I provide a response, but could really use your thoughts on this one.
A reader question from Kevin Goulet:
Scott, Thank you for re-posting this series as we approach the new year. Just after revisiting Pt. 2- while I was thinking it through, evaluating 2016 and making my plan(s) for ’17, I could not help thinking of a colleague with a very distinct issue and wondered how many other Screenwriters -on the road to making a career of it- are in a similar predicament: Little or no support from their spouse. I believe there are seismic gaps between three ‘ways’ someone might live with a creative being (one of us): tolerating, supporting and embracing your loved one’s dreams. These different vibes may not resonate as being so vastly different from the non-writer/loved one’s POV, but I believe they most certainly do from the screenwriter’s often lonely seat. And I also believe one of those ‘ways’ leads to a detrimental relationship that can end up destroyed. Maybe this is a previously discussed topic I’ve missed reading about? What say you and any other screenwriters on their way to making it? Thoughts…? Advice…?
In the 8+ years I’ve hosted this blog, I don’t think I’ve (A) gotten this question or (B) taken it up as a subject. That seems weird to me because I know not all of us are fortunate enough to have significant others who bless us with endless reserves of patience, understanding, and encouragement… with an occasional shoulder rub thrown in.
Let me confess: Rebecca, my wife of 31 years, has not only accompanied me on the labyrinthine contours of my creative journey, she has also joined in each new venture with a hearty ‘yes’. Both of my sons, too.
So up front, I’ll just say I hope members of the GITS community who DO have experience along the lines of Kevin’s colleague will post a RESPONSE with their observations and advice.
For my part, how about if I use your breakdown, Kevin? Three categories: Tolerating, Supporting, Embracing.
Embracing: We should all be so lucky.
Supporting: This suggests that while they may not understand our creative mindset and yearnings, and indeed may have some reservations about it, nonetheless out of love — and grasping how important writing is to us — make a conscious choice to provide us space to pursue our dreams.
That said, I would imagine this type of relationship would lead to occasional, maybe even fairly frequent disagreements about how we are spend our time. Until someone comes along who can add hours to our days — and when that person comes along, I will be first in line to procure their services! — the reality is every hour we devote to writing is an hour we are not hanging out with our families, our job, whatever other relationship or responsibility we have. And if marriage / romantic relationships aim to be (pretty much) a zero-sum game, that balance can get out of whack depending upon where we are in any writing project. “But I’ve just GOT to finish this third act!”
Now this IS something I have run into in my life. For instance, just now I am swamped with work, so my family knows I have to do what I do as I transition into my new position as a professor at the DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts. I’ve shifted work priorities and that continues to be an evolving dynamic. What that means practically is I have to be really intentional about everything I do including when and how I spend time with my family. For example, I am carving out several hours tomorrow to take my family to the Music Box Theater and watch It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen, followed by steaming hot bowls of my pumpkin cider soup (which is simmering on the stove at this precise moment).
I doubt I’m saying anything new. All of us have to find how to balance work time and family time. But what about that third category…
Tolerating: Perhaps just barely. Our partner letting us know they do NOT get WHY we’re doing WHAT we’re doing. It all seems like a WASTE of time. But WHATEVER. You do what you think you HAVE to do. And I’ll just… put up with it as best I can…
However when we pass each other in the hall, we can expect surly stares… frustrated muttering… and more often than not, a chilling silence.
Not the type of environment to engender creativity and can become quite problematic if our writing creates a deeper divisions between the couple.
It could be worse, I suppose. They could absolutely loathe the very idea of us doing something so capricious as writing. Deride and belittle us. Join in the chorus of the Voices Of Negativity. Who do you think you’re fooling? You think you have a chance of becoming a successful writer? The whole thing is just ridiculous!
Whatever the level of negative energy directed toward our creative efforts, my general advice would be to try however you can to help them grasp why it is so important to you. Not necessarily understand the creative calling itself. But rather the passion you have for something real and meaningful.
Do THEY have something they are equally passionate about? A hobby. An avocation. If so, there’s your entry point. What YOU feel about THAT is how I feel about WRITING. What’s more if they devote time to whatever their personal passion is, then you have a basis for dialogue regarding how each of you portion out time to pursue your individual interests.
But if they don’t have something they’re passionate about and can’t grasp why you write, that’s a tough situation. It makes me wonder if their antipathy or hostility is really about feeling hurt. That you show more passion for your writing than them. Almost as if you’re having an affair.
And let’s face it, writing can be an all consuming experience, pulling us into a universe of our own imagining, characters who come to life, hours flying by as we immerse ourselves in a story of our own creation.
Doing taxes or raking the leaves with our mate just doesn’t measure up to that, does it? And maybe that is what lies at the heart of the problem: They are jealous of us having our passion… and feel hurt.
This is where our experience as a writer can come in handy. Their toleration may only be the TEXT of what is going on. See if you can dig deeper in honest conversations with your mate to get to the EMOTIONAL SUBTEXT.
Here’s the thing: Ultimately if you are called by the Creative… if writing truly is your Bliss — vocation or avocation — then if you want to have any chance of leading an Authentic Life, you have to make room to give expression to your Voice. That is just an existential reality. One person. One life. One rapture. To do anything LESS than pursue one’s bliss is a tragedy.
Hopefully you find lovers, friends, business associates, mentors, and other creatives to create a community of support. If not, then you try your best to help them understand your passion. If they can’t, you have a choice: Follow your bliss or turn away from it in order to make your mate happy.
But then, will YOU be happy?
This is a difficult question, Kevin. I’m glad you asked it on behalf of your colleague. And again, if any GITS reader has some thoughts on the matter, please take time to write a RESPONSE. I certainly don’t think my meager response adequately covers the possibilities of what to do.
Bottom line: My best to your colleague, Kevin, and to any of you who struggle with this situation.
Reader Question: How to pursue one’s creative aspirations with a non-supportive spouse? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.