Columns > Published on August 31st, 2016

6 Ways Non-Writerly Spouses Help Improve Your Craft

I have had relationships with many writers. An underlying commonality of these was the ripping apart of each others’ work. Nothing was ever sacred; there was never a project too close to my heart. And no wonder: We as writers must take a critical eye to each others’ stories, and that can complicate a writer-on-writer relationship.

I’m in no way saying these relationships cannot work. I have known authors who have invested in others in the craft and come out the better for it. There are a thousand and one reasons a writer can benefit from relationships with other writers. But on the flipside, non-writerly relationships can help us just the same. These pluses are often overlooked or completely ignored in the face of craft-built entanglements, but they persist nonetheless. Below are the most glaring reasons a non-writerly partner can still be what dreams are made of—all of which I’ve experienced myself.

Non-writers always ask the most obvious questions

In my experience, the smallest of details have only been caught by the non-writers in my life.

Writing workshops serve an important purpose in the literary community. It is within these venues that the most important grammatical errors are caught. Plotting is analyzed; dialogue is dissected. But in my experience, the smallest of details have only been caught by the non-writers in my life. That light switch that was described as being on the right wall but is now suddenly on the left? My husband will point that out. Maybe it’s not the most important aspect of my writing, but without the answers to these types of questions, we lose authenticity.

You can benefit from their knowledge

We must all research the more complicated aspects of our stories, from the gory details in which our characters die to the mechanisms of the fictional space crafts they sometimes fly in. While fellow writers can challenge these types of ideas, it’s handy to have someone in a different field around to give their point of view. A mechanical engineer may be able to tell you if a certain machine could feasibly work; an accountant can tell you if your numbers add up. It’s handy keeping this kind of readership around.

The focus won’t be on particulars, but on readability

I remember the first time I entered a writer’s workshop. It was intimidating letting a crowd of strangers analyze my work, and while incredibly helpful, the critiques they provided were on a micro level. My husband, on the other hand, sees things from a larger perspective. Is this story good—yes or no? He isn’t interested in the fine details like other writers are, but instead on the simple notion of whether I should pursue a project or not. This is doubly as helpful when your non-writerly relationship is with someone who is at the same reading level as your work.

Hunkering down won’t be an option when the world is at your window

We all know how it feels. You’re sitting at your desk, the words flowing through your fingertips at a pace so quick that your mind can barely keep up with you. And then you feel that presence over your shoulder—the one that keeps coming back to bother you no matter how many times you’ve told him or her that damn it, reading over your shoulder will only make you more nervous about your work! Yes, it sucks … but after years of this experience I’ve learned the upside to this proclivity as well. Sometimes writers can spiral down the rabbit hole, becoming lost in their work. Having a non-writerly spouse helps remind me to step away from my laptop and engage in the world. After all, everyone needs a break sometimes.

They will feel pride at your successes

I’d like to think all writers will feel this way too, but the fact of the matter is that this isn’t always true. The literary world is filled with of a lot of pride, but also jealousy, anger, and rejection. It’s a relief to come home to someone who isn’t involved in that, or has any knowledge of it. A non-writerly spouse will typically display more admiration and pride—however ignorant the feelings may be—and this helps foster overall dedication to the craft.

He or she will (or should) be your biggest cheerleader

How many times has one of my projects failed? About half as many times as my husband has told me to “keep going, because you’ll get there one day.” And for every one of my successes, he has a billion words of encouragement as well. He may not understand my writing—or any writing at all, really—but he’s there for me regardless. And that’s what makes a non-writerly relationship last.

There are a dozen more reasons non-writerly relationships benefit the craft, but these tend to be the most important across the board. Mind you, there is no replacement for writing workshops or realistic feedback from others in the literary community—but non-writers have something to offer too. How has the non-writer in your life helped you improve your craft?

About the author

Raine lives in Cleveland, Ohio and works as a freelance writer and graphic artist. From an early age she has harbored a love of reading and writing, and is lucky enough to incorporate both into her daily work routine. Raine is a lover of all things fantasy and horror related, has a soft spot in her heart for middle grade and young adult fiction, and spends most of her free time running, wakesurfing, or wrangling in her husband and three cats while they perpetrate a massive amount of mischief around the house.

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