I am a married thirtysomething with no children; we both want a family. My wife wants me to 'get real' and put my writing dreams aside in favour of bearing down at work and trying to climb the company ladder. I am happy to work at the line level (she has a healthy salary/an actual career, I work in the service sector for a decent hourly wage) while focusing my efforts on becoming a better writer with the hope of one day getting an agent, selling some writing, yada yada yada.
Does anyone else struggle with this same sort of scenario? How do you negotiate this relationship mine field?
We fight, we argue, we accuse...it's tiresome, it's frustrating. She thinks I'm being selfish and that I will not become 'a writer' - the odds are just too long. I think she's wrong to ask me to give up on my dream. She says I must compromise if we are to have a family. She wants stable 9-to-5 and happy - I want to help pay the bills without feeling like I live to work and have the room to dream and to try.
She is Type A and I am Type B. It's the classic dilemma. Has anyone else here successfully navigated this? Any advice? I guess more than anything I feel cold and would like to know I'm not alone - that I'm not the only wannabe writer that experiences this kind of thing. Thanks.
I always get confused by these situations. Don't get me wrong, I've found myself in them as well, and they confused me then, too.
Did she know that you had designs on being a writer before you got together/got married? And did you know that she was looking for you to be more stable and career-oriented before you got married? I always wonder how much of these situations falls back on a lack of communication and the desire to hide the not-so-pretty or embarassing parts of ourselves when we first get into a relationship.
Bottom line, I think what you need to do is communicate. There's probably a little blame to go around on both sides. Listen to her, see where she's coming from and why she doesn't want you to be writing. Explain to her how you feel about it and that it's a dream of yours.
A good relationship will always find a middle path for each person involved in it. Maybe you neglect her when you're writing? Maybe you're not putting in enough money toward the future? Maybe she's just bored and needs to find a hobby? Maybe she doesn't understand that it is a "dream" you've always had, to try to be a writer? Maybe there's just a whole shitload of miscommunication on both sides, and a simple, open, honest conversation will shed a ton of light on all sides?
Or maybe you need to watch Breaking Bad and get tips from Walter White on how to sneak around without getting caught...
When I was in my early twenties and just started writing, I had that type of girlfriend: the one that thought what I was doing was a waste of time, but more often than not, a waste of time compared to the time I could be spending with her. There was a lot of "wouldn't you rather go out to dinner than write tonight?" There was a considerable effort on her part to lure me away from my computer or outright discourage me from working. That relationship didn't last.
Fast-forward to now, my girlfriend of close to five years fully supports me, serves as a regular beta reader, and is often promoting my newest releases on my behalf. Unlike ten years ago, I have novels under my belt and a literary agent and freelance work coming in on a regular basis. There's money being made off of this. She's a supportive person--don't get me wrong--but I think it's easy to support something that isn't just "a dream". That may be the issue your wife is having...your dream looks like an unrealistic longshot to her.
My ex-wife said she supported me, but if anything, she put too much pressure upon me. Write a bestseller, rather than just write, etc. The next girlfriend was indifferent as long as I didn't do it when she was around. The girlfriend after that was supportive, for the most part. My current girlfriend is also a writer and a freelance editor, so she is very supportive. We write together sometimes. She is supportive, and she also has a realistic view of the industry that my past girlfriends have lacked.
My husband is incredibly supportive and gets at least half the credit for me taking my writing seriously as a career path instead of just writing things with no real motivation to put them out in the world. The thing is though, he sacrifices for me to have writing time and to do all the things I do to support my dream moving forward, and I *also* sacrfice.
She is right, you can't have a family if you aren't willing to make sacrifices, and you surely can't chase a dream like this without sacrifice. I don't write when my family is awake. I mean, sometimes my husband is awake, but he's reading or watching TV. I plan my day around my grown up responsibilities and maintaining my family life, and I plan my nightly writing time so that I can maximize it without putting too much strain on myself or my relationships.
