions without knowing me would think I’m flamboyantly gay, but I’m not (although I am a strong advocate for gay rights). I say all of that to enforce the idea that I break the mold of the traditional straight teenage guy. Yet while breaking the mold, I love women, and I love sex. A lot. And I certainly smile a lot while flirting with a particularly cute girl.

    But writing is not something I do to attract girls. My motives stem from a much deeper part of myself. I write because I want to become a household name. I write because I have stories to tell. I write because I want to make a lot of money doing something I love. But most of all, I write because I love to write. It’s a channel and an escape for my emotions. It’s a form of art I’m exceedingly passionate about, much like music. The best quote to explain why I love writing was written by Holly herself: “Words matter. Words and what they mean and how you relate to them change your thinking, your actions, your philosophy, and your existence.” I think this quote, now my favourite, explains the reasoning behind all communication in general.

  • cherylp Jun 26, 2009 @ 0:27

    Emily’s post I agree with. I have the innate need to create something that didn’t before exist.

    My husband is a very romantic soul, but he can be what I style as crude. He’lll make a sexual joke or scatological reference without even blinking an eye, yet he’ll get almost teary-eyed over a sad movie.

    He cheerfully admits that men are pigs and think about sex. A lot.

    I think that men just feel less guilty thinking or talking about having sex than women do.

  • Stephanie M. Jun 26, 2009 @ 0:17

    If there’s a kitten sitting in front of you, by god, is there a person alive who won’t pick up a piece of string and dangle it? You play with the kitten because it’s there. It’s fun. I write stories for the same reason I play with kittens: because they’re there. I get story ideas all the time, and if they’re there, well, of COURSE I gotta play with them. I’ve been writing stories for so long I don’t remember when I started. I never, ever share them. And while I might someday send out my stories, it’s not because I plan and expect to get a living out of it — more like “money is nice, let’s see if I win the lottery today”.

    So, short answer is escapism? I suppose. I have a need to not go crazy or be bored, and that’s what I get out of writing. I’m trying to explain this properly, but it’s so obvious and duh I don’t think I’m doing too well. Stories are just THERE. Like kittens. They’re there to be played with.

  • Emily Jun 25, 2009 @ 23:01

    If you have the time, there’s an excellent article on our need to be creative in some way. As a warning, it’s lengthy-ish and religious, but the message is beautiful:
    The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

  • Shay Jun 25, 2009 @ 22:32

    I failed ninth grade English, and my teacher told me that “If you do ever write a book, I’ll be sure to tell Oprah that you were the best writer I ever gave an F to.”
    So I’m writing for the italics…

  • anders Jun 25, 2009 @ 20:17

    “Men don’t have to be young or gorgeous, to have great hair or a square jaw or a perfect body to get a woman or women. They have to stand apart.”

    Maybe it’s different among gays. I’ve always been bemused by the stereotype that women don’t care what men look like. You’re more qualified than I am to say whether or not that’s true, of course, but at least as a gay man — I take damn good care of my body. A man lacking the pride and discipline to do the same is going to have a mucccch harder time attracting me. There is nothing viler than the forty-year-old man who has deteriorated into flab and mush — I don’t care HOW accomplished or cool or whatever — diligently pursuing the much younger guy who is in his late teens or early twenties. Fitness and, yeah, inborn good looks count.

    • Holly Lisle Jun 29, 2009 @ 11:34

      I’ve always been bemused by the stereotype that women don’t care what men look like.

      Biologically, ignoring ‘pretty’ in favor of ‘reliable,’ ‘capable,’ ‘skilled,’ or ‘talented,’ is a sound survival mechanism for women that predates civilization, and it goes to the end result of male/female sexual relationships—pregnancy is, in its late stages, a massive drain on the body’s resources, and physically crippling from a survival stance. The pregnant chick running from an attacker is doomed without a protector or an outraged herd to deflect the attacker.

      And postpartum, the newborn human is helpless from a bare survival standpoint for the first six years of his existence. And must continue to be protected in a supervised environment for years after that to be given his best chance of survival.

      So women who look beyond the physical attractions of gorgeous men to find men who will stick with them and fight for them will do better in the long run than those who fall for pretty.

      Women whose men disappear for whatever reason, but who have a group of trusted, supportive women who are willing to share child-rearing responsibilities, will still do all right.

      This drops way, way back in the history of human development to look at the bare bones of relationships, and huge numbers of women now would like to say that we don’t now need what we needed then. We don’t need men, we don’t need help, we can do everything on our own. I disagree, but I’m in the minority.

  • kat Jun 25, 2009 @ 19:23

    I write to stay sane. I’m pretty sure that fits into the survival instinct thing. Men rarely dig crazy chicks.

    But I was lining my stuffed animals up to tell them stories when I was three. Without writing, I’d be stuck with just telling stories to my near and dear, and, you know. People get very unnerved by that after a while. Also, the stories are much less coherent and interesting orally.

    A secondary reason, which I’m only dimly starting to realize, has to do with immortality. Or at the least, continuity. I went through a recent panic about death, when the thought that OH MY GOD I WILL DIE SOMEDAY was sneaking up on me and terrifying me. Not something that had happened since I first figured the whole “death” thing out as a preteen. Then my husband and I reached an agreement on something we’d been debating for a while — namely, having kids — and the panic… vanished. I can’t even remember now what scared me so.

    And now I wonder.

    Of course, I’ll keep writing if I have kids — some of the instincts might be the same, but the “sane” thing remains. And of course men also reach for immortality and wish to procreate, and I suspect the urge to create also blurs for them. But I wonder if women, genetically programmed caregivers that we are, aren’t more susceptible to… a wish to imprint, maybe. To not just create, but to be heard, and felt, and change lives.

    Very interesting subject, by the way. Thank you.

  • Minze Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:58

    Why I write? I write so I’m heard. This is not about expressing any particular opinions. When I grew up, our family situation was such that I thought it best to fit in and be “fine”. Writing was where I could relax and be open. The very act of writing anything lets you be emotionally authentic. That felt so good.

