Eating bon-bons all day long

I’ve been mulling this over a few days. A client was heard to, um, be unsatisfied with the fact that their spouse is not a reader, and therefore also not a good outlet for listening to writing ideas. You know – when you have a subplot to work out and you need to rant out loud about it. Or you’re stuck and you just need to run on until it all jogs loose. Sometimes creativity shouldn’t have to operate in a vacuum. And then I heard the sad news that another client was unfortunately going to be splitting up with their other half. And it was implied that it was about the writing.

Now I know that there are those out there who have very supportive spouses who just love them to death and think being part of the opportunity for them to pursue their writing and publishing dreams is a more than worthy goal. But I also get the impression that there are far too many authors in a similar position to those above. Writing is already a lonely enough business as it is. And it can be tough on a relationship. Especially when one of the people just doesn’t get it. The muse is a demanding mistress, and all that. Of course — I’ve also heard that writers shouldn’t live with other writers because of some sort of inherent conflicts that arise between their mutual creative requirements.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this. Thinking out loud I guess. Because sometimes I get a similar impression about my job. I mean, I was a bookaholic before I got into this. And I remember my dad laughing when he found out that someone was going to pay me to read. He thought it was hysterical. Of course, now the reading takes up a much smaller part of the job and I find myself often mired in contracts, marketing, and so forth. But that’s another rant. I still get it, though – sometimes from people close to me that I think should know better; like agenting is some kind of book-related hobby or something. Go fig. It – like writing – isn’t a “real” job, even if one is making money at it….

11 responses to “Eating bon-bons all day long

  1. I’ve heard a lot of people say living with another writer means inherent conflict, but I personally feel awfully lucky to live with someone else who writes. It’s fun to listen to each other, to bounce ideas around, to compare processes, and so on.
    And neither of us has to explain to the other what that blank “I may be looking at you but I’m seeing something else” look really means.
    I’ve seen plenty of supportive non-writing spouses, though. It’s the ones who actively resent the writing, as a thing that takes time away from the household, that scare me. This seems to happen particularly often among children’s book writers, who sometimes commit to spouse and kids first, and only decide to write after the kids arrive; it’s telling stories for those kids that makes them realize they want to be writers in the first place.
    But if anyone I lived with told me to stop writing and pay more attention to them instead, it’s hard to imagine staying married to them.

    • From what I have seen, the writer/writer relationships that seem to be less stressful are those without children. There appears to be a definite need for one parent to be mostly in this world for it all to work as well as possible.

  2. Perhaps it’s not so much finding someone who shares the same profession as someone who shares the same capacity for obsession. I.e. a partner with a major (a)vocation of their own being less likely to begrudge time/energy focused on one’s own projects instead of them. (It’s worked out well for me, anyhow.)
    As for the “not a real job” nonsense, I try to regard it as a luxury tax for choosing les rues less traveled. 😉

  3. Of course it’s not real work, silly. Just like acting. *rolls eyes* We’re all just playing.
    No, I don’t really have a point. Just chiming in with vague agreement, I guess.

  4. Ironically, that seems to be one of the things that picked apart my ex-relationship. Two of the cruelest things he said to me: I sent you away to Clarion and you never came back and (in response to whether he was going to read the printed copy of the manuscript he’d been bugging me and bugging me and bugging me and bugging me to read when I’d been saving him to be my sanity check as a fresh set of eyes), I’ve got an electronic copy of it. I’ll read it if I get around to it. (The former when things were starting to go wrong and the latterwhile we were in the process of breaking up.)
    I always wondered how we could’ve spent 10 years together with him totally unaware of how important writing was to me. I suppose sometimes I still wonder. And wonder if being in a relationship with another writer would mean at least some small amount of understanding when I say things like, “I’d love to go play paintball/mini-golf/air-hockey/whatever with you, but my muse just hit me upside the head with a shovel and I cannot stop writing right now. Go have fun.” (That was one of the lovely things about Clarion was the understanding from the other writers in my class that there are times when you just can’t walk away from writing, no matter how much fun the alternative sounds.)

