Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What Writers Need

Okay, so you’ve cleared your desk. You’ve set up a regular time slot in which to write. You’ve got lots of ideas buzzing around in your head. You’ve got a computer, or pen and paper. You’re good to go, right?

Maybe not. There’s something else that many of us need.

It’s the support of our loved ones.

No problem, you say. Our partners love us. They will understand. We have this burning desire to write, and loving us as they do, our partners will understand. It’s a given.

That may be a natural assumption. Why wouldn’t our partners offer their support?

Well, think about what the writing life entails. And I’m not just talking about the odd hundred words here and there. I’m talking about serious, day-after-day writing. The kind that’s needed to churn out a novel.

What you will be saying to your partner is that you want some time away from him or her. Away from the kids too. Regular, substantial time. Every night, probably. Time that you used to spend together. What you might have once called quality time.

And it’s also possible that your partner may have to start doing some of the jobs that you used to do. Like washing the dishes, or putting the kids to bed, or doing the ironing, or getting the school lunches ready. All those fun things.

Oh, and something else you will need to explain is that this is purely a labour of love. There is no financial reward here – at least not yet. It’s not going to help pay the mortgage or the bills.

Writing requires commitment and it requires sacrifices. And not all the sacrifices are yours.

Put like that, you can see (I hope) that it can be a pretty big ask.

Not all partners understand, or want to understand. Here’s Pari Noskin Taichert, over at Murderati this week:
‘From my husband’s perspective, my taking the time and space to write has been selfish, self-focused and a waste of time and resources.’

Wow. But she’s not unique. The compulsion to write is often not readily appreciated by those who have not experienced it. They just don’t get it.

I’m fortunate. Immensely fortunate. My wife has always understood. In fact, she has always encouraged me to follow this calling, even when there was no hint of future success. If she had complained – in fact, if I had detected even the slightest unhappiness in her – I don’t think I could have continued. I don’t think I would have become a published writer. My marriage, my family, is too important to me.

As writers, I think we need to remember that, although it’s generally regarded as a solitary business, we don’t do it alone.

Here’s to our loved ones. They make us what we are.


  1. Nice piece - and I heartily agree.
    But, whilst my own good lady no doubt feels I'm wasting my time and energy, she is quite happy for the time it allows her to spend in her own bubble of godawful soap operas (so who's really wasting their time?)

    Keith B Walters

  2. Ha - I like it. I didn't consider the trade-off scenario. Whatever works, right?