On one of the writer’s forums where I participate there is a discussion about relationships between writers and their spouses or significant others. People have been sharing stories of support, or commiserating about lack of support. A few even shared how conflicts over writing time have contributed to the demise of a relationship. Reading that thread makes me very grateful for what I have with Howard. I can’t imagine us deliberately failing to support each other in something that we wanted. Sure there are times where we accidentally cause each other grief, but when Howard began a record production business I learned accounting to help out. When I decided to make a picture book, Howard used his photoshop skills to clean up the images for print. When Howard wanted to cartoon, we gave him a box on the counter, then a drawing table in the front room, then a bigger drawing table in the office. There are times when I sacrifice for Howard and times when he sacrifices for me. Sometimes we make these small sacrifices even when we’re not immediately thrilled by the project the other one wants to do.
As an example, I love the show Dancing with the Stars. I watch it whenever it airs. It makes me happy, but Howard has no interest in it at all. In fact there have been times when he has begrudged, just a little bit, the time I spent watching episodes of the show. Though we soon figured out that the begrudgement was indicative of something else, not really the show. Yet he also recognizes that watching the show gives me a small measure of happiness. This evening I’ll be going to a live performance of some of the dancers from the show. This means I’ll be out of the house for hours and we paid for the tickets. If it was going to cause huge stress for our family, I would not go. But instead Howard helps me create space in our lives for this small happy thing. In return I don’t demand that he come with me or try to make him enjoy the show as much as I do. It is okay for us to enjoy different things.
We do similar adjustments and planning for the more important creative projects in our lives. It is not always easy. There are times when I’ve really struggled to stand up and say that a project matters to me and I need support with it. There are times where I’ve looked at my own thoughts and realized that I need to adjust to be a better support to Howard. There are times when the best form of support is to get out of the way and let the other person struggle with it.
My heart really goes out to those who have heads brimming with creative projects but whose spouses are jealous of those projects, or of the time those projects take. That is a hard place to be. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that several people in the forum have been inspired to go and speak with their loved ones, airing out the dreams and associated difficulties. Some of those people have come back and reported that talking it through brought to light the true source of the conflict and it was not about writing at all. Instead it was about allocation of time and resources when those things are in short supply. If this is the case, then adjustments elsewhere make space for writing or creativity. Or it was about how the difficulty of writing and publishing affected the emotional well being of the writer. Watching a loved one pursue something painful can be very difficult. Finding solutions and having discussions can be hard because it requires both people to be self aware enough to identify the sources of their emotions and to carefully take steps to change their actions. Yet I have hope that my friends who are struggling will be able to find ways to become a team instead combatants. The answers are not easy, but they can be found.