My husband, Mike, is proud of me. He tells me this whenever I achieve a little victory. But I make my living as a web developer and not as a writer, and sometimes he’s confused by the tremendous amount of time and money I throw into my writing “career.” (His air quotes.) It isn’t that he’s condescending, like “Look at the little lady trying to be a writer!” type stuff. He knows comments like those end with his body cold and lifeless in our freezer. It’s more that he’s a glass half-empty sort of person, and can’t imagine that overnight success stories are possible, for him or anyone associated with him.
He might be a glass fully-empty person. Maybe a glass fully-empty with a dead fly in it person.
Believe me, anything that happens to me isn’t an overnight success story. But Mike wasn’t around when I was young, writing stories about my friends and selling them to them for 25 cents (with hand drawn pictures!) He wasn’t there when I mailed hundreds of query letters to editors and died with happiness over every $10 check that came back. He wasn’t there when I was bleeding ink.
Mike arrived in my life during a period when I had stopped writing and made web sites for a living. When I started a novel and a blog in 2010, he chalked up writing as another fleeting entrepreneurial obsession, like:
1. Surf maps which I designed, had printed and sold up and down the East Coast. They might have made me $4000 over a 10-year span, if you don’t count any of the thousands of hours I spent making, selling them and fielding hate mail from surfers whose favorite spots I’d revealed.
2. A poster of logo golf balls from all the surrounding golf courses for golfers to hang in their man caves. It was a beautiful poster, but I forgot I hated selling things and let 2000 of them rot under our guest bed for years before throwing them out.
3. Too many web site ideas to mention. Hemingway’s cats don’t have enough toes to count them all.
I’m sort of an entrepreneurial Girl Who Cried Wolf.
But writing isn’t one of my crackpot ideas. It’s me being the only thing I ever really wanted to be: A writer.
Mike tries to understand and be excited for me, but I think the realist in him makes it difficult. I can see how my excitement over paying a proofreader $1000 for a book that will make me $500 over the course of the next year (or two) might not be as exciting to him. I’m just thrilled the book is done and I can start another.
The only way to guarantee I never break through, never make a living as a writer, is to not write anything. And really, I couldn’t stop again if I tried. It would be like selling my soul.
I’d like to add that last sentence was written specifically for Mike, who will vomit at such a cheesy, melodramatic “tortured artist” line. Cheers, sweetie!
During my own moments of self-doubt, I don’t want to hear “Well, what did you expect, really?” Those are the times I need a boost. A pretty lie would work just fine. I don’t want to hear I’m fulfilling his pessimistic prophecy.
I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing (A fabulous book recommended to me by Suzy Soro, who has a fabulous book of her own called Celebrity sTalker both of which you should read.) In it, King wrote about his supportive wife, Tabitha King.
If you’re like my husband, you’re probably screaming: “Her husband is one of the most successful writers of all time! Who wouldn’t be supportive?” But no, she had King’s back when they were poor and struggling. Nice try, bub.
Tabitha (can I call you Tabitha?) is the person who dug Carrie out of the trashcan and told her husband not to give up on it. Carrie became the book that launched his career.
It made me jealous, because, damn it, I want Mike to dig Carrie out of my trash.
Later in that chapter, I read a paragraph about Tabitha King that I wanted to read to my husband. No… I didn’t want to read it to him; I wanted to tattoo it to his forehead backwards so he could read it every time he looked in the mirror. I knew he wouldn’t hold still for the needle. So I typed it instead, printed it out, cut it into a square and put it in a cheap frame I found in a drawer. I set it on the ledge next to his computer.
When Mike saw it, he said, “Seriously with this?”
But he didn’t take it down. He might have even cracked a little smile.
Here is a link to Stephen King On Writing and Suzy Soro’s Celebrity sTalker.
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