On Sunday, my husband and I had one of those little tiffs that remind me just how difficult it sometimes is to be married to a writer.Â I’d gotten up early that day,Â raring to get to work on an article I’d promisedÂ to aÂ magazine, andÂ IÂ sat right down at my computer.Â About an hour later, hubby yellsÂ up the stairs: “Are you coming down to breakfast, or should I just eat BY MYSELF?!!”
He’s grumpy that I’m working before breakfast.Â I’m grumpy because he’s interrupted my train of thought.Â Words are spoken.Â A Sunday is ruined.
It’s just like the good old days.
Early in our marriage, while I was still workingÂ as a doctor, hubbyÂ thoughtÂ my writingÂ was just a nice little hobby.Â Sort of like, oh, stamp collecting.Â Â He used to resent theÂ hours I spent late at night,Â scribbling away.Â He resented the timesÂ I’dÂ get that faraway look in my eye, because he knew I wasn’tÂ really in the room with him; I wasÂ somewhere else,Â with other people.Â Who didn’t exist.Â He also resentedÂ the factÂ that I wasn’t pulling my weight in the income department.Â He’d married a doctor!Â He thought his wife would be earningÂ big bucks!Â Sure,Â he’d agreed that I should cut back on my practice hours when our kids were small.Â Once the kids started pre-school,Â though, surely I was going to beÂ a fulltime doctor again…
But by then, I’d sold a few books to Harlequin Intrigue.Â While myÂ writing income wasn’t anything to crow about, I was determined to stick with the new career.Â Â A career that my husbandÂ still considered my “little hobby”.Â Â TheÂ more focused I got, the hotter heÂ steamed.Â Did I really think my writing would amount to anything?Â I was delusional!Â And I wasÂ self-indulgent.Â Worst of all, I wasn’t paying attention to him.Â Â
Then, in an instant, everything changed.Â I gotÂ the earth-shattering phone call from my literary agent telling me I’d just been offered a million-dollar deal for HARVEST.
My husband and I can laugh about it, now.Â He’ll be the first to admit that he didn’t have enough faith in me, and that he was wrong.Â He’s turned into my strongest supporter, my first reader, and my chief cook and bottle-washer.Â
But there were times, early in my writing career, whenÂ the marriage was rough going.Â Â
I hear this from other writers who are having trouble in their marriages.Â Non-writing spouses don’t understand how much mental energy we writers have to devote to our work.Â We’re never off the job.Â We’re never really on vacation.Â If we’re not thinking about a current plot problem, then we’re thinking about the next book we’re going to write.Â Or we’re worried about our sales, or we’re pissed off about a bad review.Â When you catch us lying on the couch and staring into space, we’re not goofing off.Â We’re working.
Stephen King was once asked, “What’s the secret to a successful writing career?”Â He answered: “Stay married.”Â And I think he’s mostlyÂ right.Â Writers need stability.Â We can’t afford to waste mental energy on a turbulent divorce or in chasing new lovers.
Sometimes, though, a writer’s marriage simply isn’t salvageable.Â SometimesÂ the non-writing spouse simply refuses to accept thatÂ his or her spouseÂ was born to create.Â I’ve heard horror stories.Â One husband was so resentful of his wife’s writing that he “cleaned up” their house while she was away,Â and “accidentally” threw out the manuscript she’d labored over for a year.Â Â Another husband (of a multi-million-dollar author)Â never read any of his wife’s books because he thought they’d probably be crap.Â Spouses can sabotageÂ us in so many ways, with put-downs, ridicule, or repeated interruptions.Â Â
Sometimes, the onlyÂ solution really is divorce.
But spousesÂ who care enough about each other learnÂ to adapt and accept.Â Â
I’ve learned to keep my writing (for the most part) to five days a week.Â I’ve also learned to stop when the dinner hour comes around.Â Â I’m not able toÂ switch off the mental process, though; that continues 24 hours a day, even into my dreams.Â Â
Some things, I’m afraid, are non-negotiable.