They say that writing is a “lonely” business: hours spent on research in the library or on the Internet, hours spent writing and editing… all of it alone. But they also say that no man is a lonely island, and that also seem true: we have families, we have friends (even if they feel neglected at times) and we often work full-time which means having coworkers. And most importantly, we do fall in love and find partners, create new families. We are not alone, yet… we are sometimes, struggling to be understood or accepted not only as beloved family members or best friends, but also as writers.
I have to admit that I can relate to such problems to some extent, but in the end it’s all about the relations we chose to have. I am lucky to have an understanding significant other, whom I can tell “Go away, I’m writing” without causing any problems in our relationship, but it’s works not because of some magical reason. He knows and understands how much writing means to me and how important it is. For the same reason I don’t get grumpy when he seems to ignore me, deep in his work. It didn’t “just happen”, it is based on mutual understanding and respect.
That makes me wonder if people who complain about lack of understanding of their partners, families and friends, have talked about it openly and calmly. I think that sometimes it’s clear explanation that is missing, replaced by an emotional reaction to what we see as lack of support from others. Other people might not always be able to relate to the need of writing itself, but they can relate through comparison to things that are important to them. Instead of speaking of writing as something important, it might be a good idea to speak more in general, referring to passions and hobbies, giving examples from their own interests. Instead of saying “you have to understand writing is important to me” one can say “I feel about writing how you feel about hunting/collecting stamps/playing video games”. As writers we all know that the choice of words can change everything.
There is also a matter of reciprocation. If we treat our partner’s passion as something unimportant or not serious, how can we expect to have the significant other respect ours? No passion or hobby is silly, and by supporting theirs, even by simply allowing time and space, you can receive the same support for yours. If someone says “you’re watching some stupid football match again”, how can they expect to not hear something similar about their writing? I think it’s important to talk about writing or any other passion honestly, but not let emotions to pick the words, and that can be hard when we feel strongly about something.
Of course there might be many more factors that I’m not aware of, as every relationship is unique in its story, circumstances and personalities of people involved, but I do think that it’s worth trying to make it a bit more writer-friendly for the benefits that come with it. Not only I can tell my partner “go away, I’m writing”, but also I can dump on him my doubts when they come (and rightfully hear that I’m not right in the head focusing on them) or discuss a plot hole in the story I’m working on. Even if he can’t read what I write (some of my stories are in Polish), he still provides insights about characters or storyline solutions, or simply lends and ear where I work through the problems with my writing.
How about you? Do you have a significant other? Do they support you as writers, disturb you or just let you be? I’m sure if you share your stories, I’ll discover many new perspectives on the writer’s significant other.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.