Maybe what you need is compromise. Show her the ways in which you are willing to sacrifice for your MUTUAL dream of a family, and how you can fit writing time in while also persuing a more time-stable job and having time to be a father. I'm going to tell you right now -- having an infant is fucking hard. If you're working odd hours and she's working full time, you simply can't expect to come home and shut yourself up in the home office to write. So like I said, show her that you can plot out a schedule where everyone gets their needs met, show her that you don't expect her to be the breadwinner, the main parent, and the person who isn't really getting attention from her spouse, and that you can manage your time and mutual goals while also making time for your goals.
I second Sean's & Renee's remarks. Communicaton is key to any relationship, and compromise is essential. Parenting is HARD, but can be unbelievably rewarding, and it requires teamwork if everyone involved is to keep from killing the other--and I'm not even getting to the in-laws.
Renee, you sound like you and your husband have a great thing going. My and my friends' experiences have been that whatever one does for a living and loves can be very difficult to balance with the rest of one's obligations, and a situation that is unfair or unbalanced can create all kinds of anger and resentment. Life is too short to focus on that negative energy. If this relationship is important to you, then start talking to her today! Try to keep it neutral and/or positive, and listen to her side; make sure you each are hearing one another's side. Work on a mutually satifsfying solution, if you can. Go to a counselor, if you think it'll help.
Good luck! I hope this works out for you; if it doesn't, then I hope you both can learn from this so you next relationships will be successful for however long they may last.
My husband is supportive if writing makes me happy, but he doesn't realize what it means to me. He is an artist himself, an awesome photographer with lots of accolades to his credit. Really, people see him as the creative one, not me. We both have careers for long years that we are getting tired of. As much as he is the perfect partner, he doesn't want to read what I write. When I ask him to read my stuff, I know he doesn't really want to. He is more visual. Sometimes he will read it, but it's not because he can't wait to. I want him to read my things and talk about it. That doesn't happen Yes, I have sex on my side but I do t want it to come to that.
Can I ask, and this is not meant to be judgmental, but just wondering -- when you say you are "focusing on becoming a better writer", what does that mean? Are you writing and submitting short stories or working on a longer project? I just wonder because if you spend a lot of time writing and not a lot of time submitting/making progress that could explain some of her attitude. Forgive me if the answer to that is obvious. I know I've seen your screenname around but I am hardly ever dicking around in the forums any more.
Hey, thanks all for the kind responses. My feelings on this subject led to a conversation between the two of us and a lot of things were aired. Turns out, she enjoys reading what I write quite a bit, and she loves the ideas I tell her about for stories. She's been frustrated that I don't try to submit my stories to anyone like an agent or small publication, but I tell her my writing is still quite weak - it's not where it needs to be yet. I'm still at the beginning stage of just learning how to write - nowhere near making any scratch or garnering any attention whatsoever - I'm not even really at the point yet where workshopping would do me any good, as I'm still too weak a storyteller/sentence constructor/prose manufacturer (for lack of better terms).
Regardless, the conversation was much needed, and we're in a better place. She made me realize she's more supportive of the idea of my pursuing writing than she'd let on, she just worries that I won't ever gain the confidence to keep moving forward with it, though I've assured her that is not the case. Work-wise, I work full time, that isn't going to change, but I don't have the stereotypical 'career' that she does and she's okay with that - she just doesn't want a house-husband not contributing to the bills, and I agree - it's not a burden I want to saddle us with either.
In talking we came to realize we're more on the same page than either of us realized. She was excited when she'd read my first novella I'd written a couple of years ago, but I've struggled with my output since then and that's why she got discouraged. We reached a compromise that I would not tip the work-life balance thing in the favour of my day job, but I'd still work full time and contribute to the bills while also being faithful to an organized writing routine (i.e. a schedule whereby I set aside time everyday to write, ideally the same time each day) and treat it more or less like a tangible pursuit and less like a procrastinated dream.
Thanks again all for your advice, and for sharing your experience(s). Communication works wonders.
kward, forgive my horrible memory...but didn't you have a story, maybe in WAR or in the workshop, about a bear infiltrating a business meeting?
I think it was you, but I could be wrong.
I haven't read your work, so I can't give any sort of judgement as to its quality, but do be careful that you don't undervalue your writing to the point where it never gets submitted. We are all always learning. Most of us have day jobs and don't make a living by writing fiction. We are all in it together.
