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Non-Writing Spouses

If you're here reading this blog, odds are high that writing is a major part of your life. For many of us, writing is a thing we do whenever possible, something that makes us happy, that we love, that is a massive, important part of our lives.

But writing might not be something that matters to the people we marry (or date). Every couple has at least some interests that don't overlap, and that's okay. It's good, really. You need things that are just for you, whether it's writing or something else. But sometimes it can be weird when your spouse just cannot fathom how writing could possibly be fun, and when you want them to be able to be part of this thing that matters so much to you. As a person whose spouse is completely uninterested in writing--and in fiction in general--I have navigated these waters, so I thought that I would share some things I have learned.

1. It's okay that they don't care about writing--or even reading. Really, it is. Unless they have an actual interest, there's no reason to try to force them to understand the wonder that is writing. They have their own hobbies, and it doesn't lessen their quality as a partner if they don't care about active sentences and the beauty of a carefully crafted book.

2. You don't have to tell them everything about your writing, but you should tell them something. I don't remember exactly when I told my husband that writing was something I did a lot, but I know it was fairly early in our relationship. I couldn't exactly hide the dozens of notebooks that I have always had in storage bins, drawers, and all over the floor. But the point is, even if they can't relate to it, your significant other should know about the things that you love, especially a hobby as time consuming and (often) emotionally trying as writing.

3. They will listen if you need them to. How much you talk to your significant other about your writing, your attempts at getting an agent, at getting an editor, etc. depends on you. Personally I don't try super hard to explain all of my WIPs to my husband, but when I do talk about one, he listens. He also listens when I explain about agents and editors and advances and genres and all sorts of other things that he completely does not understand despite his best efforts. Sort of like how I listen when he talks about why this car is better than that car even though I could not care less how fast a car can go from zero to sixty. If writing isn't among your spouse's interests, it's probably courteous not to talk their ear off about it hour after hour, day after day, but they care about you (I hope) and they'll listen and they'll try to understand.

4. But you probably need good writer friends to truly understand your angst. My husband definitely tries. He is proud of me for my writing-related successes and he is outraged on my behalf when something goes wrong. And that's wonderful because I absolutely cannot imagine the horror of spending my life with someone who thought my writing was so pointless he didn't care whether I succeeded--or actively thought it was a waste of time and tried to discourage it*. But even with his support, having wonderful writer friends has been an important part of my journey personally, and I think that it should be for everyone. It really makes a world of difference (and takes some pressure off your poor spouse!)

5. Above all, they still want you to be successful. Which is hugely important. Writing is hard. The publishing industry is hard. You don't need it to be tougher than it already is.

So for those others of you who have spouses (or even family and friends) uninterested in writing, what have your experiences been like? Have you found them supportive/confused/enthusiastic? Do they like hearing you talk about it? Do they let you force YA novels on them, even if they are hesitant at first? (Hey, my uninterested-in-fiction husband turned out to be a huge Hunger Game fan. You never know!)



*I know that such spouses exist but that's a subject for a much sadder blog post--and not one I'm going to tackle. 
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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19 comments:

  1. My hubby sits with a pained smile as I ramble :)

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  2. I'm incredibly lucky in that, not only is my nonwriter husband supportive, he actively encourages me and is always my first beta reader (my first novel was, of course, dedicated to him). He's able to point out where something is confusing or doesn't seem quite right, and I value his comments because 1) he doesn't just say "gee honey, this is great" regardless, and 2) he knows me well enough to know when I'm writing something that's true to my self (if that makes any sense).
    It probably helps that, though he isn't a writer, he is a musician and has some background in art as well, so he's pretty well aware of the creative process generally.

    I, too, can't imagine having a spouse who would be discouraging or belitting about my writing, so that makes me even more appreciative of his being so involved.

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  3. hahaha - me too Jennifer. I often worried my hubby's zero interest in reading or my writing was a problem. He asks general questions sometimes ("How's the writing coming along?"), but he otherwise has no clue as to what's involved. I've never forced a novel on him - he'd run away screaming! ;-D

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  4. Just sent this to the mister. Thanks!

