This Post is For the Ones You Love

 Argument I’ll be answering some letters from readers this week. Today I’m responding to Ruth, who wrote to say her husband has a hard time taking her writing seriously and refuses to think of it as a career or lifelong vocation, since she’s not making any money at it yet. Ruth wants to know how to help her husband understand that it can take quite a long time to make any money at writing. Here is my answer for Ruth’s husband.

To Anyone Who is the “Significant Other” of a Writer:

Congratulations on having the fabulous good fortune of living with a writer-type. There are many great things about being involved with a writer, among them:

  • Awesome income potential.
  • Hollywood premieres and red carpet treatment.
  • A stable, non-emotional partner.
  • Opportunity to try new dinner recipes since you’re probably doing all the cooking.
  • Plenty of time to play Xbox or watch hockey without interruption.
  • Bragging rights when publication finally comes.

I know, the perks are amazing, right? However, there are a few things you should know about your writer friend. The sooner you accept these truths, the more harmony you’ll have in your household.

1. You can’t change them. Most writers can’t help it—they are what they are. They feel like writing is their calling or their mission. To try and get them to stop writing would be like taking away their oxygen. Don’t do this.

2. Success can take a very long time. Most writers spend anywhere from a few years, to a decade or more, diligently working on their writing before getting published. Think of it as being in grad school. This is their education, and although the thesis may be taking forever, it’s a normal process.

3. A writer’s life is more than just writing. It’s no longer enough to sit at a desk and pound out words. Writers must engage in social networking, they may need to attend conferences, and they’ll certainly need to buy books on writing. Yes, it’s gonna cost you, before it ever makes you a dime. Think of it as the cost of that graduate degree.

4. Speaking of the cost…money is a sensitive topic for a writer. There’s no way to know if a writer will make a little money from their writing, a boatload of money, or no money at all. It may take years to determine this. If at all possible, try to separate your financial concerns from their writing. Have your money conversations without bringing up the time they spend on writing.

5. Your partner is an artist. This means they may not view money and income as primary motivators for what they’re doing. They are on a quest. They’re attempting to master a very difficult skill; they’re trying to break-in to an extremely competitive field. But underneath it all is an artist dedicated to their art, and there may be a small part of them that’s willing to starve for it. Try to accept this even if you don’t understand it.

6. The life of a writer is mostly thankless. It comes with a lot of rejection and criticism, along with very little kudos or positive reinforcement. On top of that, being an artist means opening oneself up, being vulnerable, and therefore susceptible to insecurity and anxiety. Try not to make the insecurities worse by communicating disdain or disrespect for their work.

7. And it IS work. Paid or not, writing is difficult labor.

Here are a few “don’ts” for you:

  • Don’t belittle or demean your writer-in-residence for their dreams.
  • Don’t assume “success” must be correlated with income.
  • Don’t ever refer to their writing time as “wasted” and don’t think about how much money they could be making if they spent the time differently. This is who they are.
  • Don’t say “have you finished that book yet?” Instead, say things like, “did you have a good day of writing?”

Support your writer and show you care by doing things that are meaningful to them. You could do things like:

  • Help them to create a special writing space inside your home, whether it’s an entire room or just a corner somewhere.
  • Help them create time for their writing, and encourage all members of the family to respect that time.
  • Ask them about their writing, or why they like to write, or what their hopes and dreams are for their writing.
  • Get them little writing-related gifts that show you’re taking them seriously: books about writing, new desk or computer supplies.
  • Give them a gift certificate for something like a weekend “writing retreat” at a local hotel; or a few days away at a writer’s conference.
  • Ask them how you can help support their writing.

Most writers are smart, passionate, interesting, driven, and eager to share their words with the world. (And yes, okay, a little moody and possibly bi-polar.) Enjoy the fact that they have depth and ambition, and something to say!

And definitely make sure you have your own hobbies, passions and interests.  You’re going to need them.

Your turn: What would YOU say to the significant others of writers?

 

 

  1. Kira Budge says:

    Haha, I love posts like this.

  2. Nicky Sarti says:

    Can you please tell my folks this!
    I am unemployed (due to health issues) and am struggling to explain just why my “work” is not a: bringing the money in and b: why I seem to be just “sat around the house doing nothing!” (The last part is thanks to writers block and stuff)
    Also, can someone explain why many (well, all I have seen) “festivals” are so expensive? How can a struggling writer with no money afford to get the help she needs?

  3. Junios says:

    Maitriser les Options Binaires http://lesoptionsbinaires.blogspot

  4. Alina Sayre says:

    Thanks for this funny and affirming post! I’m not married, but my family of origin and my friends put up with this every day. I’m so grateful for them, and for this witty defense of the writing life!

  5. Thank you, Rachelle, for the respect.

  6. nan kilmer says:

    PRAISE THE Lord. Rachelle, finally I have found an outlet for my torment. I write in the cellar with a flashlight as if and when my darling hubby finds me he gives me forty (40) lashes with the whip he hides under his bed.
    JK–
    He not only leased me an electric typewriter in 1983—he then sent me to an Ivy League writers seminar (I went kicking and screaming), paid for a professional editor to perfect my already perfect manuscript, moved us to a larger house with a bigger, brighter, more energy efficient office (his is a tad larger),but signed me up for Jenny Craig as I sit around so much googling research info I put on nearly twenty-two (21) LBS.
    Seriously–I and my manuscript are now in great shape. Thanks to Jenny and my tolerant spouse.

  7. Charity Kountz says:

    I love this and it is 100% accurate. My husband is very supportive of my writing, even co-wrote our children’s book with me. Even so I think there are times where even he doesn’t quite understand it. Like why I spend so much time on Twitter or posting on blogs, reading about writing. Getting him

  8. Elizabeth says:

    LOVE this – thank you! 🙂 e

  9. Sheryl Dunn says:

    I wish I’d had this post to show my ex-husband, but I suspect he might not have paid any attention anyway, which is one of the reasons he’s my ex.

    On the other hand, it ain’t easy living with a writer. At least, I’m sure it wasn’t easy living with me, which is one of the reasons I’m his ex.

