A 6th Lesson I’ve Learned as a Writer

I think I may have left off an important lesson from my last post. For awhile now I’ve been thinking of the vital role that an artist’s spouse plays in either his/her success or failure. Many of you might already know this – to either your woe or joy – but those artists too young to be married or even those who have put off marriage up to this point, might never have considered the great effect a spouse will have on your work.

When I read On Writing by Stephen King, I was struck by how much King admires his wife, Tabitha. He seeks her opinion on all his work and, judging from his acknowledgement of her, sees her more as a partner in his career than as a beneficiary. Now, consider how incredibly prolific King is as a writer. I won’t even attempt to count the number novels and stories he has put over the years. Meanwhile, Tabitha, herself an author, has published a comparatively modest number of books (9 are listed on Amazon). Tabitha and Stephen have three children all now adults and seemingly successful, well-adjusted people. Someone raised those kids day to day, right? Just looking at the professional output of Tabitha and Stephen, my guess is that Tabitha did the lion’s share of the child-rearing (not to say Stephen isn’t a wonderful father – how the heck would I know, after all?).

Let’s look at Alfred and Alma Hitchcock. Alma had a tremendous influence on her husband’s work: studied every film he made during their marriage, did a lot of editing work for him, made revisions of the screenplays etc. And still had to be his wife, doing all the things wives do, including raising their daughter. Now, while Alma has an extensive list of film credits outside those she collaborated with her husband on, I challenge anyone to name three of them off the top of your head – WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP ON GOOGLE!

Other prolific/well-known artists I could name who were/are married: Chuck Wendig; James Patterson; John Grisham; Janet Evanovich (her husband works for her company, Evanovich, Inc.); Patricia Briggs (I believe I read once that her husband built her website at one time and is also active as a moderator for her Facebook page); Jodi Piccoult. There are many many more and I know I focused mainly on writers but, hey, it’s my blog and I’ll use whatever examples I gosh darn want to!

When I first started thinking about this subject, I thought maybe gender played a part in the success of a writer/artist. You know, wifey stays home and cooks while hubby locks himself in a closet or study and pounds out a few dozen bestsellers. But, as you can clearly see from the short list above, gender has little to do with it – at least these days.

My conclusion then is that spouses (of both genders) will make or break your career. If you are not married yet and have any artistic aspirations, keep that large in your mind as you consider who to make your life partner – or whether to get married at all! Most artists who have successful careers and marriages would probably credit it all to the fact that their spouse has given them huge amounts of support and have been willing, at least in part, to let go of their own dreams of greatness. If you think about it, that’s probably why so many celebrity marriages fail. If both celebrities are equally famous, the sharing of the limelight and constant drain each partner puts on the well of professional support is bound to end badly.

I will not go so far as to say obscure, unsuccessful artists have their spouses to blame for their lack of fame and fortune. That would be grossly unfair and far too simple. In the end, each person is responsible for his/her own success in life. I will just urge, again, those of you NOT married already to really think about your goals, short-term and long-term. Choose a partner who is willing and able to back you in those goals 100% without losing his/her own identity; someone you can respect and trust; love and depend upon (in a healthy way). If you’re already married to a great person like this, go give them a big hug and kiss. Maybe even get them some flowers or a nice box of chocolate. Tell them everyday how your success hinges on their love. Make sure they know how rare and precious they are.

Then, go forth and write (or draw or paint or compose or sing or whatever). Later!




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