    • I sent you away to Clarion and you never came back
      I did not go to Clarion. My husband/co-author did. And one of the things he is careful to say to people who want to be writers and are thinking of going to Clarion is: “How much do you like your life as it is now? How committed are you to your relationship, if any? How much do you like a steady paycheck and your buddies at the day-job? Because if you go to Clarion and you’re half-way good, you will arrive at a different place; a place that non-writers rarely glimpse. Your wife may leave you because of this. You could very easily lose your job. Think hard and think deeply: How important is the life you have now?”
      And wonder if being in a relationship with another writer would mean at least some small amount of understanding
      As with so much else in life, I think the answer to this is, “It depends.” I’ve been in a relationship with another writer for twenty-five years, and I can’t imagine being with someone who isn’t a writer. OTOH, we collaborate, so maybe that leaches the competitive edge from our singleton stuff.

      • Well, it took three years for my going away to Clarion to kill the r’ship. I’m sure that wasn’t the only thing, but that was where he placed the blame.
        Funny thing? Clarion reminded me how to be myself, reminded me that I was allowed to take time for the things I was passionate about. The me that had been worn down and masked by four years working in a corporate environment went away. The me that he theoretically fell in love with several years before came back. *shrug*
        I knew going into Clarion that there was the potential for change coming back. I’ve managed to keep the same job (in spite of the pool at the office about whether I’d come back at all, and if I did, how long I’d stay), lose a relationship, and make many friends who understand what it means to be obsessive and passionate about something, and who support me emotionally in the things I’m passionate about and that make me happy (whether it’s writing or photography) that I wouldn’t undo going to Clarion, even if I knew up-front that doing so would mean that three years after coming back I’d break up with my fiance.

        • Clarion reminded me how to be myself, reminded me that I was allowed to take time for the things I was passionate about.
          I think that’s it–significant others who say “don’t write” are saying “don’t be that person.”
          And anyone who says “don’t be that person” is not someone it’s comfortable to continue living with.

    • “I’d love to go play paintball/mini-golf/air-hockey/whatever with you, but my muse just hit me upside the head with a shovel and I cannot stop writing right now. Go have fun.”
      We both do this sort of thing regularly.
      I suppose it does tie back to ‘s point, though. It’s easy to say, “You go play paintball alone.” It’s harder–and less reasonable–to say, “You go take care of the kids today alone.”

  5. Of course — I’ve also heard that writers shouldn’t live with other writers because of some sort of inherent conflicts that arise between their mutual creative requirements.
    I haven’t noticed that being the case at all. Of course, given what my girlfriend writes and what I write, the chances of us ever really coming into conflict are tiny.
    On the other hand, we collaborate extremely well.

  6. Tough on a relationship? Oh yeah, she said fervently. An unsupportive–in cold, hard retrospect, frankly sabotaging–ex-spouse with competition issues shut down my writing for seven or eight years.
    He did it by pulling such tricks as (when a novel ms. of mine had been rejected by an agent who had taken the time to write a detailed critique I very much appreciated) “Well…maybe you’re Just Not Ready to Be Published Yet, so why don’t you put your energies to work more on [business I quit a career to help him build from a less-than-part-time side gig for him] since you’re good at =that= and you really Don’t Have TIME to write with the business?”
    And then he had the nerve to openly tell me, preening, that he was a better writer when his novel was accepted by the same agent. Yes, I should have seen the mind games he was playing. But I loved him at the time and love was blind. Whoops. My mistake.(shrug) Over that now…
    I admit to a bit of =Schadenfreude= (sp?) when the agent tried to place his novel for over a year, failed, and finally sent it back to him. But I simply said “I’m sorry, I know it hurts,” and was supportive of his angst over it.
    After I left him a year and a half ago, the writing came back as though I’d never stopped; I’ve sold my first story and am waiting to hear on other ms. out to market. My writers’ group–run by a writer/editor with a seriously solid track record–thinks I’m publishable. But I wonder whether I’d be further along the publishing road now if I’d actually had support from my ex back then instead of covert ops run on me.
    So…I personally think it’s better to have a spouse who isn’t a writer and deal with the issues that can cause than go through the kind of competition/sabotaging I experienced. At least with a spouse who isn’t a writer, you know that person may not get it and you may have to find a friend or writers’ group or whatever to bounce the ideas off. No false expectations leading to hurt on both sides, in other words. That is, assuming the spouse can be a grown-up about the perils of living with a writer.
    But this is based on very personal experience. Mileage varies, as always.

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