    Reason two: catharsis. You give your characters a problem, you make it worse… and then it’s resolved.

    Reason three: I love stories. Not stories as in “short stories”, just… narrative, any kind of it. A good yarn always cheers me up.

  • Ieva Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:43

    Hmmm.
    Actually, for me, writing did start because of my need to deal with relationships, it did continue because of it and it *still* is dealing with relationships, even though I’m happily married and all that.
    I am or, at least, I used to be one of those girls who need encouragement and some kind of proof of value from men. It’s not cool. Never was. It was entertaining though and it did teach me a lot, from crappy one night stands (more than I care to admit) to crappy relationship with a man who adored me… in his own special way.
    Anyhow, writing started as “why the heck I ain’t happy” pursuit when even in my adolescence I felt that even if I had the love of the man I felt for, I wouldn’t be fulfilled.
    Then, gradually, writing grew to be a thing that made me see my self-worth. It wasn’t immediate, it wasn’t magic, it was the “if you don’t give me happiness I can create it in my secret life” statement, it was the “I don’t give a damn about you dumping me because I can write this mega-cool thing”. It had me grounded in myself instead of being grounded in others, it had me find reassurance, compliments and approval within me, not within what my father thinks or what my boyfriend thinks or what that stupid smirking lad across the street thinks.
    Now, it gives me the seclusiveness a woman in an extended family needs desperately, it makes it easy to be faithful (because I don’t need other men to feel special), it gives me breathing room in family conflicts, it makes me look forward to having the third child someday because writing while pregnant and during the short time while the baby stays where you put it is amazing.

    So it’s survival and it’s procreation. Not “by mass” as it is, biologically, for men, but “selectively”. It keeps me from falling for the first guy strolling down the aisle (turning down the mating call is not the easiest thing to do ;)) and choosing somebody I won’t regret hooking up with afterwards.
    As I said, it took a loooong time to get there, but yea, it did it.

    (And there are lots of other reasons too but I’m so fascinated by the doing-stuff-for-survival ideas that I don’t mind being single-faceted on this.)

  • Maureen Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:28

    Holly,
    Interesting blog.
    As I read what others had to say I thought about why I want to write, I guess because the little voice in my head keeps throwing things at me and it is time to do something about.
    After 25 years, all the kids are grown, two on their own and the other two away in college. In the past 22 years we have moved 12 times via the USAF and look to have at least 2 more before my husband retires.
    The writing part is for me. It is not about fame, fortune (ala JK Rowlings) or having the biggest baddest dog on the block. It is about that little voice that has for as long as I can remember been giving me ideas and introducing characters. It is about doing this for me and me alone. I have been caregiver, dr. problem solver and well you name it I have probably done it. Now I want to do something that is just for me.
    As for the women and the men relationship thing I thought your idea was funny. I think watching other people trying to one up or out do each other usually is entertaining. People say and do the darnest things and sometimes you are in the right place at the right time to observe it!
    Cheers,
    Maureen

    • Holly Lisle Jun 29, 2009 @ 11:16

      It’s the humor in watching people trying to hook up that always delights me. Watching men watching women, watching women pretending not to know they’re being watched, only to sashay away with a little extra swing in their hips (yes, I saw you, and yes, if you make a bit more effort, I might be interested).

      People in general are funny as hell.

      • Shawnese Jul 3, 2009 @ 20:19

        The whole evolutionary biology bit has always fascinated me because even though humans are “advanced” in our capacity to create, destroy, and analyze we apply, albeit seemingly subconsciously, the same mate-attraction/acceptance principles as other animals. Women have a whole pool of men to choose from–and that’s the point. Women are the ones who choose the men. This is paralled in nature: for example, in many birds it is the female who looks for accomplishments in the male, whether it be an impressive plume, beautiful nest, or fancy dance maneuvers to prove his genes are by far the best suited for her…and it’s hilarious to watch.

        I definitely agree that watching people trying to hook up is amusing. In my freshman year of college I once watched this guy at a nearby table in the dining hall deep in conversation with his buddies. (Not that my focus was entirely on this one guy as I was scanning the room constantly, avoiding the chemistry note cards I was studying…) At any rate, a girl with an extremely short skirt or shorts or something (it was 5 years ago and my memory is not that great) bent over near him to pick something up from the ground and I watched the guy stop midsentence and fixate on her rear until she stood upright again. It was hilarious.

        On another note entirely. I write for fun. I write to sleep at night and not dream about waves crashing over my head or getting into rollover accidents in the midst of a busy intersection–I write and read to keep myself from getting overwhelmed with the day to day work of earning my current degree, pursuing my future degree, and living up to my own goals that I’ve set far above my reasonable reach just to watch myself work that hard for them. In other words I’m high stress and writing is my escape. I can create and destroy and analyze my world, my motives, my relationships through and within my writing.

  • Johanna Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:26

    I originally wanted to be a writer when I was 8 years old. I read voraciously as a child, and I loved books so much it made sense to me to write them as well. I use to write voraciously as well — lots of 6-page stories, and lots and lots of fanfiction. Then I had four horrible things happen to me during my teenage years, including being diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I fell into a deep depression and stopped writing and reading.

    I’ve only just started trying to get back to it. I read now, but nowhere near as much as I used to (though I did devour Ruby Key and Silver Door when they came out — I’m still drawn to YA after all these years). I just took a creative writing class that has helped bring back that deep love of finding the right words, at least a little bit.

    During that depression, I also fell in love with other kinds of stories, mostly movies and TV. Now I’m a junior in college majoring in cinema.

    I’m trying to figure out if being a writer is still my goal. And now I have to think about career goals with my illness in mind. I have to do treatments a couple times a day, every day, and being able to work from home is a major goal of mine. Writing would fit the bill perfectly, but I worry that I’m not good enough to ever make a living from it. And I love movies, so I want to study cinema and see what I can do with that.