Your posts show a solid understanding of grammar and sentence structure. I don't think you can ever be new enough that you won't develop skills workshopping stories. If I were you, I would consider workshopping some stories and getting them sent out. They may not get sold to pro paying markets, but most don't. If they don't get accepted, try semi-pro or free markets. It sucks to not get paid, but you will also have a credit to your name, and your wife will be excited to see your name in print somewhere. It makes it seem more real to them. I remember my first published story. I didn't get paid, at all, but my ex-wife (wife at the time) was extremely excited about it.
There is also a lot to learn about writing through the submission/rejection/acceptance process. While you get some form rejections, occasionally you will get good notes with them. Acceptance can mean working with an editor for revisions, which can teach you a lot.
Writers are self-deprecating, in general, and our egos are fragile. Every writer gets to a point in the book where he thinks it sucks. The greatests writers in history went through the same, agonizing thing. I read a series of letters written by Flannery O'Conner filled with self-doubt. Neil Gaiman has spoken about it a couple of times. Maybe you are correct and your writing still isn't ready for publication, but just be aware of the possibility that you may think it sucks even when it doesn't.
I don't want to be redundant. Everyone above has made fantastic statements about pursuing this passion.
The point that does stick out is communication.
You NEED to communicate with your SO, doesn't matter if they're your biggest fan or if they'd rather be anywhere else than being a beta-reader. My wife and I are always communicating and always finding the time to allow me to sit down and spin my lies. She's also the worst beta-reader in the universe, but that's okay.
Add a toddler into the equation and it gets sticky, even if he thinks you're writing about Spider-Man and not people shooting each other.
What matters is you find a way and you find it as far away from the expense of the ones you love.
Also; you can't be the barometer of whether you're "ready" to publish. Google around, join Duotrope, and submit finished pieces. You're going to be rejected - over and over and over - but sooner than later, you'll get feedback. You'll learn, revise, submit and repeat the cycle.
Then you'll get an acceptance on a piece you ignored and thought was garbage.
To Jack's point above. We're never sure of ourselves and we are more than easy to break, but you gotta keep pushing through.
You can do it.
My advice is this - do not have a child until your home life is smooth sailing. Babies are hard, they strain even the best marriages. If you're fighting now and frustrated and stressed about your relationship, a child will make things a billion times worse.
I'm glad you guys talked, because that really is the key to any relationship. It sounds like she wants you to have more confidence in your abilities. She has faith in you, so you need to have faith as well. Send some stuff out! I've read your work and it really IS very good. I think you'd be surprised. And it'll help you learn to roll with the punches of rejections as well (which is very important as a writer). And the best part is, you can share your rejection lows and your acceptance highs with your partner!
Hey, so, lots of good stuff in here. I wanted to pop in and respond, first, because of the monumental occassion of me and Sean agreeing on something!
Communication is key, and it's good that you talked about it.
I'm bummed to hear that you think your writing isn't strong enough for workshopping. That's the point of the process—take your existing tool box and build on it. I'm not trying to shill for the site—maybe this place'll help you, maybe you'd prefer a hands-on approach. But I would encourage you to look for an experience that fits your needs. I felt like I was in a rut for a long time (years) until I got some good nudges and got some feedback from other people, and started sending out some stories. I started off modestly, and when I landed my first story, it was a huge shot in the arm. Then I got another, and it was an even bigger shot. The momentum built there, and it's been a good year, and it never would have happened if I didn't take that first step.
It's all about that first step, and it seems like your wife wants you to take it. More important is having that support system. There were a lot of deep, harsh lows, and I was lucky to have my wife there to pick me up. She has a talent for it.
Best of luck.
Yeah, kward, I almost want to tell you to take your favorite story that you've written and submit it to your favorite publication, just to get the (assumed) rejection. Because then you put yourself out there, and that's all that matters. I've had stories that I've thought were awesome get rejected, then seen stories by other people that were, in my opinion, rehashed shit get accepted to the same publication. Does that mean my story is bad? No, not at all; it just wasn't the right fit for that day and that editor. There's always the chance that if I sent that in to the same place six months later that I might have gotten accepted.
