So, Bang2writer Jade-K emailed me this week with this lament:
I love my boyfriend to bits but he drives me nuts… He doesn’t get that I need to write my novel! He says we should watch spend time together after work and when the kids go to bed and gets proper narked if I want to write. I see from your blog you have kids, how do you manage it?
Jade-K is not the first person to email me about this. I frequently hear from Bang2writers who complain to me their non-writing spouses and partners don’t always “get” they *need* to write. Their situations are most often complicated by children (particularly under 5s), shift work, duties to relatives, other work such as uni & kids’ school holidays … And yes, it’s most often the ladies complaining about their menfolk (though I suspect this is largely ‘cos I too am a lady, rather than there being any big anti-men conspiracy before anyone gets their knickers in a knot).
But it’s important to note two things:
1) Those men – AND women – who are unsupportive of their writing partners/spouses are not usually doing so out of spite. Most are genuinely confused and/or oblivious of HOW IMPORTANT writing is to their beloved, that’s all.
2) This works BOTH WAYS: I have ALSO been contacted by the non-writing partners of people who’ve found their way into my social network who complain their writing partners/spouses TAKE THE MICK by locking themselves away and “dropping out” of duties/responsibilities for extended periods of time!
When it comes to number 1) I think it’s very important to consider whether you might have taken for granted your non-writing spouse/partner’s POV on this. After all, YOU know how important writing is to you – you’re you. But have you COMMUNICATED this to your spouse/partner? They don’t write – so may not understand the urge – and they’re not you!
But they don’t have to understand the urge of actual writing to “get” you need to, so all you need to do is TELL THEM. But not in a “Back off honey or I’ll go postal” kind of way, but in terms of your hopes, dreams, ambitions, plans.
In other words, invite your loved ones to become PART OF IT: I’m always amazed by how many writers confess to not telling their partners/spouses anything much about their work! Why wouldn’t your spouse or partner want to know??
When I’m writing something, my conversations with Mr C often go *something* like this:
ME: Hi. How was work?
MR C: Oh [this happened… We talk about the kids etc]. How is [character’s name]?
ME: S/he’s being a bitch. S/he was supposed to [do whatever] but ended up [doing this instead] and now I have to rewrite [this bit].
MR C: What did [your agent/feedback people/Twitter] have to say?
ME: They said [blah].
By the same token, if you have something *outside* the relationship you love like writing, there’s a strong chance your spouse/partner does too.
So if you get to write a certain amount of the week, what do *THEY* get out of it? Maybe you’ll find your spouse/partner has a hidden love of pottery, aerobics, fishing or gardening. Perhaps they simply like getting away on their own or going out with friends.
YES, the above is all obvious stuff, but I’m constantly surprised by people who haven’t a clue what their spouse or partner likes – and sometimes, that spouse/partner hasn’t a clue either, simply because they’ve NEVER BEEN ASKED. That’s is pretty tragic, but not unusual.
When it comes to 2) this is OUR responsibility as writers and easily fixed – DON’T TAKE THE MICK. Writing is not a “get out of jail free” card for avoiding “life stuff”. Sometimes writers tell me they *have* to get stuff done in a short period of time – and yes, if you’re a professional writer, like ANY job sometimes you have to batten down the hatches and get on with it as deadlines loom and/or pay cheques beckon.
But when it comes to SPECS? You don’t have to. 9/10 the panic spec writers feel is from within THEMSELVES: they may feel they “haven’t done enough” either to their actual script or in their entire SCREENWRITING CAREER and one way of making themselves feel better is by locking themselves away and getting on. But this can clash with “real life”, upset the balance and create conflict with the important people in your life, so what’s the point?
A far better strategy IMHO is to NEGOTIATE certain amount of time – per day, per week, per month – and STICKING TO IT. Le duh.
I’m always surprised when writers tell me they “have no time” to write; even just 20 mins a day adds up. Had I not thought this, I’d have never managed to write the first screenplay that got me an agent. I had the script reading to do, a nursing baby and Mr C was retraining on a VERY low wage; that year could well have been a write-off. But instead I wrote it each night while he was bathing the kids.
So in answer to Jade-K, I would recommend TELLING your boyfriend exactly *why* you need to write and invite him to be part of your journey, negotiating certain “terms” for you both and sticking to them.
And if that doesn’t work? Bury him under the patio. You know it makes sense.
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