Friday, 8 July 2011

What does it take to be a writer's other half?

Most of the column inches in this blog are taken up with me complaining about being a writer. The hours suck, it's poorly paid, and nobody ever says "well done". In fact, they are much more likely to say, "Would you please stop filling the house with scraps of paper, and get that bloody laptop off the kitchen table?"

It occurred to me lately that few of us would ever get anything done were it not for the support of our other halves. People of a creative mindset are wont to be flighty and inconsistent. Anything and everything interests us, and we can almost forget that the world is turning when we're absorbed in the act of creation. In my rush to get back to the writing desk, I'll often leave pans dirty and crumb-covered plates all over the worktop. Later on I'll come back downstairs and shout "WHO ON EARTH MADE ALL THIS DISGUSTING MESS", forgetting that in fact it is I who has the softest of hands from never bloody washing up.

Stability, that's important to us. The working life of any writer is filled end to end with discouragement. There is no steady ground beneath our feet. Every writer has her black periods. Quite apart from constantly doubting whether our work is really any good, we face discouragement from lots of other angles. A constantly growing pile of rejection letters or resounding silences, or sniping reviews can reinforce our belief that we're really not all that good at what we do. If we didn't have our other halves to support us when we're moping, or to remind us that we have to re-tax the car or break off to eat every now and again, we would probably be a bit depressed, as well as somewhat unproductive.

And the job of being a writer's other half is far from a rewarding one. You're attached to somebody who spends most of their free time staring moodily into a computer screen; and when they're not doing that, their thought processes are mainly taken up with the process of deciding What Happens Next. Your spouse's head is continually in an imaginary place - an imaginary place completely inaccessible to you until its creator has spent months of her life writing, rewriting, and editing it. On top of all that, what your scribbling beloved requires from you most of all is that you never, ever interrupt her while she is working.

So let's all give 'props' to our other halves - for putting up with our inconsistencies, for doing more than their share around the house, and for placing cups of tea unobtrusively just within reach of our hands when we are deep in the quagmire of a third or fourth edit. We would be nothing without them.

Currently reading

The Outsider Albert Camus
The Cossacks Leo Tolstoy

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