    Back to my writing now…

  10. Peter DeHaan says:

    This is a great post — and now I know just how lucky I am with the wonderful wife I have. Thank you!

  11. I’m one of those incredibly lucky women who has a supportive husband. He reads my stuff, provides constructive criticism and encouragement, and pushes me to go deeper.

    He even invests in my characters. When we’re watching TV, I’ll randomly say (during a commercial break; it’s very important to wait for that break), “I think I’ll have Carrie fall off the horse and hit her head.”

    He’ll know exactly who I’m talking about. His reply? “Haven’t you put her through enough already? The poor kid? How much can she take?” I love it.

    He balks a bit at the money I want to spend. Writing books – I kinda have to just buy them and deal with the comments later. Magazines – I had two subscriptions and when it came to renew, I had to pick one. As for conferences – after I acted like a dripping faucet for over a year, he finally agreed to let me sign up for my first conference – it’s in 3 weeks! Whoop whoop! 🙂

  12. nuku says:

    Thanks for this list, if only I could get my brother to read it. My Mom is super supportive, but my brother insults my work every chance he gets, and he hasn’t even read it! He calls me a crud writer, that nobody would want my stuff, and, just so you know, all he saw was the title.
    The rest of my family is encouraging, though. I’m grateful for that.

  13. Bill says:

    My wife’s a writer… I think I would get on well with Robyn Roste’s husband!

  14. *sniff* This post reminded me of all my family sacrifices for my dream. Being the spouse/children of a writer is also a calling. I equate it to Joseph. We hear so much about the mother of Jesus, but Joseph had a super tough calling as the one to support and protect the calling of Mary. I often praying for spouses of writers to capture the calling/vision of Joseph.

  15. Gianna says:

    Rachelle, this is a great post for not only spouses or partners, but for children and other family members. I have always had the support and encouragement of my husband, family and friends. Writing is a full time job for me and I am blessed with a husband that loves baseball, basketball and hockey. He can find things around the house and yard to keep busy. I am exceptionally lucky and blessed. I hope this post will help other writers with their spouses and other family members.

  16. Martin Dugas says:

    What a great post! I really enjoyed reading this one! Thanks Rachelle!

  17. Maria Gill says:

    My husband wasn’t supportive when I started writing. We even went to marriage guidance so that he could understand that it wasn’t just a hobby – I was serious about my writing. He has definitely improved; he no longer questions why I’m going to another conference, when I’ll get a better paid job (saying that, he did mention on Christmas Day we could have a better standard of living if my job paid more i.e. if I went back to teaching. You can imagine how well that went down.) Alas, he is not coming to an Award ceremony where I’m a finalist for a children’s non-fiction book award. He says that he finds literary talk boring (I find his sailing talk boring too so we’re equal there). However, ten years later I am still writing full-time so there has been progress. Persevere! Great post – it captures all the problems a writer has when their partner is not so supportive.

  18. Maria Gill says:

    My husband wasn’t supportive when I started writing. We even went to marriage guidance so that he could understand that it wasn’t just a hobby – I was serious about my writing. He has definitely improved; he no longer questions why I’m going to another conference, when I’ll get a better paid job (saying that, he did mention on Christmas Day we could have a better standard of living if my job paid more i.e. if I went back to teaching. You can imagine how well that went down.) Alas, he is not coming to an Award ceremony where I’m a finalist for a children’s non-fiction book award. He says that he finds literary talk boring (I find his sailing talk boring too so we’re equal there). However, ten years later I am still writing full-time so there has been progress. Persevere! Great post – it captures all the problems a writer has when their partner is not so supportive.

  19. It has taken me more than five years to finally have my husband support my writing career. Instead of why don’t you get a real job, (Actually I do now have a 9 to 5)he asks shouldn’t you be writing? Instead of you should stay home, he now asks when’s your next workshop meeting? Honestly I don’t know how I managed that, but what I do know is that I never told him what to think. I would simply say to him that I am a writer, it’s who I am. It’s only a matter of when the income comes in not if. I’ve also told him that the wait is more intense for me than it is for him. I have never laughed or scoffed at any of his dreams and he should give me the same respect. There were times when I’ve felt deflated, plenty of times when you think everyone else maybe right, but you have to be true to yourself or you’ll never be happy. Fight for what you want. Pick your battles carefully. Be smart. And keep writing.

  20. Nicola Smith says:

    I am lucky enough to have a supportive and understanding husband and friends who are kind enough not to point out that I still haven’t finished my novel (as if I didn’t know). I would like to say thank you for respecting my dreams as the precious things they are, regardless of whether they come true. I love you all the more for it.

  21. Stephanie M. says:

    My husband has never read anything I’ve written other than a Honey-Do, but he’s amazingly supportive and always appreciative of my royalty checks (however humble).

  22. Otin says:

    My girlfriend actually pushes me to write. I think it’s her way of getting more alone time. haha

  23. Ann Bracken says:

    I loved this post! My husband is an interesting mix of supportive and disinterested. He did everything you listed a supportive spouse should, but also considers this a hobby on par with gardening.

    My daughter loves it when I write. She says it’s the only time I sit down. 🙂

  24. Tammy K. says:

    I did not place those words in the post above by Larry K.! But, I do think I’ll keep him! He enjoyed your post today that I shared with him and he asked if he could post something. It is nice when spouses or friends don’t understand the “writing life”, but it is certainly sweet when they at least support and encourage you along the way. You can tell by the above post I am blessed, supported and encouraged!

    Great post today, Rachelle!

  25. Larry K. says:

    I’m Larry K., the “Significant Other” of Tammy K., at http://tickledpinktammy.blogspot.com and I wanted to share my thoughts on here today. Even though there is a cost of time, supplies, conferences, etc. without the promise of pay, there is a value because you don’t know how you impact or encourage someone who reads what you write. You can’t put a price tag on that. Though I’m not a writer and don’t understand the reading and writing as well as the time involved, I do see the value and benefits to others for your efforts. Also, the writer benefits for sharing what God has placed on their hearts and they are gifted to get it out in word form. Thanks for encouraging our “Significant Writing Others.” Larry Karasek, LMT

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Aww, that’s one of my favorite comments ever! Thanks for being a “patron of the arts,” Larry K. We appreciate you!

  26. Amy Sorrells says:

    I don’t know how Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning did it. I mean, really. Seriously. They must have only published their writing from their infatuation years. So grateful for my very opposite, but hugest supporter of a husband!

  27. Christie says:

    Copy, paste, print.

    Everyone in my family are getting handouts of this. c:

  28. My husband has supported me in the ways you name for the last 30 years. I’m so blessed. I could not have persevered without his support. He’s awesome, and so is this post!

  29. David Todd says:

    Hmmm. How do I get my wife to read this?

  30. My boyfriend Jared is really supportive of my writing. When I don’t have to worry about school during the summer he gives me little writing challenges to do to keep me writing. 🙂 He understands that I had to fight my mom about my passion of writing and he really supports me for it. Every time we talk about getting our own place he talks about me getting a writing room so I can have a place to focus instead of having to sit at his desk or on our bed.

  31. My husband made fun of me at first. He encourages me more now. Without him I’d be a bag lady.

  32. While reading this post, part of me wanted to be mad at you for the bipolar comment, but then again, the other part of me understood.

  33. Michael says:

    I love this post. Thanks for writing it.

  34. ed cyzewski says:

    I really appreciate this post, but there are a few parts where it sounds like a writer is a pet… at least the part about helping a writer create a special writing place. You got me thinking of how we create special places for our rabbits in the corner… next to my special writing place. Ha!

    As to what I’d add, I would suggest learning how to speak frankly and honestly about the spouse’s writing. My wife is an incredible editor and voice of reason for my writing. If a spouse can’t offer honest critique for whatever reason, discuss that before getting into any heated discussions!

  35. I am extremely blessed to be a writer married to a musician. Though we practice different arts, we understand each other.

    We’ve learned that the really really intense weeks should not overlap. The week that my husband is directing a musical should not be the week I’m doing the final editing of a manuscript. The children go a little crazy when both parents are so distracted.

  36. Brilliant. I’m sharing this with so many people. Thank you for writing it.

    My husband, a non-writer who’ll definitely benefit from your words of wisdom, was gone all weekend for a hands-on sailing class (yes, he has his own passion to follow, thank goodness). I think he’s feeling guilty about having left me with our three kids for the weekend when he knows there’s an agent interested in my manuscript. I’ve been near tears all day, so relieved to have the kids back in school so I can get back to work, but my husband keeps calling from work, asking how my writing’s going. Bless his heart…but I want to smash his face in. Lovingly.

    Thanks again!

  37. Margaret says:

    My dear one is very supportive of all my freelance pursuits, both as a singer and a writer. We both have to talk a lot about what we (I) share with the world through my writing. I’m a shameless extrovert when I write about my life, and I have to constantly be careful to respect not just my own boundaries but his, which may be different.

  38. Heather says:

    So thankful to have a supportive husband! He was telling people how awesome my work was before I even really considered myself a writer!

  39. Casey says:

    WOW! This post is completely awesome and speaks so directly to the heart of so many issues!

    I have an amazing supportive family, but so often I feel as though I should be doing more with them, helping out, etc instead of pounding the keys or social networking, blogging, etc. I still think it requires a balance, but this post lifts such a weight even from my shoulders.

    Like I said…amazing!!

  40. Rachelle, I was so impressed to see you post something like this. Most blogs are so busy reporting on queries, or agents, or platforms, or social media, that they forget to post about being a writer. Writing and being a writer are two very different things.

    The hardest thing, for me, about being a writer is trying to explain to people what that means. People take offense because I never socialize; they don’t understand that the time I put into writing is something that I HAVE to do.

    I’ve tried many explanations, but this one seems the most apt:

    Writing is a condition.

  41. henya says:

    i have a great and supportive husband who doesn’t infringe on my writing time. He seems to love hearing they keys click…

  42. Barbara says:

    My significant other is less-than-supportive when it comes to my writing. “Get a ‘Real’ job!” “You’re not working.”

    I’ve just told him not to say anything negative to me about this. And yes, I agree I do not know when I will land that big contract or what my next month’s income will be. I just know that “I gotta write.”

  43. Janet says:

    My family has been very supportive since I decided to take my writing seriously. God bless my husband, he has started doing laundry and washing dishes to give me more time to devote to it while I’m still working full time.

    I forwarded a link to this blog post to him with a message that said, “Just another reason I love you so much.”

  44. Genia says:

    No husband, no kids. Just a father who’s 74 and two younger sisters. But while they sometimes give lip-service to my writing, they don’t really understand it.

    I’m printing this out for them.

  45. I feel like you just cut open my brain and grabbed my thoughts as they swirled around inside. You nailed it. Those thoughts are somehow connected to my heart and keep it beating. I’m going to share this post with my wife. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  46. A hubby like mine who sees me staring out a window and asks, “Bird watching or percolating an idea?” is a treasure. He knows that if I’m sometimes doing nothing I may actually be working hard.

    Neither of us knows if anything will ever come of my novel writing, so I smiled when I read the comment by Sharon Bayliss because it’s what my hubby said to me when I apologized for the time I spend writing: “If nothing comes of it, it’s a great hobby, and everyone needs one of those. It makes [you] happy and [you] enjoy it.”

  47. Josh C. says:

    When I started taking writing serious, I told my wife (jokingly, of course) that Dean Koontz’s wife gave him five years to do something with it or he’d have to go back to work and before that five years was up, she was able to quit her job. My wife said, “That was nice of her. Tell you what. I’ll give you every Friday evening to Monday morning from here on out to so the same thing, but if you don’t have it when we wake up on Monday, you’re going to work, Big Boy.”

    She’s very supportive of my writing and takes a sincere interest in it. During those periods when I’m stuck on something and feel like I’m just wasting time, she pushes me because she knows how much it means to me. In my case, she doesn’t just “allow” me the time to write; she takes an active role in making sure I do.