Shit, who knows? Maybe you get accepted on your first try. If you ARE, indeed, the writer of that bear in the office story that I think you are, and IF I ran a fiction magazine, I'd accept that story in a heartbeat. If I remember correctly, that story went up against Gordon Highland in WAR, right? Gordon Highland is a highly accomplished author, a PUBLISHED novelist, with multiple books out there and a lot of writing behind him. Around these parts, that's like a rookie horror novelist going up against Clive Barker, or Jack Ketchum, or that dude who wrote Carrie... Keep your head up, buddy!
The important thing is deciding what YOU want to do. Don't get stuck thinking "oh, these people at LitReactor (or any other writing group/forum) say I should wait/submit immediately/change my style/edit more/shave my head/get a sex change/start listening to modern country/slit my wrists," because none of us/them are YOU. YOU write what makes you smile. That's the best advice I can give you here. I'm no pro...so maybe you'll take it from Stephen Graham Jones, author of 50,000,000 stories, all of them good: "Humor doesn’t mean your work isn’t serious. There’s nothing wrong with jokes, with slapstick, with bits and rants, even. Coming up through grad school, it seemed none of the stuff we read had any smiles in it. It was all serious and dour and subtle, which I took to be code for ‘literary.’ Having fun on the page, though, man, isn’t that what it’s all about? Do we not love those books which made us laugh out loud, then cry and cringe as well? Stories need to run the full gamut of this human experience. Don’t be afraid to try."
And @ Rob: impressive, we DO agree. Good call! (I'm positive there are a ton of things we agree on; but our limited interactions have been unfortunately focused on the negative thus far...)
That's another good point, too—rejection sucks, yes, but even just getting a rejection is getting something concrete.
Someone read your story. Even if it wasn't their jam, they read it, and you're a part of the process.
There's no final boss battle. There's no one ultimate goal and then you're done. Everything about writing is about small victories. You collect them, you celebrate, you move on to the next fight.
Whoa, whoa, whoa there Rob. There's no final boss?
Screw this, I'm out.
And onto more relevant talk.
Look at this community. To Rob's point, maybe it doesn't float your boat, but there's support and there's certainly inspiration here. Even if you're like me, who tends to lurk and pop up uninvited, I can say the workshop is a huge help and the class I'm in has been EYE-OPENING.
Writing gives what you put into it. I can say with certainty that's a lesson I learned here.
Alright, I'm all Rudy'd up now.
I'm not presently in a relationship, so I don't have any advice to give.:/ Though I certainly hope whatever significant other I get supports my writing.
Kward, Hey man good to see you.
I don't have a significant other so no advice on that, but I'd like to add to others' advice about workshopping and submitting and underevaluation.
I'll start here. I remember that you did write the Bear story against Gordan in War. Then you had to write against Richard Thomas in the very next round. I thought your stories were great. During that War I had only been writing fiction seriously for a little less than a year, and while I faced some really good writers and had early success, I may have faired much different if I had drawn the pairings you did, against authors with so much experience, credits, and accolades. And it probably would had been a huge shot to my confidence, as I know winning against those I did beat was a huge boost in mine. And then ofcourse later I did get my ass handed to me by Chris Carter and Jason Metz. But that didn't bother me at all because I learned that I can write stories that people will like.
You personally told me how much you enjoyed my story Bloodhound and I still think about it. It's the best feeling in the world. Especially when it comes from other talented writers like the pool in War and YOU!
I'm also currently at a point when I think most of what I write sucks and i think that's why a writer's group is so important. Not only is it nice to have support, and people to inspire you and lift your confidence when it's down, it's also nice to have people who can help show you what to improve. Another thing I find crucial to workshopping is when I workshop other's stories. After you read a few dozen you start to realize things that don't work for you as a reader, you see them consistently and comment on them and before you know it you are recognizing it in your own writing and are able to prevent those mistakes before they make it to the page.
So I've run on here long enough, my main point is in agreement with some of the others. Don't undervalue your own talent to the degree that it prevents you from improving as fast as you can. You'd be suprised to learn that you're a lot closer to seeing your name in print or on the interwebs than you even realize!