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  5. When I first started writing, my hubby thought it was cute. During the first round of editing my first ms, he thought it was annoying. I'd lock myself away for hours, editing. But when I kept writing and placing in contests and receiving good agent feedback on my work, he realized this was something I was good at and should continue striving toward. Now we have a "publishing plan", a writing conference in the near future, and a direction we've decided together I'll be headed in. He works overtime so I can stay home and write, and last week when I whined that I wanted to quit, he reminded me of our "publishing plan". :) I still try not to talk "Writing" on dates because he gets a glassy, glazed over look in his eyes, but he's supportive and more than happy to help me with the direction of my writing career.

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  6. My husband is super supportive, even though he doesn't read much. He likes to read my short stories. I wouldn't even think of giving him a novel. The only bad thing is he thinks the process is easier than it is. He picks up books all the time and says, "You could have written this.." or he'll give me an idea for a book and then want to know why I haven't written it yet. Gotta love him!

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  7. I was extremely blessed to marry a guy who writes, too. Now we've developed a team where I write but he generates the ideas. We bounce concepts off each other to achieve maximum awesome. That way he can go to work but the stories still get written. :-)

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  8. I'm lucky. My non-writer husband has a real interest in what I'm doing. He's an active part in my world building (the guy has almost 20 years as a D&D DM...he's built lots of worlds). He's there to talk out tough scenes with. He lets me bounce ideas off of him. He's actually made several suggestions that have made my world much more believable. Sometimes his suggestions don't make sense, but at least he's trying.

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  9. My husband is somewhat dyslexic, so reading is hard for him (he needs to re-read sentences and paragraphs over and over to make sure he didn't "switch" something in his head). However, he loves audiobooks, movies, and TV – fiction in general – *to death*. He's always up for talking about story structure, character arcs, what's missing, what's compelling, and so on. So that's quite helpful.

    It does get tough at times, though, because I work all day long and then come home and write what little I can in the evenings. Usually don't get a good stretch of time to write until the weekend hits. It can take away from couple time if I'm not careful. Life balance! Why so hard!

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  16. I appreciate your post tremendously. I've been writing for over ten years; my husband is definitely a non-fiction reader, so he didn't read any of my work for about seven of those years. He was happy to support me financially, and I had direct feedback from my teenagers, so no loss, right? Wrong. Some family strife developed because the kids devoured my early drafts and we developed a shared vocabulary of references to characters or events that left my husband completely out of the loop. He's trying to be better about gaining at least passing familiarity with the content of my work, but he'll never be that alpha or beta reader. It's just not his thing.

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  17. Good post! One point that would be worth adding to the discussion is the child factor. A non-writing spouse can support the writer by distracting the kids for a couple of hours so the writer can work. Non-writing spouses can also help by understanding that sometimes the writer will put writing above household chores and other obligations.

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  18. In college I started my first novel by scribbling bits and pieces of it on scraps of paper whenever I had a few minutes to myself. By the time I got married, two years after graduation, those slips of paper filled a folder and, stacked together, formed a pile an inch high.

    THen we had kids and, that first summer after my daughter was born, my husband said to me those magic words: "Honey, I think we're going to be okay this summer, financially. Why don't you not teach summer school and write that novel you're always dabbling with?"

    I KNEW there was a reason I married him! That novel (my first) has yet to be published, but I went on and have now pubbed 7 full-length novels and a bunch of novellas in a different genre. Because of him giving me the kick in the pants...and the time...I needed, I can count myself among the published authors.

    Let's hear it for supportive spouses!

    Diana

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  19. My husband is a non fiction reader, so I don't expect him to read any of my writing. However, he knows how important it is to me so he makes sure I have a block time each weekend to work on it. During the weekday with the work routine, it depends on how long my toddler stays interested in an activity.

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Item Reviewed: Non-Writing Spouses Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward