Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Spousal Support
by Brian Plante

To make a long story short, my wife does not support my writing. One recent Friday night she asked me if I would get up early on a Saturday morning to drive our daughter to a meeting. Friday night is my biggest block of writing time all week, since I don't usually have to get up early the next day. It's a regularly scheduled activity and my wife knows that. I often stay up until 3 or 4AM writing.

"I'm working tonight," I told her. "I wasn't planning on getting up too early."

"You're not working," my wife informed me.

I thought she had a bit more respect by now for my writing. I certainly don't make enough money at it to call this my profession, but it is most definitely work.

"You enjoy writing, so it's not really work," she told me, after I argued that it certainly was work.

I countered that my writing brought in more money last year than her occasional substitute-teaching jobs.

"Your writing is a hobby," she said. "Just because you happen to make some money from it doesn't make it work."

My strategy in moments like this is to clam up and avoid a big fight. I thought to myself that lots of people, um, many people . . . okay, some people really liked their jobs, and it didn't diminish the fact that it was work, even though they enjoyed doing it. But I gave my wife the hairy eyeball and kept my mouth shut. And I worked that night on a story rewrite that was requested by an editor, and a week later had an acceptance at professional rates (it will appear in Future Orbits in an upcoming issue). I went to sleep at 2 AM that night.

It was work.

Many writers have supportive spouses that encourage their literary work. Some couples both write, and can collaborate and help each other out with critiquing and proofreading. A supportive spouse can be a writer's first reader and cheering section. That must be nice.

In my case, I have succeeded (to whatever extent) in spite of my spouse, rather than because of her. She rarely reads fiction for pleasure, and never science fiction, so there is little possibility that anything I write would be entertaining to her. Early on in my fledgling writing career, I showed her some stories and she just shrugged. I no longer offer to let her read my stories and she never asks to see them, and we are both happier this way.

I did not begin writing fiction until my wife and I were married for over ten years. My love of books and SF was not a common bond that brought us together. When our first daughter was young, I purposely gave up a fun but dead-end music hobby and began writing fiction instead, figuring I still needed some sort of creative outlet. My wife didn't exactly encourage it, but she wasn't opposed to it either, since the tools of the trade were cheaper than the music gear I was buying, and it kept me home and out of trouble.

Over time, as I began selling more and more stories to better markets, my wife has come to realize I am really serious about my writing. She mostly respects the time I sacrifice to this pursuit, which I have reclaimed by skipping a lot of TV time and some hours of sleep. I try to be a good husband and father and not take away important time from my family.

But my wife doesn't think my writing is really work. She probably won't believe it still when I start working on novels. If I should happen to sell one of those novels, that probably won't convince her either, unless I sell it for a very high figure (highly unlikely). But I'll write that novel, and continue with short stories because she's right -- I really do like the writing, even when it's hard work.

Oh, I'm not ready to trade my wife in on some newer model or anything like that, but I just wanted to say that not all writers are blessed with the nurturing, supportive spouse. If you're really meant to become a writer, you don't need a spouse to encourage you. It's not really a requirement of the job, and not why I married her.

I write to please myself, not my wife, and that's enough.

And it is work, dammit.

Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante

Return to Plain Banter menu
Return to Brain Planet home page