Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Look closely. One word. Toward the bottom. 
My husband's birthday is today. He turns nineteen. You think I'm kidding.

But the Hunk of Italy is a genetic freak who never seems to age. He recently went to the eye doctor for a checkup and was told him that somehow, in middle age, his eyesight is actually improving. Near-sighted in his thirties and forties, he now sees almost 20-20.

As Adrian Monk would say: It's a blessing, and a curse.

I hope the age-defying mean he'll be around a long time; but it's going to be like living with Dorian Gray.

His 19th birthday --- a High Holy Day in this house -- prompts me to share some thoughts about Spouses of Writers.

When we married, imaginary friends were already part of my life. So you could say my husband knew what he was getting into. But that's not fair, or true. Even writers don't know what they're getting into because each project comes like a fresh slice of heaven -- inspiration, enthusiasm, love -- and Hell -- failure, despair, hate.

Over the years, I've concluded that a supportive spouse is as much a gift to the writer as talent. Even when that support varies. Some spouses tolerate imaginary friends the same way they deal with meddling inlaws at Thanksgiving. Others might say that the vows about "in sickness and in health, for better or worse," doesn't mean listening to you whine about characters who won't behave.

 If that's the case, be grateful. Write in solitary confinement. God gives us our crucibles. And writers sometimes need cocoons to give birth to all the words begging from within.

Always: Be grateful.

I've had some difficult writing seasons both before and after marriage. Each challenge has taught me that wrestling agasint God's sovereignity --  protesting because I'm unsatisfied with what He's given -- only worsens the problem. In fact, ingratitude blocks the very road that all good stories must travel in order to reach the writer.

No doubt that I've been blessed with an uber-supportive spouse. He also came equipped with instant recall of every plot device in the universe. Whenever I will toss out a story idea, the response is always the same variation on a theme: "George Raft already did that in 1939. The movie was called Each Dawn I Die..." Or: "Jimmy Cagney, Sinner's Holiday, 1930. He played a tough guy who...."

This used to annoy me. Really annoy me.

Then I realized my pride was responding.

Once I stopped struggling against God's sovereign choice, I saw that my husband's instantaneous recollection of every story seen/heard/read was forcing me to get more creative with the Raleigh Harmon series.

The guy deserves a medal.

But I would contend that all Spouses of Writers deserve some kind of medal.

There's an terrible fact waiting to ambush every writer before she even begins.  And the fact is this: The world doesn't need your words.

 You might think it does. You might think the world would be immeasurably better if only your book was out there, in people's hands, filling their mind with your excellent thoughts. You can probably find a self-help book that will agree with you.

 But here in Realityville, the world already has plenty of stories. The Bible alone gives us enough drama and narrative to occupy our imaginations from birth to death -- and that book was written thousands of years ago.

This is why Spouses of Writers are so special. Each time they grant you time to write, or help you find a place to write, or listen to Your Next Great Idea, they are implicitly defying the world. By their actions, they are saying: Yes, it's all been done before, but you haven't told your story. And your story matters.

 If you're a writer with a supportive spouse, kiss them.

 Kiss them -- a lot.

 Even if they are the picture of Dorian Gray.


  1. Sibella,
    I was given this comment recently from my husband: "I realized that being a writer/author is an art and you have to suffer and pay before you reap the rewards. All artist do. You're good, and never forget it."
    This after years of him struggling to accept my path to becoming an author. Made me cry.
    Now you won't find a more demanding task master. He keeps asking me, when I'm slacking off around the house, "why aren't you working, don't you have a book to finish writing?"
    And boy does he love it when I come to him and ask which gun would he suggest I use for this particular character or situation. He's in heaven then! He's challenging, that's for certain.

  2. Winter, how wonderful! Kiss that gun-toting man!

  3. What a great post.

    "Yes, it's all been done before, but you haven't told your story. And your story matters."

    I love this, and need to hear it. I tend to think more like Ecclesiates - "of the making of books there is no end.." so, why? I think, should I be doing this? So what you wrote there speaks to me. And I'm grateful that I do have a supportive spouse, although we are learning together what that looks like and how that works...

  4. Jenny, you are right on track --don't worry. Asking "Why?" usually results in a better book. Less self-indulgent, more about serving the reader. The key is to keep all self-doubt in check. God's word and the supportive spouse are so essential in that battle.

  5. We all need a Mr Amazing Dude in our lives who will be annoyingly honest about our stories (or projects) but afterwards kiss. They know we can do better. That's what real love does, I think. Encourages us toward better versions of ourselves. Closer to the person God created us to be. And the closer we get to that, the more we shine His love to others.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Abigail, what a great way to put it. Thanks.

  6. This is so, so true Sibella. I need to go kiss my man right now, again, for his amazing support. Thanks for the great words.

  7. Catherine, you have a particularly special guy -- supporting writing AND riding. He deserves double kisses. :-)

  8. He does! Poor guy had no idea what he was in for when he married me 18 years ago...