  48. Rachelle,
    How can I ever thank you for that wondereful post. You said it so much better than I ever could. My husband is wonderful in so many ways, but I do get tired of hearing him complain that I turn my chair to the wall and write, write, write. This from a man who wrote a play that was produced when he attended college with people who went on to become famous writers! He’s also published impressive creativity research. I’m reminded of the old adage of the shoemakers’ children going barefoot.
    Though I have published, I’ve never made enough money to help out financially. That does seem insignificant when I agree with you that writing is my oxygen. Deep down he must know this.
    Thank you for understanding where I’m coming from. I follow your blogs religiously. In a couple of days I may get up the nerve to show my husband your post. 🙂

  49. Please never ask your writer partner this question: “How long do you think this will take?” The correct answer is of course “I don’t know.” I had a relationship end over this very issue. Accept that you’re in it for the long haul just like the writer is.

  50. Julia Reffner says:

    My husband has been incredibly supportive. I would advise other writers to support their spouse’s dreams. I think as one spouse supports the other’s dreams it is often reciprocated. Ask your spouse what they want to do and be willing to sacrifice for what they want, even if its in little ways. You might even have a new writer in the family. My husband is a creative type and he enjoyed listening to ACFW CDs with me while he did his computer time. Then we would talk about them. Before I knew it, he was talking about an idea he had. So now maybe there will be two writers in the family. BUT I also try to support his other interests.

  51. Stacey Zink says:

    I am just starting my writing career, so I don’t have all the time invested that many of you do. I can say that I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband that is supportive and wants to see me succeed. He also wants dinner and a clean house, so I am learning to balance. I couldn’t ask for a better partner! I am tempted to send this to him, just so he knows what he is in for as the years go by. 🙂

  52. Aww… this makes me remember how lucky I am to have the partner I have. While money is not exactly a non-issue for our family, she is still very appreciative of me and all I do (including all the stay-at-home-mom stuff, which will include homeschooling two kids next year and saving a boatload on tuition!).
    But she also has two PhDs. Yes, I said TWO PHDS. So while I myself have one (merely one PhD, underachiever that I am), that view of one’s pre-official-success writing career as time in grad school is a great metaphor and in our family, makes it more than fair for me to be doing what I’m doing with my writing. (She owes me another PhD.)

  53. I, too, read this to my husband in hopes he would realize I’m not the only tortured artist in the world. Ok, so my only real torture is listening to him complain about how I don’t “do” anything all day. I just sit at my computer, “staring off in to space” in between “writing stuff”. I don’t contribute to society or the household. This post was a huge eye-opener for him. I think he might just understand a little better next time I tell him I’m “thinking it” rather than actually typing anything, because writing starts in the brain and works it’s way to the fingers. He might just stop complaining about burned meals because I got busy on dialogue and forgot I had food on the stove. And maybe he’ll just realize he’s not the only husband out there living with an eccentric writer who talks to the voices in her head. Thank you!

  54. Corinda Marsh says:

    Great post! It is a comfort to know someone understands this issue. It is difficult to keep going with very little support. Guilt silences the muse. Ah yes, I really should be ironing and cooking instead of writing. Must go now and cook dinner.

  55. Linda Hatton says:

    “To try and get them to stop writing would be like taking away their oxygen. Don’t do this.” – This made me LOL! So true.

    Thankfully, I live with another writer, my 12-year-old daughter. However, while she wins award after award, I slave away re-writing my work-in-progress between laundry loads and meal preparations. It’s hard for her to understand why my book isn’t published yet. 😀

  56. This is such a good post. Wow.

    I don’t know that there is anything else to say. You’ve covered it all pretty thoroughly.

    Maybe…schedule time to take a walk in the woods or to paddle a canoe around a lake once a week. Put this time on the calendar and insist that your writer join you. Then let them sit on the screened porch and write for a couple of hours after you get back, while you make dinner.

    I mean…if we’re dreaming about the perfect life.

  57. This is one of the best posts I’ve read here. Thank you so much, Rachelle.

  58. Robin says:

    Yes, please don’t bring in the money issue in relation to their writing. We writers do understand that it takes money to live, but we cannot begin to make the money if we are forced to be anxious about it all the time. There needs to be as little pressure from loved ones on this issue. Anxiety only leads to writer’s block. And, well, writers can’t actually make money if their unable to write. 🙂

  59. Karen Adair says:

    I would say that writing to me is like video games to other people. It’s a release. It’s a way to express myself, and hey! I highly doubt your video games will ever make you a dime. Mine have that possibility however. 🙂 Writing is a way to share a beautiful story and thankfully my family fully supports me. I do remember to include my family in the process though so they don’t feel ignored or isolated. If I want them to appreciate what I do, I need to devout enough time to them or share my writing with them so they know why it’s so important to me. And the working halves will someday enjoy retirement…and I will still be writing. 🙂

  60. I’m blessed to have a husband who’s one of my biggest fans (even though he hasn’t read my books yet!). I actually recently interviewed him for the “inside scoop” from a writer-spouse’s mind. Here’s the link, hope you guys can check it out!

    http://heatherdaygilbert.blogspot.com/2012/04/faith-and-family-friday-uh-oh-i-married.html

    Thanks for the post–loved this: “the life of the writer is mostly thankless.” So true!

    We definitely have to be careful what time in our lives we decide to follow our writing dreams. I couldn’t have done it when all 3 of my kiddos were toddlers, since I consider parenting to be my most important ministry on earth.

    • (This was one of my husband’s favorite quotes from our interview…”Don’t offer suggestions unless your spouse asks for your thoughts or otherwise signals that suggestions would be appreciated. Suggesting plot twists is sort of like telling a mother that her kids would be better looking if only they were a little taller/shorter!”

  61. What a great post, Rachelle! I particularly liked the comparison to grad school. My husband has his PhD in English, and I thought he would NEVER finish his dissertation. In fact, at one point he suggested we wait until after he completed his PhD to get married – about 4 years into it I said, forget that; it’s now or never, baby! (luckily he agreed with now, not never).