    As for dating, I don’t have a lot of experience with that. I barely dated in high school and when I got to college, I went out with the second guy who asked me, and I’m still with him 3 years later. I can tell you that he asked me out because he thought I was beautiful, and I accepted because he was cute and I was so flattered to be asked. Then we started talking, and fell in love almost immediately.

    Sorry for the long and involved post, but I hope it offers some insight into my unique perspective.

  • tambo Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:25

    I am a creator by nature. I draw, sew, paint, cook, design, build, remodel, decorate, write… all creatively. I am WIRED to create and I’m blue during dry spells and giddy during the floods. To not create is incomprehensible to me. I don’t necessarily think it’s vital to my survival, at least not in a physical sense – not like food or shelter – but in a mental, psychological sense. If I were trapped in a cage I would still draw with my spit on the floor if I had no other alternative. My hands and mind cannot sit still for long.

    As for the sex/procreation side, I am apparently oblivious to advances and interest by men. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been informed that some guy was ‘checking me out’. I simply never noticed, before and after I got married, and the occasional blunt offers I automatically flat out refuse (I’ve lost track how many times guys have tried to pick me up at conventions, maybe because I’m published, maybe because I have that ‘bright, creative thang’ going, I dunno why I get propositioned, probably simply because I’m breathing, not a bitch, and have boobs;) ). My honey was different, though. We were friends first, good friends, and that connection deepened and ultimately became physical. He’s not all that stunning or accomplished (he is however, very clever and handy), but he loves me for ME and that’s all that matters.

  • Danielle Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:17

    Why do I write? Hmm… tough question. It’s sure as hell not the money, because I don’t think I could support myself just writing- I’m not good with deadlines.

    I guess I write as a mental and emotional survival technique. I have a single mom and I’m an only child, and while I love her dearly, it gets tense sometimes. When I’m in school, most of my classes are AP level, and they get stressful… I guess that writing is just my way of escaping from it for a while, and maybe deflecting my stress onto my characters- I write better when I have tension in my everyday life.

    It’s also helped me work out a lot of my own views, both about other people and about myself. I have to get inside my characters’ heads, so it makes me think about why they do things, what makes them tick; for the characters I really identify with, their reactions are vaguely (sometimes not so vaguely) analogous with what I suspect my own would be. With regards to the content of your post, I’ve never been in a serious relationship, so I guess my characters’ love lives are my own way of working out how I would handle one. (And now that I’ve written it, it doesn’t seem like such a great theory….)

    I know that I feel calmer after I’ve written something good, and more stressed if I couldn’t string together a coherent sentence. So I guess that I write as a form of escapism and self-therapy.

  • Jamie D. Jun 25, 2009 @ 15:48

    Good question. What survival need does writing fulfill for me? Honestly, I’m not sure. It must be something though, because I’ve walked away from it many times, swearing not to bother with it ever again, and I keep coming back to it, unable to give it up. Sort of like my husband, who I tried to talk myself out of dating many times (and I’m glad I wasn’t ever able to).

    The main payback for me is a sense that I’m doing something I was always meant to do, whether I get paid or not. I have an innate need to create – hence my day job as a web designer – and writing fills that need as well. And finally, it serves as an “escape” for my brain. Much like reading a good book, writing helps me turn off all the nagging worries of the day, and allows me to immerse myself into another world where “I” don’t exist, and I can just be an observer.

    Eventually making money, having a “backup” career just in case would be wonderful in the long run, but I’m too practical to actually believe that will happen.

    As for how women react to men (generally) – I think you’re spot on. I’ve observed it happening many, many times, as well as the rejections that friends have unknowingly given men (subsequently assuming they aren’t “pretty enough” to get a man). Human interaction as it pertains to sex and sexual tension is really quite fascinating…and frustrating too, sometimes. Great post.

  • Texanne Jun 25, 2009 @ 15:45

    Craig–
    Funny you should mention letters. Although DH and I met in person and partied together, we afterwards had a long correspondence (USAF sent him a thousand miles away.) His first mention of love came in a letter. Inspector Dalgliesh proposed to his lady friend via letter.
    My previous comment went to moderation. Probably wise to do so.

  • Texanne Jun 25, 2009 @ 15:39

    Rick, I support your contention that we, as humans, are more than bundles of pheromone receptors. As you can see by the replies here, we are not responding strictly according to the accepted theories as to why men are reputed to go from flower to flower and women, as a rule, don’t. (And the accepted explanation for why men get away with it, while women are branded in an unflattering way.) In fact, you’ve just given a good argument that says abstinence might be an option after all, which it isn’t in the case of “lower animals.”

    I have not knowingly known many gay men, though I’ve had a fair share of Lesbian friends. Well, I’ve just had a lot more close relationships with women than with men, and for the most part, straight women don’t seem to be as afraid of Lesbians as straight men are reputed to be of gay men. Did that make any sense?

    As for straights being more interested in the sex part of homosexuality than gays themselves are, I respectfully submit that you are wrong on that one. Mostly we don’t care one way or the other, and don’t give it a thought until there’s some kind of media uprising over something. Most people are not constantly on the make for sex, so when we see you or each other, we see either what you are (software engineer, airline pilot, toreador) or, if we know you personally, we see you as an individual. In fact, we’d rather not think about the sex part of homosexuality. In fact, in great big fact, we’d rather not think about the sex part of most of the people we see, meet, or know. As I said, most people are not constantly scouting for noogy. Even teenage boys. Probably. They have homework and football practice.

    Rick, my best thought regarding your post is this: if you feel misunderstood you have the power to change that. God gave you talent with words, and She probably expects you to use it wisely.

    Peace, brother.

  • Craig A. Eddy Jun 25, 2009 @ 15:23

    First, let me start by saying that I am not a writer – i.e. I am not trying to write the Great American Novel, or even make a buck from what I put down on paper or type into a computer. I am also an oddball. My relationship with my wife started, not because I was accomplished in anything or impressively good looking, but because I took an interest in things with which she was interested. Likewise, my interest in her stemmed not from the fact that she was good looking and available but because she took an interest in my opinions, at least to the extent of respecting them as opinions. She didn’t necessarily agree with me, but that just made the discussions more interesting.

