Burning Question: Writing and relationships?
I’ve heard various arguments over the years as to how the writer should choose a partner. The obvious one is “Marry a millionaire.” Always sound advice if you can find someone terribly rich who wants to bond with someone who spends a lot of time living in imaginary places and having imaginary conversations (not to mention doing both parts).
Alternatively, it’s “marry another artist.” By that argument they’ll understand your weird behavior as their own and so appreciate that just because you’re staring out the window doesn’t mean you are not working. Of course, unless they throw pots to your writing short stories, you might find yourselves from time to time in competition, or one having great success and the other a terrible time of it.
And the last approach is to pair off with someone who has nothing to do with the arts, someone who is stable, rational, and has a steady income to compensate for your more erratic one.
I’ve seen marriages and partnerships in all these categories. I’ve seen them work well, and I’ve seen them fall apart. Ultimately, as with the writing itself, I think the only maxim is that you try to know yourself. Don’t lie about the kind of person you are. If you’re lazy, aimless, and whiny, you aren’t going to get along with another artist, or almost anybody else for that matter.
Of course what you do for a living affects your relationships–but on a much larger canvas than when someone at a party asks what you do for a living and you say “I’m a writer” and then they ask (now almost certainly ready to bolt) if you’ve managed to get anything published. If your answer to that is “no,” you can expect to feel a decided chill settle over the conversation. The difference between that scenario and a relationship is that in the latter someone decided to partner with you in spite of the answer being “no,” which suggests that they are investing some quantity of faith in you, and maybe you should think about investing some faith in yourself, too. Or at least trying to prove them right (writers all need motivation, and that’s a good one). Today might be a good day to stop writing the same sweet little stories about ponies (or, alternatively, the same gore-spattered empty tales about vampires) and try to create some real three-dimensional characters instead. Let’s see them interact, behave the way people behave, say what actual people might say. If they can do it on paper, you can probably do it yourself, in real life–another benefit of stretching your craft. You still might want to try to marry a millionaire. It couldn’t hurt.
Gregory Frost is the best-selling author of such novels as Lyrec, Tain, Fitcher’s Brides, and the acclaimed Shadowbridge duology. He did not marry for money.