    That was long before I started writing myself – in hindsight, I think I could have been A LOT more supportive. Thankfully he doesn’t hold a grudge — my husband is by far my biggest advocate.

  62. John Byatt says:

    I have yet to publish anything I have written, but hope to try to at some point. I love writing science fiction stories, even just for pleasure, but my wife hates sci fi, and thinks I am completely wasting my time. I have read some bits to her, but she always says ‘Why don’t you write proper stories instead of that rubbish?’

    • Rebekkah N. says:

      I’m sorry to hear that, John! Even if you’re not writing in her favorite genre, that’s no excuse to call your writing “rubbish.” I’m a big sci-fi reader; I am bored to tears by self-help books; and yet I can’t imagine calling self-help books “rubbish” just because I don’t like them!

      Maybe try something like Amanda Kelley-Goodhew did? Perhaps that might make her a little more understanding.

      • John Byatt says:

        Thank you for your reply Rebekkah. I understand what you mean about Amanda Kelley-Goodhew’s approach, and I have tried explaining that I get the same enjoyment out of writing that she does out of her own interests, which include tapestry, cross-stitching, and other craft type pursuits, which I try my best to take an interest in, but she simply counters that those interests are proper hobbies, and that writing isn’t. I read bits to her so that she feels included in the process, but she still insists that sci fi is rubbish and boring, and that she would listen if I wrote ‘something proper’, so I just have to make the best of it. She also says that sci fi is ‘an inappropriate subject for a parish priest to be writing’, and I am apparently seen as selfish. Fortunately for me, I have determination, and I am not going to give up just because my wife doesn’t like what I write.

        • Rebekkah N. says:

          Oh dear! It seems like she has a rather selfish view of your marriage… Good for you for keeping your determination. I’ll keep my eye out for your books, because if you can survive that sort of attitude, you’ll definitely be able to make it as a professional writer.

          Most people who call science fiction and fantasy inappropriate don’t get beyond the obvious scenery to learn the messages behind the stories, things like “we really can make the world a better place” and “evil can be stopped or prevented if we know what to look for and aren’t afraid to try.” Good luck with your writing, and I hope one day your wife realizes the value of what you do!

          • John Byatt says:

            Thank you, Rebekkah. It is nice to know there are others out there who encourage and inspire.

      • John Byatt says:

        Thank you Jennifer. It is nice to be encouraged, which is something that doesn’t come easy from my family.

        • Well. Does your calling restrict you to *only* writing about what is between Genesis and Revelation?

          Tell her that since the Lord God made the heavens and the earth, you could at least write about something that might be happening in the secret corners of all the somewheres that He brought into being.

          • John Byatt says:

            Yes indeed, a very good point. What I do say to her is, does she really believe that God would have created a universe consisting of billions of planets, but play the supreme joke of only putting life on one of them? Therefore we just never know what other scenarios are playing out in life elsewhere. I also point out that statistically, more than 70% of things that have been written first as science fiction, have since become science fact. I live in hope that she will one day get the point. Whether she does or not, I will continue writing. Maybe if I ever manage to publish something, she might change her mind.

  63. What a beautiful post! Oh my. It’s just such a gorgeous, grace-filled stack of words. You are so awesome, Rachelle. I appreciate you so much. I’m definitely reposting this for my writer friends.

  64. Great post! And no, I am not the Ruth you mentioned. LOL!

    I have been blessed to have a supportive husband and teenage son who understand my desire to write and make this a business.

    I work full time and write part time, but they know I long to write and do my artwork full time.

    God bless them! They have been so wonderful since my fist book came out and now I have to do all my social networking. I’d be lost without them!

  65. Amanda Kelley-Goodhew says:

    I had a similar conversation with my husband a few years ago, only I started it. He was telling me about a fishing weekend that he’d just had with a buddy. (I tend to listen supportively to his stories of his interests.) So, I asked him what it was that he liked about fishing. When he told me I asked if he ever thought he’d make any money fishing. (Surprisingly, he didn’t see where I was going with this.) When he calmly explained that he didn’t do it to make money, but just because he enjoyed it, I pounced. I explained that writing was the same for me and even if I never made anything at it I would still continue to write. He still doesn’t exactly show an interest in what I’m writing, but he doesn’t make snide comments anymore.

  66. My husband is is a writer too. Here is a line from his latest work. Rachelle, feel free to view this as a public query…

    “On average there was 0.51, o.28, 0.11 and 0.08 Mg ha-1 of dry root mass.”

    Autographed copies are available.

    All silliness aside, the amount of work it took to get those numbers spanned at least 5 years and countless hours measuring…stuff. Probably roots, I guess. And their mass. He knows how long it takes to get a fussy descriptive phrase worded just so. He understands being in a creative groove. No one is more proud of me than he is, which is good because he constantly is running out of clean socks.
    I’d tell those unappreciative significant others to change their tune, or they’ll end up as a less than sympathetic character. Be grateful for your loved one’s creative mind!

  67. Charise says:

    Great post. I think this could be sent to each relative prior to any large family gathering.

  68. Wendy says:

    “Don’t take away their oxygen.” Yup.

    I might just have to print this off and slip it under a certain someone’s pillow. 😉

    Good stuff here, Rachelle.
    ~ Wendy

  69. Great post Rachelle. Thank you for all you do to support the struggling writers of this world.

  70. Patti Mallett says:

    Thanks for this, Rachelle. Though I live alone, the things you’ve stated are reassuring for all of us writers. And when we take ourselves seriously, others are more apt to, too.

  71. Jeanne T says:

    Rachelle, loved this post! I’m fortunate to have a husband who is very supportive of my writing. He’s opened up time for me to write, taking care of our kids and supported me as I’ve attended conferences to learn the craft. He asks about my story, the characters and what’s happening. I pick his brain for the male perspectives for my hero.

    I guess one of the things that has meant the most to me is his asking about my story and letting me talk, even though it’s not nearly as exciting to him as it is to me. 🙂 He shows an interest in what I’m passionate about.