    You see, I didn’t meet my wife until six months after I’d started writing to her. Perhaps I should back up, here. It was 1964, and I was only in the first quarter of my Air Force enlistment. I had met a girl on a train, while headed home. That girl showed my then-future wife a picture of me, and she asked if she could write to me. So we wrote. And the more we wrote the more we found that our discussions on all sorts of topics were such that we wanted them to continue. When we finally met what I saw was this somewhat overweight girl that was apprehensive about meeting me. What she saw was this skinny red head with big ears wearing a blue uniform. Five hours after I met her I kissed her. Three days later she proposed and I accepted (mind you, I thing the story differs depending on which one of us is telling it). Two years after that we were married. That would be May of 1966.

    It’s now 2009, forty three years later. What started the attraction is what has managed to continue it. Lively discussions on some of the darnedest subjects with interjections of humor along the way (I consider myself quite a wit. My wife says I’m half right). So, at least in the case of my wife and I, I believe that physical attraction was actually second to mental attraction and stimulation.

    I’m not disputing your theory. I think it’s valid as far as it goes and perhaps for a majority of the population. And, though you may not use them in your writing, I think it’s necessary to leave the theory loose enough to accept other possibilities that are “outside the bell curve”. But then, I DID say I was an oddball.

    Craig

    • TimK Jun 25, 2009 @ 18:12

      Interesting, Craig, because I find your story incredibly romantic. And I’m a man, happily married, and not gay (not even a little).

      Having just recently finished writing a memoir about my own early experiences with the opposite sex, I saw that I definitely did not fit into Holly’s pattern. My early experiences were not even about getting laid. Rather, they were about affection and attention. As a young man, I was passionate and committed, and it freaked out a lot of girls.

      And other men that I’ve shown the manuscript to seem to sympathize. I think even men have a romantic side. Furthermore, in my study of the psychology of male and female characters, I’ve found that I am a typical man. That is, my brain works fundamentally as most men’s.

      Not everything is about sex, is what I’m saying. And not all of sex is about procreation. All humans also have an innate need to give and receive attention, affection, and love.

      -TimK

      • Eddie Jun 25, 2009 @ 23:18

        Thank you, Tim, for giving a different representation of men that is not often seen or admitted. I empathize completely with your scenario.

        As an 18 year old male, of course sex is often on my mind; however, most of my friends are girls because they share my interests more than most other guys do, AND I’m not constantly out to “get laid.” They know that’s not my motivation, and they have told me many times that they appreciate my genuine romanticism. It bugs me when I see other young guys *constantly* acting machismo and putting on all this bravado because there is seriously more to life than sex and competition.

        As a creative, artistic, verbal, sentimental personality, I kind of break the mold for your typical male, BUT I do believe men can have a romantic side; they just seem to be afraid to acknowledge it for fear of appearing less “manly.” If only they could see what I have known for a long time…

        As for why I write, well… I have loved words and language and stories ever since I could comprehend them, and after being touched by so many excellent literary works in my short life, I’d like to be able to do the same for other people, even people who are alive long after I’m dead. I want to make that transcendent connection with other fellow humans to both be assured and reassure that our experience IS more similar than we perceive and that our lives do mean something.

  • djmills Jun 25, 2009 @ 15:09

    I now realise that my automatic reaction to a male smiling at me when I am shopping is to look behind me to see who the male was smiling at. When I see no one behind me, I then smile back at the male, before I ignore him to focus on what I was shopping for. If a male who was as old or older than me actually smiled at me I would die of shock. I only attract males who are at least 10 to 30 years younger than I am. My one line in reply to their flirting is “I have a daughter older than you.” I never get around to telling them I write, or paint or whatever.

    • Holly Lisle Jun 26, 2009 @ 9:37

      Matt’s nine years younger than I am. We’ve been together fourteen years, and fully intend to finish this race together. He’s smart, funny, sexy, great-looking, talented…and he liked me first for my mind. He is my best friend. We have wonderful discussions. We sometimes drive each other crazy (though in all fairness, I make him nuts a lot more often than he does me). The sound of his voice makes me melt (he has an incredible voice). We have fun in each other’s company.

      And we were friends for years before we got together.

      I just realized I don’t know if you’re married or not, but if you’re actually looking for someone, don’t discount younger men because of their age. I got the best guy in the world…but the second-best guy, who could be your best friend forever, might have just showed up on the planet a few years late.

      • Jennifer Jun 30, 2009 @ 11:35

        Eh, I can understand why djmills is uncomfortable dating someone she could have given birth to. Not all of us can pull off the cougar. I have known the occasional younger guy who was genuinely mature, but in my experience, they had it rough growing up and HAD to grow up early, so they are comfortable with older chicks mentally.

        I, on the other hand, am 31, look like I am 12 (not kidding about this at all), and 90% of the people attracted to me are 40-50-year old men. Uggggggggggh. I feel like they’re all wannabe pedophiles.

        • Holly Lisle Jun 30, 2009 @ 11:53

          Oh, I can understand not wanting to date someone thirty years younger than you. I’d find that uncomfortable. But unless she had a VERY interesting life, men ten years younger aren’t even close to being in the “I could have given birth to you” range. 😀

          And, yes, for me, thirty years older wouldn’t work, either.

          For me, my mental comfort zone fits inside the brackets of the fact that I’m 23 years older than my oldest child, and 19 years younger than my youngest parent. My “older than me” range was a bit narrower than my “younger than me” range.

  • Rick Jun 25, 2009 @ 14:58

    This post doesn’t sit well with me at all. I’ve often found gender essentialism and so-called “evolutionary biology” (the genetic battle between the sexes you’ve outlined here) to be bizarrely uncompromising and unimaginative in the face of the human soul and human capacities to outstrip our own nature.

    Neither men nor women are monoliths, and I believe we’ve reached a cultural point – if we haven’t always been there – where the presence of too many exceptions invalidates the rule.

    I’m a man, and I smile when I’m happy. I smile when something captures my interest. And I smile when I meet someone to be polite, because that’s what you do when you’re introduced (or are introducing yourself).

    Furthermore, as a gay man I find your characterization here of gay men problematic and stereotypical. At the risk of sounding both disappointed and shrill, should you choose to write me off that way, I am offended by it. To paint any community of people, especially a minority community, as overwhelmingly representative of characteristic X (even with the caveat “in general”) is troubling. Moreso when it relegates us to purely sexual beings when already heterosexuals seem more fascinated by the “sex” part of “homosexuality” than any gay man I’ve ever met. This kind of discourse encourages more ignorance and more relegation of us to the sidelines as sex-crazed deviants.

    But then again, maybe I just need to get laid.

    • Colleen Jun 25, 2009 @ 16:30

      Interesting. I didn’t feel marginalized at the aside at all. I have no doubt that you have every reason to react the way you did to the post, Rick, and I don’t mean to imply or infer that you’re wrong – because I don’t think you are.

      I feel that Holly was attempting to look at relationship building in one particular, very narrow way: sex. And that by its nature, such a discussion is going to lead to both a narrow scope, and some overgeneralizing. Both under- and over-exclude, if you will.

      I hope that my response in regards to how lesbians I have interacted with – including myself and my partner – build relationships specifically using a sexual “call and answer” is read in the light of that narrow scope and necessary exclusion. Certainly all gay men aren’t just trying to get laid, just like not all lesbians rent a U-Haul on the second date. However, responding to a writer that sounds like she would like some information on how things work that she cannot directly experience, it’s necessary to summarize one’s life experiences and outlooks.

      It is, however, also appropriate for you to indicate some of the problems that may be associated with the conversation. So all is well.

    • Holly Lisle Jun 26, 2009 @ 9:19

      You’re offended. You’re offended?

      I plainly stated that I was writing from my own experience (which is valid as far as it goes, but does not go beyond a favorite uncle and his many boyfriends, and gay men I worked with in various jobs—and one particularly nasty closet ex, but I didn’t know about him until years after I divorced him, and the fact that he was also a pedophile makes him anything but representative).

      You acknowledged that you read my disclaimer. You are a bright man, as evidenced by your previous posts and by your ability to express yourself clearly; therefore, you are fully capable of comprehending from the tone of the post that I was looking for information I did not have, viewpoints other than what I have garnered from 48 years on the planet.

      And yet, you trot out your emotions as a moral bludgeon—a flagrant and reprehensible attempt to censor some portion of this discussion because your feelings were hurt (by choice, since by YOUR post you clearly understood the content and aim of mine).

      What you are doing is attempting to use the best of people as a weapon against them—to beat anyone who cares about how you feel into silence out of fear of saying something that might make you feel ‘bad.’

      Thoughts interest me—theories, ideas, concepts. Feelings derived from thoughts I have no problem with. But you treating your feelings as if they were a special entity apart from you as a whole that deserve kid glove treatment demonstrates to me that you (and anyone else who pulls this stunt) are willing to engage in emotional blackmail to force a discussion into lines you consider acceptable.

      Sorry. Not going to happen. If several other people had not taken the time to give a thoughtful response to your appalling display of bullying, I’d simply delete your post.

      As it is, I’ll let you know that this is not acceptable behavior here. If you want to look for excuses to take offense where none was offered, go somewhere else.

      • Tomaszewski Jun 27, 2009 @ 10:54

        Hey Holly,

        Glad to see that you responded to this will full vigor, I was planning on doing to the same. As a Gay man myself, I make it a point never to take offense to anyone when questions of sexuality arise, especially if that person made all attempts to present a QUESTION and offer no offense behind it.
        So, first, thank you Holly.
        And to Rick, your intelligence is clearly reflected in your post, but I feel you let your emotions get the best of you. Holly, clearly being a heterosexual female and with limited experience with Gay men, simply wanted to know something about us. To lash out at her with a dichotomy of fear driven rhetoric and a holier-than-thou soap box stand point is beyond low. As a community (GLBT) it is a responsiblity to ourselves and others to share who we are and dispell the mythos that surrounds a widely under-represented population. Stereotypes do have a negative impact, especially those protrayed in the media. However, such outbursts and feigned offense are a determent to the cause of understanding. I notice you took no strong offense to Holly’s generalization of the heterosexual lifestyle. She presented a similarly sexual based asessment with no outrage in your part on their (hetero) behalf. Yes, you defend “Men” and “Women” as abstract ideals but you did not defend them in the same manner as you did yourself. Attempting to guilt Holly into some brand of superficial politically correct discorse is not going to work.
        That being said, on to your question(s) Holly.

        Personally there are two major reasons why I write, and they are representative of what I am writing at the time.
        My contemporary fiction is driven by a need to show that there is more to the GLBT Community then clubs, parades and drugs. That the stereotypes are wrong or in the very least exaggerated. To provide at least one story where the MC is gay and not completely obsessed with a straight boy or addicted to drugs or suicidal or homicidal or a homicide victim. That gay people have relationships not lifestyles, that we have hopes and dreams not agendas, that we have love AND sex. That the only difference between a Gay person and a Straight one is the sex of the person they go home to at night.
        I write fantasy for the control. Plain and simple. I make the world and I decide what goes in it. Who lives, who dies. Who deserves to live and who deserves to die. Making heros worthy of the title and villains more in-depth then “I want to destroy the world because my daddy beat me.” The control goes beyond the fantasy world too. I decide when to write, what to write and what I am wearing when I write it (clothing optional). Being my own boss is a huge benefit. The freedom to take my work anywhere. And a thousand other little reason that add up to Freedom. That’s why I write.
        Why do I want to be published?

        To get laid of course.

        • Holly Lisle Jun 29, 2009 @ 11:14

          Nicely said. 😀

          That gay people have relationships not lifestyles, that we have hopes and dreams not agendas, that we have love AND sex. That the only difference between a Gay person and a Straight one is the sex of the person they go home to at night.

