5 Ways Marriage has Improved my Writing

I was terrified of getting married. I’ve always placed a high premium on my independence, and I think part of that was to protect my writing. Relationships take time and energy — and any time and energy given elsewhere is time and energy taken away from writing. I’d seen relationships where one’s significant other actively interfered with their beloved’s passion. In college, a writer friend of mine was dating a girl who scorned his writing, making it something he had to do almost in secret. My sister dated several men who were “jealous” of the devotion she had to her passion, horses, because it meant time spent away from them. When my mom got married, she gave up her horses because there wasn’t a place for them on my dad’s farm. Being single allowed me to avoid this quagmire of competing passions.

I also had a semi-conscious belief that intimate relationships were a liability in my dream to become a writer. I thought loneliness was part of my calling. It was not for me to engage intimately with others, but to observe; to ponder; to record. If I got swept up in a love affair of my own, so much of my creative energy would go in that direction, and I wanted that energy for writing. (There’s a belief that sexual energy and creative energy exist on the same chakra, and perhaps being raised Catholic contributed to my idea that celibacy was the best life path if I wanted to devote myself wholly to my creativity.) If I got caught up in my own life, it might wipe clean the dozens of lives I imagined in my head, each of them providing a different outlet for all the things I wasn’t experiencing on my own. If I was close to someone to whom I could pour out my soul, how many pages in my journal would be left empty? I wanted to live many lives, not just one. And so I held back from living my own, from carving out a singular path that would close off other options, and thus, close off a bit of imaginative possibility.

When Ivan and I were still dating, we watched Phoebe in Wonderland, a movie about a little girl with Tourette’s syndrome and OCD tendencies whose family, especially her mother, struggles to accept her illness. The mother in the movie is a writer — and as the movie progresses, we discover that a significant part of her internal struggle is caused by the tension she feels between her responsibilities as a wife and mother, and her desire to write. Ivan asked, “Are you afraid having a family will interfere with your writing?”

I said, “Yes.”

We didn’t speak of it further than that, but the fact that that fear was out in the open meant that I no longer faced it alone. And after the dust settled from the wedding and the honeymoon and the move, I found that the opposite of my fear has come true. Marriage allowed me to focus more on my writing than I’ve ever been able to before because …

  1. Two people means two incomes, which means if I make a little less money per week because I’m doing a little more writing, the lights will stay on and I won’t starve.
  2. Two people means shared chores, which also frees up more time for writing. I still do a fair amount of dishes and laundry, which offer prime daydreaming time.
  3. My husband has dreams of his own. As the co-founder of Coppergoose.com, and as someone who works full-time in addition to pursuing his own business, he needs time while he’s “off” to devote to developing the site. This benefits my writing in two ways: First, seeing him pursue his passion goads me into giving the same sort of attention to mine. Second, when he’s wrapped up in Coppergoose work, it’s a prime time for me to get some writing done. In particular, he takes a half-day off every Friday to devote to Coppergoose. I’ve begun doing the same, using that time to focus on research and development related to my writing, something that was usually on the back burner so that I could use all my writing time for actually, well, writing.
  4. He’s an additional reader, which means additional feedback. I often read acknowledgments by authors in which they mentioned a spouse as a first reader and valued critiquer, and I always hoped that I could someday have such a marriage relationship. Last week, Ivan finished reading my most ambitious novel, then gave me 45 minutes of “big picture” feedback that I’m still mulling over — and he brings the novel up occasionally when additional feedback strikes him. He’s not another writer, which means his feedback is pure reader feedback. This is a good compliment to my writers’ group feedback, which comes from their dual perspectives as writers and readers.
  5. Most importantly, I now live with someone who cares about me reaching my dream as much as I do. Ivan doesn’t often ask me what I’m writing, and he doesn’t give me the kind of accountability that my writers’ group or my writer friends do when they ask about progress on specific projects. But he does ask me, particularly when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, “Are you getting enough time for writing?” Fortunately, the answer has not been no yet — but I know that if it ever is, I’ll have someone to help me correct that.

I’m not about to advocate marriage as a “solution” to any writer’s woes (or as a solution to anything, really). Unlike many people, I don’t see being alone as the worst possible outcome, but being with someone to whom I’m ill-suited. I still think that the single life provides particularly fertile ground for writing, especially if you have the self-discipline to make the most of that freedom and alone time. I was incredibly fortunate that, before Ivan, I had friends who stayed up past their bedtimes to read my drafts and who asked, “When am I going to get another Lacey story?” So while I don’t advocate marriage for the sake of writing, I do know this: writing can be lonely. If you have people in your life who truly care about you reaching your goals, who see writing as a worthy pursuit even if it’s just “for the sake of writing,” who ask you when your next draft will be ready or whether you’re getting enough time for writing, keep those people in your life. And if you are going to balance an intimate relationship with your dream of writing, you could certainly do worse than having it be with one of those people.