Avery said it- babies are hard, and they DO strain even the best marriages. Do NOT do it until you're ready, and know what you're getting into, or you'll be ruining three lives at least.
Just to make sure you're being honest with yourself and your wife, you do realize that even if you improve a great deal as a writer, publish regularly, and are able to sell stories at professional rates, it's highly unlikely that you'll ever make a living as a fiction writer. I'm not sure if this was implied in your posts.
I'm not trying to discourage you, I obviously believe it's worth doing, but "making" it as a writer does not necessarily mean making a living as a writer, as it once might have. It's definitly possible, it's being done, and you have better odds than winning the lottery, but you probably shouldn't pursue it as a means of escaping your wage job, or with the assumption that your hardwork will pay off financially. It'll pay off in myriad ways, but financially is the least likely.
It's your dream, you should definitely pursue it, but you must pursue it with realistic expectations. Jeffrey Eugenides was speaking here last night. He teaches to make a living.
Support is a subjective term. Are you actively taking positive steps towards publishing or are you writing in your spare time and holding out util you magically become a bestselling author? Set achievable goals with strict deadlines. if you wish for writing to be a career make it your career. What have you produced and where is that taking you realisticly? Writers write, they will always find a way. There is no easy answer and you'll have to sacrifice your comfort, relationship and/or sanity at some point. Luckily you are the one who gets to make that choice. Whatever you decide own that decision. My husband was very supportive of the time I took off to write my book. If he hadnt been I doubt I would have married him. If you want it go get it, but if the cost is too high...why settle for something you only wanted 2nd or 3rd most?
What a community this is; I am thankful for the thoughtful responses. I am also thankful for the existence of LitReactor. You guys rock.
@Jack: I hadn't realized the extent of writers being hard on themselves - even Neil Gaiman? You're right I do need to be workshopping - just drop the ego and do it. Thank you for the sound advice.
@Gosh: I have heard of duotrope, just haven't worked up the nerve to try - which I realize is beyond silly. You're right, I do have to get used to being rejected - it's all learning. And yes, definitely communicating with your S.O. is important - my wife and I are in such a better place now that we've talked out so many of our concerns.
@Avery: You're right about kids. You really must have things sorted away before bringing a new life into the world. Point very well taken, and it's something of which we're both very aware. Also, that is kind of you to say about my writing, thank you. As many/most will agree on this forum, you are one of the strongest writers here, I feel flattered that you'd read anything I've written. I hope things are going well with any and all of your present and future submissions.
@Rob: Flattering for you to take time to write a response in this thread. I appreciate your wise words, and believe me, reading these responses has me seriously reconsidering the idea that I'm not a good enough writer yet to take part in the workshops. I'm seeing that it doesn't matter that I feel I'm a very weak, newbie writer - there's value in workshopping. You're also making me realize that rejection isn't the end of the world either. Congratulations on your recent writing successes, by the way. Thanks again for taking the time.
@Sean: Wow, I can't believe you remembered that - do you use Lumosity or something? Yes, guilty, I am responsible for the bear infiltrating the office piece. You're really nice to say good things about that. I definitely got served by Gordon Highland and then by Richard Thomas but I suppose that's a badge of honour - like being posterized by Lebron or something. The silver lining I suppose is that I got to be in the poster. You are too kind with your praise; but you along with everyone else here have been very persuasive in terms of letting go of fear and submitting work. Thanks for the quote as well - I got a lot from that.
@Jonathan: I didn't even realize my "keeping it real" in terms of where I'm at writing-wise was actually detrimental to my overall progress. Thank you for the good advice and for opening my eyes in that respect. I also have to say, your story - 'Bloodhound' - it floored me. As a dog lover (my wife and I have two bullies) that story hit home in a profound way. I still think about that story from time to time, it's left an indelible mark on my brain - that's how effective you are as a storyteller. It's surprising to hear that you think your writing sucks, but I'm seeing now it's something most/all writers deal with at least some of the time. I was an idiot to think I was alone in that respect. Thank you for being so encouraging all this time, it means a lot.