          I’ve been comfortable with the relationship part of gay relationships since I discovered that two of my favorite relatives—one male, one female—preferred members of their own gender to members of the opposite. I loved them, they were both good people, and I wanted them to be happy. So the fact that they had friends instead of spouses worked for me.

          Weirdly, (or at least I assume this is weirdly), I got comfortable with the sex part of gay relationships in the early eighties, when my then-husband brought home an entire grocery bag full of late-seventies gay porn lent to him by a co-worker. He talked me into watching a porn movie with him (I was at the time WAY uptight), and it turned out not to be the straight porn he’d assumed it would be, but men with men.

          He turned it off. I later watched it on my own. And saw that gay sex looked exactly like straight sex. Same emotions portrayed, same physical behaviors. And I thought, “This is what has everyone in such an uproar?” and I went on with my life.

          Totally get what you mean about the Godlike aspect of writing. “I OWN this world.” I love that.

          • Tomaszewski Jun 30, 2009 @ 21:43

            “God complex” is entirely accurate. 😀

            I have to say I am really enjoying the focused tangents of “love/sex/attraction” that this post has opened up. So many individual reactions to a common thread, it’s a wonder anyone is conceived anymore. 😀

            And your personal story of, umm “homosexual discovery” we’ll say, was hilarious. My question, What did your then-husband say to his co-worker the next day? That would make for an interesting short story.

            Thanks for sharing :p

          • Holly Lisle Jun 25, 2011 @ 11:18

            And your personal story of, umm “homosexual discovery” we’ll say, was hilarious. My question, What did your then-husband say to his co-worker the next day? That would make for an interesting short story.–Tomaszewski

            That was the spouse who turned out to be both closet gay AND a pedophile. I assume he told the guy who loaned them to him “These were supposed to be for my closet stash in the attic, moron.” Yes, the police found he had one of those when they were searching the house for evidence to prove what he did to my kids—his own biological children. He also had a gun hidden up there.

            I’d never been up there.

      • Rick Jun 27, 2009 @ 12:26

        Holly, you are attributing a whole lot of malice to me that I never intended. I understood that you were looking for feedback and thoughts, which is the only reason I replied – had you not specifically added that caveat to the end of your post I would have passed on it altogether, because my intention was not to be contrary or pick a fight at all.

        Yes, I was offended by the characterization but I tried to measure and clarify WHY I felt that way instead of jumping on you for it or resorting to “emotional blackmail”. I have far too much respect for you, and myself, to resort to such insiduous tactics. You wanted feedback, my feedback was that I was unsettled to see such a characterization. It is a common and persistent characterization – which is not something you’re responsible for – but it was disappointing to see it repeated. It always is.

        My feelings were derived from thoughts. I hoped my comment would have made that evident. But the things you’re attributing to me – moral bludgeon? trying to censor anyone, let alone you? – are far-fetched and radical misinterpretations of my text. I have far too much respect for you to engage in any of those things. I’m very upset that you took my comment so harshly. I don’t know where in my comment I gave you the impression that I wanted to slam or censor you in any way – you are an idol to me. This is clearly a failure on my part to communicate clearly enough.

        Your experience is certainly valid. I just don’t like people to think that their experiences are necessarily representative. My comment was more for people who might read what you wrote and believe it to be definitive, rather than necessarily thinking that you believe the buck stops at your own experience. I’d be surprised if you did.

        But you know what? Your experiences might be completely representative. I’m young yet, and quite frankly beginning to suspect I’m the exception rather than the rule. It’s an alienating thing, and it’s isolationg, if that constant alienation makes me oversensitive to messages and portrayals of the GLBT community, I guess I have to apologize.

        I really hope you can forgive whatever malice to may have attributed to my comment. I assure you there was none intentioned. Please believe me when I say the last thing I would want to do is upset or make an enemy out of you in any way.

        • Holly Lisle Jun 29, 2009 @ 10:37

          Hi, Rick,

          I appreciate your response.

          This is a case of Words Matter. The words “I’m offended” are, in many of the linked examples, used by members of any minority as as excuse to commit acts that would be charged as criminal or met with lawsuits if members of a majority were to take the same actions.

          Words matter, and the intent behind them matters, too.

          There are six billion people on this planet (give or take a dozen), and every single one of them is offended by something. Further, all of them collectively are offended by everything—there is absolutely nothing anyone can say or do that will not offend someone.

          If any of us allow the words “I’m offended” when said by someone else (or the possibility that they may be said if we present something of importance to us) to alter what we have to say, we are bowing to the “tyranny of the most sensitive.” We will, living in fear of giving offense, say nothing, do nothing, and accomplish nothing. To accomplish anything, we must say what we mean, in spite of knowing that we WILL unavoidably give offense.

          “Don’t offend me” is the demand used by minorities as small as one to force everyone else to change their behavior to do or say nothing that will challenge the offended’s beliefs or question the offended’s words or bring scrutiny on any action the offended may take. “I’m offended” is an attempt to create moral carte blanche.

          Please understand, I’m no fan of majorities. I think the fastest way to be wrong is to join a majority (global warming is my current watch-it-in-action example of desperately wrong majorities making breathtakingly destructive fuck-ups). As a reminder, Galileo ended his life imprisoned as the correct minority surrounded by and censored by the “earth is the center of the universe” majority.

          But I’m also no fan of tyranny. Bowing to the will of “I’m offended” is accepting tyranny.

          And this tyranny comes from the abuse of the human need to create communities—to find other people who are in some way “like me,” in whichever critical ways you define yourself.

          We all associate ourselves with multiple communities. We do this in order to find other people who share our values.

          But communities are, frankly, a fiction—they are made of of individuals who have decided to place one value above all others as representative of them—to mark off a tiny area of common ground—in order to accomplish certain goals.