  72. Another great post with that special Rachelle Gardner balance between truth and compassion. Always inspires me to keep trying despite the hard work. I know, this was meant for the family members, but it still inspired me. I must say, I have been blessed by my family. My daughter, who is now eleven, inspired me to write after reading the “chapter books” she’d written. My husband, who has gifting in the writing area himself, just took on more laundry and dishes. Though he does on occasion ask “Isn’t that book done yet?” It’s always with a crooked smile. He’s the one who prepared me for possible rejection at the ACFW conference last year and reminded me it might just be a long haul. I was floored, because the writing does take away from those things I used to do in the house. But for some reason, he endures.

  73. Great article. I am e-mailing it to my husband! It’s not that he’s not supportive, he’s just not verbally supportive. He doesn’t complain, but he doesn’t give encouragement either. Love your short list of suggestions for support. Maybe it’ll give him a clue…

    What would I say? SUPPORT your significant other in ANYTHING they do — writing included. Just because you don’t see the big picture doesn’t mean the activity isn’t worthwhile. What would you rather have in your life — a relaxed writer-spouse, or a psycho bi-polar spouse due to having characters caged up who aren’t allowed to be released by writing? Help your significant other set his/her mind free by freeing the characters that are constantly talking to him/her…

  74. Addy Rae says:

    My significant other is a musician so he generally gets it. 🙂

    • Elissa says:

      My husband’s a musician, too. Small world. I’m a writer and artist. We don’t have money arguments because there’s no money to argue about. 😉

      • Addy Rae says:

        I’m an artist too, but I much prefer writing. 🙂 Yeah, finance arguments don’t really happen when neither of us can point fingers. We just sit down and figure out how we’re going to make it work this time!

  75. Rachelle, I’d love to see something similar to a spouse who doesn’t see the value of a good writer’s conference. While my husband supports my writing, he doesn’t see any need for me to brush shoulders with other writers or people in the industry.

  76. My husband is so incredibly supportive of my writing. I’m so thankful for him. He has plenty of hobbies, including running marathons. I think training for a marathon gives him a pretty good idea of what it’s like to finish a novel.

  77. Thank you so much for this! *forwarding to my family…*

  78. I needed this helpful list several years ago. Now, by God’s grace, my husband has adapted and does most of the positive things you’ve detailed here. He’s now my biggest cheerleader and keeps me encouraged. He shops; he cooks; he buys me helpful writing tools. But it was pretty rocky at first. We had many long discussions (arguments?) about the worth of each person’s role/contribution as it related to money. How important is money? It’s necessary, but it is the primary measurement of worth. He decided NO. I’m glad.

  79. boltoncarley says:

    My hubs is supportive as long as I don’t as him to read it, but I’m the one who feels guilt for taking time away from the fam and life to write even though I love it. My husband tells me as long as it makes me happy I must do it. Guess I’m lucky, but I loved this article. Never thought of myself as an artist, but I fit this mold! Good to know!

  80. Great post, Rachelle! My husband doesn’t read my writing or engage in long conversations about my characters or anything of that sort–but years ago when we got married he bought me my first electric typewriter. He’s always made sure that every place we’ve lived included a corner or a room for my writing. He doesn’t begrudge the time I spend writing–he just enjoys total control of the remote. And when I do have some success–a short story sale or a contest win–he is my biggest fan, and shares the news with others.

  81. I have a very supportive significant other; however, I think it’s important he read this, just in case. I loved the gifts and also the reminder about our sensitive side. Thanks, Rachel. I’m forward post to him now.

  82. Wonderfully written. I’m quite lucky in that I have a wife who’s not only supportive of my writing time; she’s also participatory. I talk to her about plot issues, characters, etc., and she comes up with the greatest of ideas. I can’t imagine keeping up at this if my spouse weren’t so supportive.

  83. Sue Harrison says:

    Wonderful, Rachelle! A support system is so important for a writer. If just one person believes in you, that gives you the courage to believe in yourself.

  84. Bonnee says:

    If he doesn’t take my writing seriously he’s not living with me. But I agree with these pointers here, it’s hard work and too often waved off as something I should do in free time and make money instead by doing a ‘real’ job, whatever such a horrible person would consider a ‘real’ job if writing isn’t it.

  85. Cathy West says:

    YES!! I wish I had had this post 20 years ago, but we muddled through somehow, and now my hubby is my biggest fan. He also has an extremely demanding career so its been a learning curve of give and take – and we have both learned how to manage what we do without letting it take over our lives. Making time for each other with no laptop or pager in sight is extremely vital. The hardest thing for me in the early years when I was slogging away with nothing to show for it was to accept that he ‘didn’t get it’, and that was okay. Once I realized that it’s very hard for non-writer types to fully understand how we’re wired, things got better. I think it’s important for a spouse/partner to realize that your writer is living their dream, whether published or not, let them live it. And do the laundry and make dinner once in a while too! 🙂

  86. Timothy Fish says:

    I would say, you’re absolutely right. She isn’t making money and it is likely that she won’t make much, if she ever does. But as with any hobby that has the potential to turn into a paying profession, it isn’t a bad thing for her to set her goals high. Unlike golf, where skill is measured in the lack of strokes or fishing where skill is measured by the size of the catch, the measure of skill for writing is how much money it brings in. Because of this, many writers find it easier to improve their skill if they think of it as a career rather than the hobby that it is for most of us. And, perhaps, one day it will be.

  87. carol brill says:

    My terrifically supportive husband encouraged me to get an MFA, a larger, “real” desk, reads my work, buys writing conference gift certs, etc. But the most amazing thing he ever did — after reading a scene where a character says, “I never owned a box of 64 crayons,” — he bought me a Big Box of 96 Crayolas! They sit on my desk, a reminder of his love and total belief in me. I cannot tell you how often those 96 colors inspire me.

  88. CG Blake says:

    Rachelle, thanks for this post. I’m definitely sharing it with my wife, who has been supportive of my calling. The one thing spouses don’t understand is the difficult odds of being published. There is an assumption we write our books, submit the manuscript, land an agent, secure a publishing deal and we are off and running. This is especially true for writers like me, who made a living for a long time as a journalist. The thought is: you got paid for fifteen years for writing for a newspaper. What’s the difference? Well there is a huge difference. I count myself blessed to have a spouse who understands and supports my calling. Thanks again.

