How To Live With A Writer
This week we’re looking at the writing life from the perspective of those who deal with the writer’s neuroses, insecurities and ego on a daily basis. To get a true insider’s perspective, I interviewed an actual person who lives with a writer. My husband. He had a lot of insightful and encouraging things to say. Here’s the transcript of our chat.
Me: Our subject is what is it like to live with a writer. I’d like to start by asking you, what is a writer?
Him: A writer is somebody who writes.
Me: Am I a writer?
Him: Yes, but I think you spend more time being a writer than writing.
Me: Interesting. What is the difference between being a writer and writing?
Him: Doing all of the things that are trappings of the profession than the actual profession.
Me: Like what? What are those trappings?
Him: I would say mostly being online, doing things like blogs and facebooking and networking with people. That seems to happen far more of the time than actual writing.
Me: (gulp) Right. So how do you think that impacts a writer?
Him: What impacts a writer?
Me: Not writing.
Him: (laughs) Well, not writing would impact a writer by the fact they’re not writing.
Me: What’s it like to live with a writer who isn’t writing?
Him: Well, it can be frustrating when you do things to make room and time and all sorts of things for the writer, and they choose to spend the time doing things not writing. Especially when they simultaneously complain they’re not writing.
Me: And what is your advice to a writer who isn’t writing?
Me: Have you ever tried writing?
Me: And what did you think of it?
Him: It’s not a whole lot of fun. It’s fun to be done with it.
Me: What is it like living with a writer who is writing?
Him: Well, when you see them (laughs), it’s good because they’re excited, they’re energized by it. Mostly it’s they’re somewhere else, writing. Mostly it’s not seeing them. But when you do see them, they’re fired up and energetic and energized by it, so it’s good.
Me: Do you think it takes a special kind of person to be married to a writer?
Him: You know, I think it takes a special kind of person to be married to any other person. Everyone’s got their quirks, and a writer is just one way to be quirky.
Me: Do you like the artistic quirks, or are they annoying?
Me: What’s your favorite quirk?
Him: (laughs) I like the part where you finish something creative that you’ve been cussing at for a long time and then you say something to the effect of, “Oh look! I made a unicorn.”
Me: What is your least favorite quirk?
Him: Probably just the whole focus on publishing, getting known, all that stuff. I don’t know. I realize I’m not the one doing it, so I don’t really have an intelligent stance, but it seems to me any artistic endeavor is about the art, not about the — it should be primarily about the art, not about the recognition about the art. So all of the drama that comes with that piece of it is kind of irksome to me.
Me: So what is your advice for the writer dealing with that part of it?
Him: I think you focus first on just getting the writing done. You do that and just that. Put your energies into that. All of your energies into that. And then when you’re satisfied with it, focus on those other things. I don’t know whose quote it was, but the quote that said, write and then keep sending it out to people until someone sends you a check. But see, the first part was write. And the second part was sending it out.
Me: Was that Annie Dillard?
Him: I don’t have any idea.
Me: Do you think it’s difficult to live with a writer?
Me: Would you prefer that I not be a writer?
Him: No, that would be worse. (laughs) I love the artistic part of you, and I would love to have the artistic part of you doing art all of the time and being happy about doing the art all of the time. The part I don’t like is the everything else that goes with it.
Me: The business side of it?
Me: Do you think most writers would agree with that statement as well?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: What advice do you have for people who live with writers?
Him: I think the trick is to find balance. Say, this is your writing space, and when you’re not in that space, then you have to come out of that space. You can’t keep one foot in both worlds and try to be happy at all times. You need a sequestered time to work on it, and then you need a time when you’re going to interact with the planet.
Me: Are there times when I have a foot in both?
Him: Most of the time, I think.
Him: I think there’s rarely a time when you’re interacting with the family when you don’t have the laptop on your lap.
Me: (cringe) I’m not going to put that on the blog.
Him: Okay, be a liar.
Me: Fine. I’ll put it on the blog. I really like my laptop. Okay, so… what about the advice for people who live with writers. You talked about balance, but more from the writer’s point of view. So, what about the person who is not the writer in the relationship?
Him: I don’t know. I think the two have to work that out. And it comes down to personalities. If you’re non-confrontational like me, you just don’t worry about it. It might be better for some other personalities to confront it and have some boundaries.
Me: You don’t want to be a writer?
Me: But you do come up with story ideas.
Him: Yeah. I have ideas. But I have no intention or desire to do anything with them other than give them to you.
Me: And I appreciate that.
Him: I don’t know if it’s true of other writers or just you, but you have lots of artistic abilities in many, many other areas. You are the Queen of All Media. And this particular media seems to be far more time-consuming and self-consuming than other kinds. I would love to see more balance with other kinds. Because I think you’d get the same kind of energy and same kind of satisfaction out of something that could take an hour instead of a year. Every now and then that might be good thing for balance.
Me: That is interesting and I will take it under consideration.
Him: If you’re frustrated or fed up with whatever part of the book you’re dealing with, take an hour and draw a picture. You might get energized by it.
Me: Any other parting words?
Him: Nope. That was it.
Me: Thank you for your time.