          When I built the FM writers’ community, I put rules into place that forbade the discussion of politics and religion except for writing research purposes, simply because writing is a lesser value to most people than their political or religious connections, and in order for people to stay together and work with each other there—to accomplish their writing goals—they had to set aside the uncommon ground that would have kept the place in perpetual flames and accept each other only on the basis of their shared common ground.

          EVERY community has this built-in flaw, however, because we are not collective creatures. We are individuals, and members within any community, when you get to know us, have no more in common than members outside of that community—we have simply emphasized one aspect of ourselves around which we wish to establish common ground in order to achieve a goal.

          When the goal is creative, as in creating a community for writers, this is a good thing. When it is destructive…when it seeks to force change on individuals who do not share the same values, as is frequently the case when the words “I’m offended” are presented as part or the whole of an argument, community becomes an evil thing.

          I did a longish article—Common Ground: Holding Community Together—that offers more background on this.

          You’re discovering that you the individual do not fit one stereotype held about members of one of many communities with which you identify. You’re not alone. In fact, you are in a majority of 100%. None of the other members of any of your communities fits all the stereotypes of those communities, either, or holds the same common ground on more than a handful of issues they deem most important.

          This is why it is essential that every individual answer questions and form opinions based not on a community platform, but on his own individually chosen values.

          And this is where you ran into trouble here: first by your choosing of the words “I’m offended” as part of your argument, and then by trying to speak not as yourself but as the voice of the collective in the following statement: “To paint any community of people, especially a minority community, as overwhelmingly representative of characteristic X (even with the caveat “in general”) is troubling.”

          I was looking for individual voices from within self-identified communities, because I know the nature of communities, and understand that what they look like on the surface is just that…surface.

          Collective values are a horror of strange bedfellows, thrown together to amass the largest number of individuals whose voices and numbers can be used to force the will of the collective community—but that collective community will only be going your way a small part of the time, and will be actively working against what you value much of the rest.

          You and I are okay. I hope this helps you understand why I chose the response I did to your post.

  • MarFisk Jun 25, 2009 @ 14:50

    Well, I scan male in a lot of things (not the desperate to get laid, but the need for accomplishment piece) so not representative. However, I write because when I don’t, I go insane (literally, though slowly). Therefore it’s a direct, 1-1 survival relationship.

    And yes, I did marry my husband because he wrote. Of course he doesn’t much anymore and it makes no difference.

  • Deb Salisbury Jun 25, 2009 @ 14:48

    Thank you! This post is exactly what I need to understand why my ‘girl meets strange man’ scene feels unrealistic.

    Of course, I always watch you blog (and peruse your website) for inspiration.

  • Colleen Jun 25, 2009 @ 14:17

    End result? Hmm. I can’t believe I’d never really given it much thought beyond pipe dreams. I didn’t start writing as a form of income, or because I wanted a job at home, or for any other reason. I started writing because I have a deep and abiding love affair with words that goes back as far as I can recall being literate. For me, story is good; I like story. But words! Oh heavens, I’ll put up with a LOT of story nonsense if the writing can carry me away. I know, I’m an oddity. In the end, I’d like someone somewhere that has never met me to close one of my books with a happy little sigh, sit back in his or her chair, and rest, because she(he) doesn’t want to let go of my words or story just yet. It’s about vindication, in a way: I have interesting enough things to say that someone else will pay to get what’s in my head.

    As far as the writing and attracting a mate theory … I can see it. I’m skewed by the fact that I AM a lesbian writer, so my knowledge of what attracts men to women (and women to men) is a bit … out of date. But, yes, in my experience, when a woman is trying to telegraph interest in another woman, she’ll trot out what makes her unique. I’m a writer; I’m an artist; I’m a vet; I’m a whatever.

    This also relates to a dynamic in the queer lifestyle: it is an unfortunate truth that, like any other subculture, there are people that want to try it out and play with it for a bit. While there’s nothing wrong with that, if all partners don’t know that’s what’s happening, it causes a great deal of pain. In my experience, women who are hanging around hoping to pick up another woman just for the night, or on a lark, or on a dare try to pick up a woman in the same way they would pick up a man. “I’m pretty, and I’m willing to sleep with you!” All that does is basically telegraph that what they’re looking for is NOT a mate. And they get only a certain kind of offer from a certain kind of women. It’s far more common for a woman to sidle up to another woman that she’s attracted to, and start talking about what makes HER different from any other woman out there.

  • Stephanie Jun 25, 2009 @ 13:35

    Why write? For me (a female), I think it’s for freedom and exploration, well salted with a love of books in general. Think of all the people we get to be, the things we get to try, the places, the possibilities. All of a sudden, everything actually IS possible. Including having a job you can do barefoot. And at home, with your kids (or your very needy cat). Or in your backyard, after watering the tomato plants. Or in Italy. Yesterday I got to run a large and powerful business, visit England during the dark ages, and be a tree. And today I have clean underwear because I didn’t have to depend on my sweet and lovable Slob King for the laundry.

  • Emily Jun 25, 2009 @ 13:06

    Aside from relieving stress (and therefore prolonging my life span), writing will hopefull one day create a small income, bringing security should anything happen to the breadwinner in the house. My husband has taken care of my daughter and me, but there’s little guarantee that he will outlive me. I’d like to know that I could make ends meet should the worst happen.

  • DasteRoad Jun 25, 2009 @ 12:25

    That was a very interesting read Holly 🙂

    And about your question… I’m an about 28 years-old female amateur writer (I’m also Italian, so everyone is welcome to point out translation glitches so I can work more on my English :)). I’m not sure of when exactly I started writing… the first novel-like thing I ever got finished was a horrible over-the-top sappy romance starring Queen members (yes, I mean the rock band) and some Mary Sues. It was around 15 years ago so I suppose I was foreseeing the now-trendy genre of band-themed romantic fanfiction. Not that I’m proud of it, but hey, I was a little girl and that was something fun I shared with my best friend.

    I think that was the original reason why I started writing: imitation. My best friend wrote romantic over-the-top fiction, so I started doing it as well. The reason why I didn’t stop doing it, though, was that writing gave me something fun to do I could share with other people who had similar interests.