  89. You hit the bullseye with this one. I am lucky to have a very supportive family. My husband brags to everyone about “his wife is a writer”. If I am stuck he has a listening ear. He throws out suggestions knowing that I very seldom use them. However, he knows that all it takes is for one suggestion to trigger my brain. I feel for those who don’t have the support. I am a full time teacher so my husband makes sure I have my time to write when I am at home.

  90. jeffo says:

    Great post, Rachelle. Thankfully, my wife is very supportive. However, one thing I would add (for me, anyway, not everyone feels this way): Don’t constantly ask ‘what’s your book about?’ Some of us really don’t want to talk about it until it’s at a certain stage of completeness. When we’re ready, we’ll tell you.

    • I had no idea that someone else thought the same thing I did when it came to the “what’s it about ?” question!.

    • I’ve found with past “starts and stops” that if I talked about it too soon, I seemed to lose interest or things didn’t fit right anymore. So now I’m mum about what I’m writing until I at least have the first draft done…or maybe the 2nd. A little superstitious, I know, but I’ve found there’s a lot of us out there who feel the same way.

    • The “What’s it about?” question is going to happen, though, because it flows as naturally as “How old are your kids?” or “Where do you work?”
      People as her what you’re up to, so she she’ll reply “He’s writing new book.”
      “Oh really, what’s it about?”
      “I don’t know, he won’t tell me.”
      “Hmmm.”
      Women just hate getting “hmmm’s,” so I tell her it’s a secret, but she’ll be the first to know.
      “Oh really, what’s it about?”
      “He wants to surprise me with it.”
      “Oooo.”
      She likes hearing “Oooo’s.”

  91. Catherine Hudson says:

    Bang on as usual Rachelle – and all great advise. My husband is amazing – it was he who insisted we get that laptop, then that kindle, then that passport so I could attend my first conference in October (goodie!!) I’m so grateful.

    May I suggest this goes for people breaking into the editing / publishing industry? They may read books like they are oxygen and their partners must wonder at the money spent on it all. But if there is talent there and a gift to give so that better books can be printed …sacrifices must be made.

    Best gift? A dear friend gave me a mechanical pencil for my 30th birthday. It probably cost $2 but it was my favorite!

    Yes. A pencil. We writers are definitely a strange lot.

  92. Marina Sofia says:

    I had a good laugh and read this to my husband… whose laugh was a little more forced, methinks!

  93. Brilliant! Will be sure to show it to my (largely supportive) husband who probably thinks many of these things but tries not to say them. And I’d add that it’s his love that has allowed me to be the person I am.

  94. JoySue Ruterman says:

    Well written. I too have a supportive husband who is an artist,he is very patient. After 53 yrs of marriage. We know each other pretty well and support each other. I recently self published my first book with his pen and ink drawings included in it. I made sure he was mentioned as the Illustrator,and My Grandfather as co-Author, all though he passed away in 1944. The book is “My Grandfather’s Notebook in his own Handwriting.” He was a cowboy in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is truly wonderful to have a mate,that puts up with me.

  95. Nicely done, Rachelle. Oddly, about eighty percent of that is also true of pastors. Fortunately, my wife does most of that instinctively, which makes her a great support for both aspects of my life. She doesn’t play a lot of X-box or watch much hockey though. Therefore I’m thankful for American Idol and Survivor.
    I’ll definitely have her read this. It might keep her from calling the white coats before I finish my next book. O.o

  96. Wendy Lawton says:

    I once heard a successful writer refer to her husband as her “patron of the arts.” Doesn’t that describe it?

    You were right to point out that there’s no guarantee of success but I do know some significant others who were able to retire early on the success of their writer spouse. And a couple who are living lives we can only dream of.

    The important thing is that when we support the dreams of those we love the return on that investment is priceless.

  97. I’ll have to read this one to my husband! He believes in me all the way (too a fault sometimes), but when the rubber hits the road (or the two year old twins need their diapers changed), he becomes a little frustrated with how time consuming it can be. Slowly I’m learning how to balance it all and I’m thankful he’s patient with me as I do. I couldn’t imagine doing this without his support.

    • Jeanne T says:

      I agree. I am not sure I could do this without my husband’s support either!

    • Mine’s been telling me for years to write. He is not by nature a very mushy, encouraging person. Although he’ll freak if he sees a stand of naturally mutated white pines. Ahem. But with the writing, he is almost gushing!! Sniff.

  98. I am lucky to live with an artist who supports my work, but with the added challenge of having to support ourselves . . . now. I’m a stick-to-it kind of girl, building my digital presence, and my urban fantasy series, while hammering out my characters’ complicated, entwined, dangerous and quirky lives (as they hammer out mine). Success felt real when my husband starting debating my characters with me as if they are not only real people, but family. Signed, OCD/Together/Forever

  99. Rachelle, you said it PERFECTLY. From now on, I am referring all people who question my writing to this blog post.

    I’m very blessed to have very supportive friends and family. It’s only been strangers who make snide remarks.

    “Are you even published?” is the big one. As if I have to have a book in print to be considered a writer (this logic amuses me.) There are plenty of unpublished writers out there who work hard at their craft.

    You have to struggle at first, like any other thing in life, before you succeed. Major success is rare (considering how many people write) but the process of creating is worth the risk of “failure.”

    /preaching to the choir

    Beth

  100. Keli Gwyn says:

    What a great post, Rachelle!

    I’m blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband. His support, encouragement, and belief in me keep me going.

    One thing I’d add to the list of benefits for supportive family members is the possibility of having a book dedicated to them. I can’t wait until my husband gets to read the one in my debut novel this July. It’s a small way I can thank him for all he’s done.

  101. This was so beautifully said!

  102. Angela Brown says:

    I don’t have the significant other issue. It’s just me and my seven year old daughter. I just explain to her what mommy is doing all the time, along with sharing books with her so she can see that what mommy is doing is something…worthwhile. Long as I give her kisses, hugs and remind her nonstop that I love her, she’s okay with my writing lol!!

