Friday, May 18, 2007

Writing & Relationships: Too Much to Ask?

By Candy Calvert

The man in the photo is 6-foot-two and wide-shouldered; a former football player, baseball pitcher and boxer; he has a degree in finance and is a native Texan. Yes, Texas. Where big belt buckle testosterone is served alongside chicken fried steak. And yet this man (my fiancĂ© at the time) was willing to wear a ridiculous red yarn wig, painted lashes and a cutesy sailor hat to become “Andy” to my “Raggedy Ann.” It left no doubt in my mind that he loved me.

But Tex had no clue that greasepaint and high-water sailor pants were only the beginning.

I began to seriously pursue publication in 2002, a few years after our marriage. It soon became obvious to my new husband that “I do” must evolve into “I will” when he found himself strapped into a double-seat on my incredible roller coaster ride of writing classes, contests, agent queries, agent rejections, agent contract, editor submissions and editor rejections. He watched me type 16 hours straight (with swollen ankles and wrist tendonitis) for a manuscript revision deadline that ended in yet another rejection. And when faced with a last minute “emergency” title change (which also meant reprinting nine full manuscripts to be mailed the next day), hubby brainstormed, collated and packed boxes into the night. He was there with a box of Kleenex when that Herculean effort also met with rejection. And he hoisted the champagne bottle when “The Call” finally came to announce the sale of my first book to Midnight Ink.

But--as we all know--a first sale (while awesome in magnitude of validation) is only the BEGINNING of a whole new stretch of track on this crazy roller coaster ride. Deadlines, revisions, new book proposals, marketing and promotion, book tours, hours spent networking, writers’ conferences, speaking engagements, perpetual angst over sales numbers and market changes, and . . . is it fair to expect our spouses, partners, or even potential mates to come along for the ride? Maybe even take a backseat at times? When writing--and the business of writing--can consume an author’s time 24/7, how much should we expect from our loved ones? Where should the line be drawn?

I’ll admit that there have been more than a couple of “discussions” about time commitment at my house. With the occasional mention of telltale words like “obsession” and “priorities.” Ouch. But it’s true--this writing life can completely take over. Mark reminded us (here on the blog) that we are running a marathon with our careers, not a sprint. We need to pace ourselves--and offer that same respite to our loved ones.

I try to do this by keeping regular “business” hours, and by combining signing and speaking events with touristy “getaways” that allow for more fun than simply toting posters, lugging books, over-dosing on Starbuck’s and then piling into the car to drive home. I remind myself that there are things to talk about besides writing, that it’s okay to sit through a movie without commenting on the plot structure, and that the computer can be turned OFF.

Okay, that last one’s sort of a lie--because I’ve only turned the computer off during hellacious Texas lightning storms. But that proves that I do know where the button is.

So how do you maintain a balance between your commitments to writing (and the day job?) (kids?) and your personal relationships?

How do you stop short of asking someone to wear a yarn wig and sailor hat?


Mark Terry said...

It's tough. Prior to my making money writing my wife was supporting in a sort of grim I-won't-get-in-your-way sort of way. Once money started coming in it was more of a try-to-balance-this-a-bit-Mark kind of thing.

Now that I do it for a living it's more of a when-are-you-getting-paid-next-and-make-more-even-if-you-work-12-hour-days kind of thing, although I will occasionally flare back with a "I make more money than you do already" and she'll respond with "but I provide health insurance" sort of thing.

Be glad you have support.

Nina Wright said...

Hi, Candy. You are indeed fortunate to have a supportive, compatible husband. I assume that his sense of humor was a prerequisite!

Some of us are making it all on our own--at least for the time being. As you and I have discussed, being alone beats being in a bad marriage any day...although the bad marriage did give me lots of fiction fodder.

Part of the fun of dating at this point in my life is seeing how new men react to the revelation that I'm a writer. It definitely separates the readers and thinkers from the vast pack. Once, on a date, I suggested that the man and I stop in Borders to browse, just for fun. He said, "Go in a bookstore? For fun? You're kidding, right?"

He wasn't kidding, and neither was I. We're still friends, though, and later he called to say he'd bought two of my books. But I don't think he ever read them.

For me, a sense of humor is a marriage prerequisite. So is loving books. Sounds like your guy is the Real Deal, Candy! Congrats!

Nina Wright
Whiskey and Tonic

Mark Combes said...

I think sometimes we forget how long it took us to write the damn manuscript. You didn't write in a day. And your career is the same way - it won't be made in a day. Well, unless you are very lucky. So pace yourself in all aspects of your writing career. Don't beat yourself up if you didn't get your "required" five pages done that night. But reward yourself if you did.

I have a Kiwi author friend that shares my passion for single malt Scotchs. He has dozens in his cupboard at any given time and he selects a given Scotch based on his days productivity. He rewards himself even if he doesn't produce all that much in a given day. But if he does especially well...

In other words, enjoy the process - don't make it "work." Be diligent, but have fun because in the end it's 24 hours and maybe 60 good years. It's not that long a stay....

G.M. Malliet said...

Colette's husband would lock her in her room to force her to write. When my husband gets tired of watching me faff about wasting time, he threatens to do the same.

It doesn't sound supportive or helpful but it is.