Hubs and I celebrated 20 years of wedded bliss last week. I've almost been married half my life, which is a little scary, considering we're in the first round of divorces among our friends.
Because you can't experience twenty years of commitment without some kind of why-am-I-still-here evaluation. I started to think of all the things nobody ever told me before I wore a ring, and it occurred to me that most of these life lessons pertain to the writing life.
1. When people say "marriage is work" what they mean is "marriage is a constant choice to stay committed." As in a daily choice to love, honor and care for your partner. It's a fight to constantly stay interested, to find something about your partner to fuel excitement.
And the same is true for writing. Every day I have to choose to sit down, to make the mental space to build my story world. And if I hit a wall, my commitment to the story is tested. Am I in this MS for the long haul or not?
2. Marriage isn't always fun. (This one is a shocker.) The notion of happily ever Disney once promoted and has now abandoned - notice how Brave did NOT end with a wedding? - comes from the disllusionment of a bill of goods gone bad. Unfortunately, this disillusionment has also suggested in popular culture that an unfun marriage should be dissolved. As if character development or maturity or patience has no place in a long-term relationship.
The same goes for the middle of a draft. The middle-doldrums hits every author and the successful ones simply cry "onward!", put their heads down and type like crazy people. Being in the middle of anything - cleaning house, raising kids, changing oil, marriage - isn't a fun spot to be in, and the same is true for writing a novel. The payoff will come eventually.
3. Laughter is as important as sex...and more reliable. This lesson is a hard sell in this age of Fifty Shades, but let's face it: there are lots of obstacles to great sex. Sickness, travel, kids in the house, exhaustion, job obligations, etc., etc., etc. There aren't hardly any to a good laugh. I firmly believe one of the reasons hubs and I have stayed married is our ability to laugh in the middle of an argument. It's impossible to take ourselves too seriously.
Any writer knows the dangers of obsessive navel gazing. We're in our heads all day long, which leads inevitably to a narcisstic type of self-doubt. Rejections make us bawl, drink, get paranoid about the publishing world in general. A writer's world is me-me-me...which means the ability to step back and get perspective is key to mental health. Laugh, Writer, and the words will come.
4. My spouse does not determine my self-worth. Let me clarify: he's not in charge of whether I'm happy in life or not. Don't get me wrong - when things aren't going well for hubs, I'm sad for him. I listen to him, and do what I can to support and love him in times of crisis. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is just let him stew instead of trying to force the issue.
Writer's block can be similar. Sometimes my brain hits a wall. It balks, shies, refuses to churn out a scene. My creativity vanishes like fog on a summer day. It makes me crazy. I used to try to push through it. Occasionally, that worked but more often, the harder I tried, the worse/more elusive the story became. I'm learning to let it go, and reminding myself that my worth as a person does not rest on how many words I write that day.
So: if you've been married a while - and/or are a writer-with-history - what're YOUR tips for surviving? Share them in the comments!