    • That was so sweet.

    • My kids are always saying “Mommie you are always working!” I now have a 7 year old who’s started writing stories and drawing pictures to go with them. So now I take an hour each Saturday, pull out my “Children’s Book” journal and sit with him (and my 9 year old too when he’s not playing PS3!) and write children’s stories with him — I brought him a special journal for it. Hopefully one day we’ll publish his stories under his name (with “Mommie” as the editor LOL)!

      • Stacey Zink says:

        My daughter (6 years old) has started doing the same thing. She writes and illustrates her own stories now. She is my biggest cheerleader and I love it. She doesn’t understand what I write about, but she understands that Mommy writes and she loves it. She wants me to write a book with her, so we journal together now. It is precious time!

  103. I wouldn’t say that my wife and two teenage sons are exactly supportive with my writing. They have never stated their opinions about it. I do from time to time toss out scenes, character’s names, etc.. at them and ask for their opinions but I never really get an honest answer. I have asked my wife to read certain paragraphs for her opinion and always just get – “I like that” comment. She is an avid reader like myself. We do have that in common but, she is more into love novels and I am more into action, comedy, horror, and suspense. I have asked all three of them if they would like to read any of my books and that’s when I see their non-interest in what I do. Thanks for writing this article Rachelle because I now know that there are many others out there who might be going through the same thing that I am going through.

    • Like Paul, no one in my family seems interested in my writing. I’m divorced and semi-retired, but my adult kids never seem to have time to read my work or even my blog. Yet they hear people outside the family who’ve read some of my stuff say they really like it. I believe they just think this is Mom’s little way of keeping busy and they’re just humoring me. Wait till I get published…maybe they’ll look at if differently then. (smile)

    • Yes, not interested in reading what I write. I wonder if that will change? I wonder, would my family sit up and take notice if it really were a page-turner?

      • The real test of a dream is being committed to it even when surrounded by disinterest.

        I’m an artist as well as a writer (a double-whammy for everything Rachel said, if you ask me).

        Thankfully, my husband is supportive of both those endeavors, but I grew up in a household in which both parents were loving and compassionate, but also thought I should focus on a ‘real job’. I did work to support my ‘habit’ (painting), but I’ve been painting almost 40 years and have been making money about 10. Not a lot, but more than enough to pay for art supplies.

        Hobby or career, the motivation to paint and write even when the current painting or story is in an ugly phase or when no one else seems to notice is still there. It’s internal. Sure, the kudos are nice, but not necessary.

        Sort of like icing on a good cake.

    • Megan B. says:

      Glad to know I’m not the only one who has a disinterested family. They are all supportive, but most don’t actually read what I write. My husband has no interest at all in my novel. I wonder, if I get it published, will he finally pick it up and read it?

      It’s hard for me to understand, because if anyone in my family wrote a novel, I’d be jumping to read it.

    • Elizabeth Maria Naranjo says:

      I understand what Paul’s going through, and I feel for him. I used to get so hurt when I shared my work with family members, who never seem to know what to say. I learned not to do it anymore. Share your work with other writers. Join a writer’s group.
      Luckily, my husband is supportive of me when it comes to the time I put in, and my passion for writing and reading. But I’m giving him this article, just in case 😉

      • marion says:

        Hi, you all,
        This pops into my mind: A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and among his own people.
        Jesus’ family thought he’d flipped his lid!

        Elizabeth, I agree. A writers’ group. Perhaps it’s even a bit unreasonable to expect your family to be your critique group.
        Your family’s tastes in fiction may be very different from yours, anyway. One woman mentioned that her husband prefers thrillers.

        I probably shouldn’t comment, since I live alone, except for my dog, who doesn’t say much one way or the other.

    • Kristen says:

      Wow. Thanks, Rachelle and Paul, for addressing these tricky subjects. My other half is very supportive of the time and financial aspect of the work, but totally disinterested in the finished product. He reads spy novels and stuff where everything gets blowed up, and I write women’s fiction. It’s great to have a community like this where we can discover we’re not the only ones in these kinds of situations.

  104. BK Jackson says:

    I wish it weren’t that way but people who aren’t artists have no idea of the magnitude of time investment required to build a writing career (all while holding down a day job and doing the other 4 billion things life requires).

    It’s also tough on the writer. I for one would also like to learn to play the banjo. But that would also require a monumental investment of time but there just isn’t enough of me to go around. So I have to let that dream go.

    The difference is, I can let the banjo playing go (grudgingly) but I can’t let the writing go. So the people I know who can’t understand the time investment required will just have to suck it up and deal with it. 😎

    • Sam says:

      There are so many things I wish I had time to learn! I spontaneously pick up hobbies and then abandon them, because ultimately anything that eats into my free time eats into my writing output.

      If there were just a few more hours in the day…

  105. Robyn Roste says:

    Bahaha! I read this to my husband and he looked terrified and asked 1) if I wrote this article and 2) if you were in our house. He is currently playing XBox while I hammer out a new blog. I think you nailed this one Rachelle!

  106. My husband was supportive of my writing until I neared the end of my first book, and all I wanted to do was write all day every day to finish that thing.

    Then he had his moments of not being so supportive. But I think when he saw my manuscript requests and rejections, and that I didn’t quit, he saw my dream in a different light. Then I wrote another book, and another.

    Now he sees that this is not a passing hobby, and he is totally on board. He’s even told me recently that I need to treat my writing more like a career and he helps me decide which conference to attend. Nowadays he’s my biggest fan.

    I think sometimes they just need to know you mean business. 🙂

  107. Thankfully, my husband is so supportive, I’m not sure what the catch is. I think part of him hopes I will be the next Stephanie Meyer. Even though I think of writing as a career and am not hesitant to share these goals, when talking to people who don’t get it, I often add, “And if nothing comes of it, it’s a great hobby, and everyone needs one of those. It makes me happy and I enjoy it.” That’s hard to argue with.

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