@Matt: No illusions - I'm a storyteller - always have been. I realize I won't ever be Stephen King or George RR Martin or anything even close to that. I write because I have to - it's like this compulsion, this need that's been there for as long as I can remember, back as far as pre-school - it's who I am. Sometimes I wander into stationary stores and buy pads of paper and hard cover journals like a drooling zombie driven by the smell of the written word. I. must. write. If I made money at it, that's just the icing - really, really sweet icing mind you - but it's not THE thing. To tell stories is THE thing - the dream, of course, would be to make a living at it - but those are some long odds, and I'm nowhere near arrogant enough to believe I could be one of those golden few who "make it"; that said, there's no harm in trying. But no, no illusions...I'm well aware of the 'harsh realities' - it's part of the reason why I look at my writing with such a jaundiced eye.
Again, thank you everyone for the wit, wisdom, and encouragement. I'm feeling very motivated at this moment. Thanks.
I deleted my original post after re-reading the thread because I didn't really understand if her complaint was that you weren't serious about your writing or that she didn't feel like you contributed as much as you could to the finances and/or time with her. Anyway, it sounds like it's all worked out for now so good luck.
kward - you might also find this somewhat inspirational...
This is a list of very famous folks who got rejection letters. Included here are Kurt Vonnegut, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, U2, etc...
Even the big names got told they weren't good enough at one point...
Sean - thanks for posting those letters; looks like rejection is a gift.
PLEASE workshop your stories. In addition to helping you work on your weaknesses, you might actually get encouragement on your strengths. It is invaluable to even the newest writer. I started out workshopping here and between you and me EVERY SINGLE STORY I have subbed out of this workshop but ONE has been placed. The one that hasn't was both my first effort and a weird length that's hard to find places to look at it. Definitely, definitely workshop. And then submit. You gotta get going some time, and now is as good a time as any. Without any outside input, you're going to plateau and/or miss things that a third party would point out quite easily. Hell, if you don't want to workshop with all of LitReactor for your first time, PM me and I will personally go over a story for you (but just one, because I believe the workshop here is worth paying for).
I see the self-doubt all of the time, but that might be because I live with a writer/editor and either one of us or one of our friends is almost always in that stage of writing. Here is Neil Gaiman's NaNoWriMo pep talk when he mentions doubting himself during Anasi Boys.
This was the most intriguing section for me:
"I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”
I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”
“You don’t remember?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”
I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair."
@Renee - I'm definitely convinced; I will be workshopping in due course. Thank you for being so eager to help. The support among members here is inspiring. Thank you.
@Jack - I now realize I am not unique in my self-loathing/questioning. Thanks for that link - good stuff.
My wife Yoko is inceredibly supportive of (and indulgent with, time-wise) my writing, though she's not so into the actual finished content and usually reads the last page first — which drives me crazy! ;)
This is a really great thread!
I'm very lucky in that my husband really supports my writing. Mostly, I do like Renee and only write when the family has powered down for the night, but the husbeast always makes sure that there's a block of time on the weekend where I can sit and get some words in. He takes our son to the park or museum and leaves me with a quiet house. I'm the breadwinner, though, and he works an hourly job, so I think part of it is him making sure I get some downtime period, and that I just happen to use it for writing.
As for the workshop, I honestly can't praise it enough. Same with the classes. I never did anything with my writing, and I also felt like it "just wasn't ready" before I dove in, here. Read the craft essays and submit some pieces, take a class or two--it speeds up the learning curve in a big way. Stick with it!
"Husbeast" hahaha I love it! I've taken to calling mine The Bang, which is a shortened version of Husbang.
And same -- he makes sure I get daylight hours when he has time off. It's sort of the opposite - he is the breadwinner, but his current position requires stints of ridiculous hours and 7 day work weeks. So it's balancing his time to recharge with my need to get a break from being "on" all the time with our daughter. I think the take home message is, no matter what the situation, people have to work together and compromise.
Don't forget the too much pressure but won't give you any support combo! "You've already had enough time to write a best seller!"
Husbeast and Husbang...
I need to teach my wife these words...