Sunday, August 12, 2007


My wife and I have this Peanuts strip taped to the fridge:

Relationships are hard enough, but it takes a real champion of a person to be married to an artist. Lots of times you have to be a maid/cook, motivational speaker, a mother, and an editor — all at once.

Lucy would never cut it.

When we were engaged, my wife and I read quite a few marriage books, but none of them touched on the trials that await the spouse of a writer.

So, if you’re a writer and you’re thinking about getting married, or if you’re thinking about marrying a writer, or even if you're already married, I’d recommend checking out Bruce Holland Rogers’ book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer.

There are lots of writing books out there, but Word Work is unique in that it’s all about the practical, day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts of a writer’s life. There are three chapters about relationships: “Writers and Lovers,” “Writers Loving Writers,” and “Writers Loving Non-Writers.”


Meredith Ramirez said...

oh dear this topic depresses me a little bit just because it touches on the way in which i feel like i have to be extremely selfish as a writer in a lot of ways, and how the world around me caters to my need for solitude and time. i find this really hard to handle in relationships, and i think it's worse in a lot of ways for women because, despite the advent of feminism, we're still more expected to have the caretaker role in relationships. i've been trying hard to stay single until i finish my novel, but oh, the temptation...

Erin said...

we're still more expected to have the caretaker role in relationships

The answer to that is pretty simple, on the surface anyway: you find someone who is a caretaker. Sure, though, there's that gender bias to deal with in the outside world -- so part two of that choice is learning not to really care what anyone else makes of it.

What I always find fascinating is that writers seem to either end up with other writers, or with someone who does something that's considered completely different. I'm of the My Husband Is Not A Writer And If I'd Ended Up With One It Would Have Been Terrible camp, but I've heard the opposing view argued quite eloquently.

jaywalke said...

This topic leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. The assumption that artists are tender flowers that require nurturing seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It sounds suspiciously like those that excuse the alcoholism and other self-destructive behavior rampant in the profession on the grounds that artists must deaden their sensitive souls to survive. In my jaded opinion, you could grow fine roses with that line of thinking.

I've spent my life around actors, and I can tell you that a lot of them are needy flakes simply because they've been coddled and encouraged to be that way by a society that thinks artists must be aliens.

Me: "Hey, when my office door is closed, please leave me alone."

Lovely Actress Spouse: "Okay. You're on your own for dinner."

No drama required.

Anna said...

Also, I think every profession comes with its challenges, and that being married to an emergency room M.D. who works all night, or a professional athlete who travels across the country with the team nine months of the year, or a cop who's constantly putting herself in danger, or a marine biologist whose research has to be done in Alaska, or a soldier who's gone to fight in Iraq, or a psychiatrist whose patients problems are giving her chronic depression... you get the picture. Any career, any relationship, features its own challenges, so why do artists need to think of themselves as specially challenged people in a world where everyone's challenged in some way?

Bolivia Red said...

I agree somewhat with Jaywalke that indulging in the myth of the artist can lead to some mollycoddling and destructive behaviour. Some writer (Richard Bausch??) says being a writer isn't a license to be uncivilised. I also agree with Anna that each profession has its own special requirements that will require challenges, sacrifice, and understanding for a partner, often in straining circumstances. Writers and artists aren't necessarily more special than any other profession. However, that doesn't make the needs of the artist or writer less just because other jobs require special understanding. What we need more of in any relationship is understanding each other's needs and figuring out how to negotiate the points where our needs clash or otherwise impinge on our partner's expectations and needs. It might be a little harder to define the challenges of living with an artist or writer, because those "jobs" are not as clearly defined as are ER docs, soldiers, and maybe even research scientists where a partner knows from the getgo what the hours and absences and challenges are likely to be. That's not always so clearly defined for artists and writers, especially when we're at the beginning of our writing education and career and haven't even figured out for ourselves what we need and how we work. Even if we do know, sometimes we don't know how to articulate those needs or are too inhibited to ask for what we need. Hurrah for those who are completely self-actualised and confident and can ask for exactly what they need and want, but not all of us are to that point in our lives. If there's a book that focuses on the special needs of a writer that can help us articulate it to ourselves and our partners, all the better. The point is to get to Jaywalke's non-dramatic example of negotiating space and time in a relationship, but sometimes we need a little help getting there.

Thanks for the recommendation, Austin.

Lizzy said...

Yeah :-) I've always joked to my friends that as a busy woman professional and artist, what I need in my life is a secretary AND a wife. Either or both can be male!

In my experience, it's been easier to be single and get a load of stuff done. When I'm attached, somehow work gets put on the back burner. However, as I get older and work takes priority over most other stuff, I find myself less willing to compromise and (therefore?) single more frequently.

writer/literary lover said...

Writers and other artists do have a tendency to feel "special" but all careers and lifestyles require adaptation and compromise in relationships. However, if you want to get something done, find a time where both you and your spouse can do things together, as well as apart. I just tell my fiancee, "I'm writing," and he goes and does what he wants. a good partner will leave you be. But it's obviously up to the individual to be motivated enough to not slack!

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