Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Behind Every Successful Writer...

Tess Gerritsen is an award-winning writer of thrillers. She also writes an insightful blog about writing and publishing. Her latest post, “Only Another Writer Would Understand,” is a beautifully written essay on the difficulties of being married to a writer.

I understand what she’s talking about. I could write the companion piece: “Only Another Veterinarian Would Understand.”

Fortunately, my significant other is a veterinarian, too. We both understand fourteen-hour days and the lack of weekends. We consult each other on the hard cases and commiserate over the heartbreaking ones. We accept the near-absolute certainty that we’ll arrive late (or miss entirely) any event for which we buy tickets. And still, sometimes, we get frustrated with the demands of each other’s careers. For spouses who don’t belong to the same profession, those frustrations must get enormous—even when they are entirely supportive of their loved one’s vocation.

How much worse it is, then, when the spouse is not supportive.

Years before I had the great good fortune to find my sweetie (and long before I started writing), I experienced exactly that. The attitude ranged from comments like, “Why would anyone spend money on a cat?” to a silent, condescending indifference toward anything veterinary-related…because after all, “it’s just not important.”

Bye-bye. Better to be alone, than with someone who thinks my work—my passion—is trivial.

Writers with unsupportive spouses hear a lot of the same kind of thing: The writing is a “hobby.” It’s "not important." It’s a "waste of time." And when the rejections arrive (as they always do): “I told you so.”

I changed career mid-stream. I took a pay cut to pursue writing. I spend countless hours in my office tapping at the keyboard, and countless more musing about characters and plot points and story problems. My sweetie sure didn’t sign up for that. He thought he was getting a veterinarian who liked to read. Without warning, he ended up with a writer, complete with angst, negligible odds for success, and an anemic cash flow. And throughout it all (Quitting my job! Haywire schedule! Rejection after rejection!) he has been my champion. Because it makes me happy. Because he thought I should go for it. And because he’s the most excellent man on earth. To say I’m blessed is the understatement of a lifetime.

To those struggling with this issue, I can only say: Don’t ever, ever settle for less.

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