Burning Question: Writing and Relationships?
Long-suffering. That is the term I think most aptly applies when speaking of the partner of a writer or artist or musician. Unless the partner or spouse is likewise in the arts or has arrived at some accommodation, the behavior, schedule, social life of their artistic “other” is likely mainly to drive them right around the bend.
A “normal” person gets up in the morning, gets ready, and heads off to work. The writer may have been up already for hours. Like my pal, Joe Haldeman, he may have awakened at 4 a.m., put on the kettle, made tea, sat down and worked for three hours before anyone else stirred. Or she might be by nature a night owl, who really gets down to it after 10 p.m. , when everyone’s asleep, and works until late in the night in the quiet world inhabited by vampires and burglars. Only a handful of the writers I know get up like everyone else, dress, eat, and set to work the same as someone who goes to an office or cubicle. And most of them are so disabled by social media that they have to check their e-mail before proceeding. Now, there’s a blood-sucking phenomenon if ever there was one.
Then there are the books. Research. Biographies of obscure individuals. Encyclopedias of even more obscure objects. Histories. Anthologies of all sorts. Fiction that someone said “You must read,” and so was purchased immediately, but has not, some two years later, actually been read. Or, because the writer was signing her books in a bookshop, she happened to wander around in the shop and found some more really interesting and obscure books that simply had to come home because really one never knows just when the history of labial-dental fricatives will become a critical text. Books that get stacked in corners, on tables, or sometimes as table-legs; bookshelves that proliferate alarmingly like sagging bunny rabbits. The partner has to be willing to overlook this ever-expanding mass of books, or at least deal with it by just giving the occasional sigh and finding some other place to sit for the time-being.
And of course the conventions and conferences… These are places where the writers go to be in the company of others of their kind. Like a Moose Lodge but without the antlers. The spouses, when they do attend, manage to find one another quickly and then to assemble a spontaneous support group, usually tying ropes to each other’s wrists so they can’t get lost, while their writer spouses gibber uproariously about everything from “which of us has the worst cover art this year” to “why your agent is really the one I need.” These are built from monologues that the partner has probably had to endure for years. You get the feeling that if you handed them semi-automatic weapons and bandoliers, the partners and spouses would stand back to back and make their way slowly, cautiously to the exit in the hope of getting out alive. After all, they’ve traveled all the way to wherever this is with you, and while you will spend three days seeing the inside of a hotel function room, they would like to see the Grand Canyon or some other ridiculous thing. They would really like for you to come too, but, yes, they know–you really do have to have a confab about which writing software will best enable you to keep track of all your files on a project. And it’s true, you do have a problem with that whole organizational thing (see “books” above).
Anyway, later you can look at the photos.
Gregory Frost is the author of the YA-crossover Shadowbridge duology, voted by the ALA as one of the best fantasies in 2009. He only writes when inspired and makes a point of being inspired every morning at 9 a.m. He lives with a long-suffering banker.