Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Writing is Like Marriage

Yesterday my husband, Bryan, and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Yes, you read that right. Our marriage is now a legal adult and can vote.

Naturally as this day approached I started reflecting on the last couple of decades of my life and relating the things I've learned in my marriage to other aspects of my life. Like my writing, which is what this blog is all about and why I'm boring you with my personal love story and showing you this picture of two adorable, clueless people.

So why is writing like a marriage? Or, how has my marriage been like my writing career?

First of all, a person doesn't--or shouldn't--approach marriage with the idea that if it doesn't work out then they can just stop. Leave. Get out. At least I didn't. When I accepted writing as my life's calling (or one of them, really) I did the same thing. I don't have an exit strategy for when it gets hard. Period. I. Don't. Have. One. My reasoning is simple. On the marriage hand, I'd be sacrificing so much good and doing so much damage by not trying to work through the rough spots. On the writing hand, not writing is like not breathing. I can't really just stop.

Secondly, a person (in this case me) doesn't step into a marriage expecting it will all be fun and lollipops and chocolate bonbons. (I married a divorced man with a child so obviously there were going to be issues. Still I had no clue how hard that would become, but that's neither here nor there). Writing is the same. There are days when it's just flowing along seamlessly and weeks, months, or even years when it's not. When I'm bogged down by my own insecurities or my own time management issues. But it's important so I work at it.

You've noticed that word twice now, haven't you. Work.  Probably the single biggest parallel I've noticed between my marriage and my writing career is that they both require work. Effort on my part. Actual thought, planning, and patience. No one can have a successful marriage without putting real effort into it. It's not always easy to live with the same person for years on end. Sometimes they get on your nerves. Sometimes they're gone for long stretches for work and you have to adapt without them and then when they come back you're used to doing everything without them and have to adapt again to let them back in.

Writing--or any career, really--requires work. Effort. There are countless hours I put into plotting, thinking, reasoning, and yet that's not even half the work involved. Then I have to actually sit down and physically type. Then collate all my notes and type some more. Then read. Over and over until my eyes practically bleed. Then send it to others to read and offer feedback that I then have to decide what to do about. And for every writer it's different. Some of us can do this process in a matter of weeks. Others months. Others are lucky if they can get one book out a year.

All that work takes time, which is what all this boils down to. My marriage is a priority to me so I invest my time in it. A lot of time. I'd say only my kids get the kind of time I devote to my marriage. Not even my writing gets that much.

But my writing is third on that list. After husband and kids comes words. Because if I want to have a successful writing career (and I'm not defining success for you because that's personal and individual) then I have to give it my time. And that would be the same if I wanted to be a professional dog walker, or an artist, or a manicurist.

But I don't. I want to be a writer.

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