    Fun and sharing. Probably this is the reason why I still do it and I still strive to get better. Like you I fell in love with writing over time. I discovered there’s more than a million stories trapped inside, and I want to bring them all out lest they will die away. And I would love to share my stories not only with friends (who not always make honest critics) but also with perfect strangers. The payoff I dream of is made more of people than of money, but hey, being able to make a living just on writing would be great.

  • Alexander Burns Jun 25, 2009 @ 12:19

    In college, this was definitely true for me. I carried a cool black notebook and pen everywhere I went. I would write in the bar, on campus, anywhere. Practiced my brooding. My version of the mixed tape was whatever story I was working on at the time or something I’d finished recently that I thought was pretty good.

    It worked pretty well, actually.

    Now I’m married, so I write now to actually write, and dropped the hand-written notebooks in favor of the more practical laptop computer. No one to impress anymore. 🙂

  • Drake_Tesla Jun 25, 2009 @ 12:14

    Hm. I write because, well, I can’t seem to /not/ write.

    I don’t have any children, so I don’t write in order to stay home. (I have opted not to have children for reasons that I find, after long exploration, are valid and consistent with my values. I also accept that others in similar circumstances might come to the opposite conclusion without being unprincipled or idiotic. I may not agree with them, but I’ll defend their right to make that choice for themselves. Disclaimer added because some people have had extreme reactions to the idea that I’m not planning a ‘family’. I have a family. They’re just not blood-related children who live in my house.) I have a full-time job I enjoy (most days). I’m happily married.

    I write because if I don’t, I tell myself stories on my commute, I natter away under my breath in a dozen voices while I cook dinner, I whisper scene descriptions in the shower. Writing helps me convince the people around me that I’m sane. It makes me happy.

    I suspect I’m not answering the real question here. Why do I submit my work for publication? That’s a harder one.

    The money issue is there, I’m sure. Because I wouldn’t mind a little income from it. Because it seems the sort of thing I could keep up as a retirement job, maybe? Because I’d love to help provide for the future education of my various nieces and nephews, and unbudgeted income could go into Registered Education Savings Plans? Because a little cash would justify my computer time? Sure. All those things are in there somewhere.

    Approval? I like approval. I’m not driven by it (or I’d post on a site I used to frequent, where praise was lavish and criticism suppressed.) Seeking publication leads to far more rejections than acceptances, though. And once you’re published, well, people are funny, you know? I don’t think approval is it.

    Pride in my work? That’s probably bigger. My writing pleases me. I re-read some of my stuff, and it makes me giddy. I sometimes read things I’ve forgotten I wrote with a sort of awed amazement that I could manage. I’d like to show it off. I’d like to show people the things I saw in my head. I’d like someone to get the same feeling I had after reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or ‘His Majesty’s Dragon’ or ‘Moving Mars’ for the first time; that sense that those people, those places, were real enough to touch, and the things they struggled for mattered. That the real world, my world, was an amazing place in its own right, and that people were the same here as they were in the books, in ways I might not have noticed.

    Yup. That’s it. I’m a kid on the diving board, yelling for my dad to watch before I launch myself into the air. Because he’ll laugh, and I’ll splash to the edge of the pool, grinning through the chlorine, and bounce out to do it again. It doesn’t matter that other people dive better than I ever could, that some folks will mock and comment on how I look in a swimsuit. I’m performing for the ones who’ll laugh along.

  • Texanne Jun 25, 2009 @ 12:05

    Are you writing about writers? In your novel? Is that allowed? Because, in the movie business, a script that uses a writer as its protagonist has a very hard time getting taken seriously. Then they win Oscars, because, well, everybody loves a flattering mirror.

    I had figured you were writing about sex, because that’s kind of required.

    • Holly Lisle Jun 25, 2009 @ 13:20

      I’m not writing about writers. No writers will appear in the making of this book.

      I am, however, writing about creativity, and about people pursuing difficult goals, and about what this does to how they relate to each other.

  • Texanne Jun 25, 2009 @ 11:57

    Assuming you want comments on the getting laid part rather than the why write part–

    Great-looking men seemed more likely to approach me (we’re talking years and years ago, so the patterns may have changed) than less hunky specimens, though the less-hunky were always around. They just seemed to sort themselves into “friend” or “protege” categories. Because I had not intended to marry, I did not investigate the finer points of the men around me, just took them as they presented themselves. Whoever was the most fun, that was my guy-of-the-moment. Was not monogamous, as the kids say today. Did not sleep around, either. Just partied.
    And worked. A. Lot.
    DH, my Silverback, is now a cute fogey. He was less hunky than many of the guys I dated, but we had a friendship first. He treated me as if I had a good brain, which was a new thing for me. So, even though mating wasn’t in my plan, when he offered marriage I took it, figuring it would last six months–and I could finally get laid–then he would see what a lousy choice he had made and we would have an amicable divorce and go back to being friends.

    Not sure what this does to the theories. Hope it helps a bit. BTW, I would never use a courtship like this in a book because it would put the reader to sleep.

    • Texanne Jun 25, 2009 @ 12:01

      Okay, after putting you to sleep, I see–was it always there?–that you are looking at why write.

      For money and for fun. Preferably without having to wear shoes. Ever.

  • AGWeyland Jun 25, 2009 @ 11:48

    What do I want my payoff to be? To be published and have my books read ’round the world. A paycheck would be nice, it doesn’t have to be big, just enough for me to continue writing as much as possible and still survive. I don’t think I want that much but I differ from you, because writing and I have had a passionate love affair for as long as I can remember. And so for me, the reward is in finishing a book that can be published, it’s knowing that I give all of myself to writing and one day, maybe my writing will give back to me in the form of getting on a Books-A-Million bookshelf. For right now, I’m putting a lot of hard-work into this relationship and I like to believe it will all be repaid to me. And if it’s not, I’ll still keep hoping because I can’t live without writing. It’s second only to breathing.

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