I think having the enthusiastic and undying support of your spouse to pursue your dreams is one of those things that many of us come to expect as a given in a marriage.
I keep forgetting this, and yet, still, I keep finding myself standing with my mouth hanging open, wondering who this creature is I call my husband. And I know I’m not alone in this unfulfilled expectation of my spouse.
Now, this isn’t going to be a tirade against my husband and how unsupportive he is. This is me facing the reality that my husband isn’t a reader of fiction. He never really has been. As much as I hold him up as my ideal reader, it’s really just that I want his approval. I want him to be proud of me.
I keep letting myself get disappointed because he’s not jumping out of his chair to read my latest piece of fiction, or because he doesn’t think the two hours I spend at Starbucks each day to write is a high priority or even worthwhile.
The truth is, he’s never going to be invested in my dreams and my writing career like I am. And he shouldn’t be. He will probably never enjoy discussing the nuance of a metaphor with me or read a book of contemporary fiction on his own because he’s just not queer for language like I am. I can only hope to entertain him occasionally with my stories.
That’s okay. Because as much as I would like to share his interest in military-style fight-’em-up video games, I’d rather have my teeth scraped then spend an hour wired up to the PS3 hunting digital insurgents in a ghillie suit.
The important thing is that he is interested in my success and that he is interested in my happiness, and vice versa. And that’s enough. That has to be enough. I keep telling myself that, ultimately, he’s on my side, and not to expect him to be someone he’s not. Fat Cat will just never be someone who will clap his hands in glee over an amazing plot twist. I accept this.
And this holds true with my expectations as far as parental support, familial support, and support from my friends go. I think because writing is such a solitary pursuit, it’s difficult for people to really share in our process, to know if we’re really working hard or daydreaming, to know if we’re getting better, if we’re growing.
It doesn’t help that it’s a career choice lousy with people who never make it, moochers and couch surfers, and good-for-nothing boyfriends. “Those guys who claim to be writing a novel, how can you ever really know?” people wonder. “They’re just goofing off. Everyone’s writing the Great American Novel. Take a number.”
The only time we become legitimate is when moolah changes hands. That’s when you suddenly become the industrious young man living frugally and conservatively with his parents while pursuing his dreams, instead of just the loser college drop-out who’s smoking pot in his parents’ basement and leeching off his folks, pretending to write a screenplay.
Money legitimizes us…shows what we’re doing is worthwhile…worthy.* I don’t believe this is true, but my husband does. And most people share this opinion.
I understand this. I get this. And I accept that my husband — hell, maybe everyone I know — will never really believe I’m the real deal 100% until a contract arrives in the mail.
By accepting all of these things to be true, I am freeing up my energy to put into the writing, to getting my stories read, to earning that book contract. There’s nothing I can do about the level of support I receive. Would it be nice to have better, warmer, more enthusiastic support? Sure. But it doesn’t change the work I do and the fact that I’m the only one who can do it.
Instead of worrying about what my husband thinks about what I’m doing, stressing about it, reexamining my course of direction, I am worrying about what I have actual control over: the work.** And I am just that much more determined to make it, to prove that I am what I say I am. The day that my husband treats my writing like it’s my job, that will be the day that I know I have made it.
I don’t need any support for that. The only way I’m going to get there is standing on my own two feet, putting in those solitary hours in front of the computer, and working my ass off. And that’s how it should be.***
*I do, however, believe that writing must be shared and read by others, just as performing art should be performed.
**Speaking of which, I made significant headway in a short story revision today…good work happened. I feel happy on these days.
***I feel like I should be climbing up on the coffee table, my right hand laid across my breast, with the American Anthem rising dramatically in the background…and the crowd goes wild! They like me! They really like me!