Here’s a fairly accurate transcript of a conversation I had recently:
Him: Come on let’s go out and do something.
Me: No, I’m working.
Him: But it’s boring. Let’s go shopping.
Me: I hate shopping.
Him: But I’m bored.
Me: I’m sorry you’re bored, but I told you I have to get some work done today.
Him: Staring out of the window isn’t working.
Me: Excuse me?
Him: You’re not working. You’re just staring out of the window.
Me: Yes, I’m running a scene through in my head. Working.
Him: That’s not working.
Me: Yes it is. How else would you come up with ideas?
Him: Whatever. It’s not working.
Me: Excellent. Well thank you for that. Don’t slam my door as you exit stage left.
The point of that, apart from being incredibly frustrating at the time, is that writing a novel does not solely take place with fingers on keyboard or pen in hand. 100,000-300,000 words and a multitude of locations and characters takes a lot to put together, and yes, a lot of that is thinking time: coming up with ideas and letting them play out in your mind, seeing how characters will react, connecting the dots and mentally filling in blank space.
Now each writer has their own way of doing their thinking time. I know some that go walking and think in the park or the woods or on the beach. One gets up half an hour early every day to think, one spends every other evening just thinking of ideas. One thinks during yoga, one while he’s running and one does it while she’s ironing – sounds like a nightmare to me but that’s fine! For me, the view from my window or wherever I happen to be at that time is part of that creative process. I watch the world go by while my mind translates that into another world with a different set of inhabitants and possibilities.
To encounter someone like that was irritating and the thought of retaining that person in my life was incomprehensible. Telling me that “you’re not busy, you’re at home”, or that I’m not working when I’m thinking of scenes, or that I was using writing as an excuse not to go shopping – or trawling my way through crowds of crazy Saturday shoppers as I like to call it – was a shock.
So I spoke to a few writer friends and was horrified to discover that many of them are involved in long term relationships with partners who share these views and are incredibly unsupportive of the writers’ desires to, well, write. Some even went so far as to defend the unsupportive party. When I asked them how they cope with that added pressure they just shrugged and asked: “what other choice do I have?”
Now I’m not about to tell them how they should live their lives and I’m not saying the way I live is perfect. But ask yourself, if you had to choose between writing and your unsupportive partner what would you choose? If the answer to that question is your partner, then congratulations to you. You have found someone you want to spend your life with who is more important to you than anything else, and that’s great.
But if the answer is no, then write! You are meant to be a writer. It is what you do. What you are. And don’t let anyone else take that from you. I know I discovered writing as a way to understand and to escape from the world and for many of my peers it is the same. I would rather be alone with my writing than endure a daily battle to justify how I want to spend my time. That is just how I feel.
The moral of this story is that sometimes in life you have to put yourself first and do what you want to do, not what you think you should be doing because of what society or someone else says you should be doing. You only get one shot at this life so enjoy it for yourself.