Remember that scene in The Shining, when Jack Nicholson’s character, apparently possessed by a malevolent spirit, goes off on his wife (Shelly Duvall) when she interrupts his work? (Even if he is only typing All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy over and over and over, a sure sign it’s probably time to take a break, anyway.)
Well, some of maybe even most of those that live with writers probably feel similarly shut out of the process. But after all, writing is something that needs to be done alone, unless it’s a collaborative work. And even then, once the mutual brainstorming has been accomplished, each contributor needs to go back to his or own computer and write it all down. This simple act requires absolute solitude.
That can drive a person crazy. And not just the one doing the writing.
My wife is extremely supportive of my writing “habit.” She is also very patient with the fact I need to sequester myself alone in my office for hours at a time. In our case, it works out because she is studying diligently for her PhD student at the University of Washington School of Drama, she needs an equal or even greater amount of time alone with her work.
But not every couple is so lucky.
If you’re suffering from being a literary widow, and your significant other is still alive and well, just busy all time doing things that don’t involve you, here are a few friendly tips for dealing with my fellow creative isolationists:
Leave them alone (at least for a little while) – unless you suffer from the singular affliction known as “being a writer,” it’s hard to convey how that feels, and what it makes you do. And more importantly, the way it needs to get done. Don’t take it personally. However…
Reserve time for the two of you – it’s like trying to get into a popular, fancy but exclusive restaurant. You need to make plans well in advance, and most likely they will need to revolve around the agenda of your prospective date. Of course, unlike a restaurant, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Time itself is much more valuable. Schedule mutually agreeable hours of the day when both of you can punch out and tune in to each other. Nothing is more conducive to a productive creative life than a healthy, stable relationship at home. And finally…
Do your own thing! – surely you have hobbies or interests that don’t directly concern or involve your partner. Indulge them, whether it’s taking yoga classes, hanging out with your own friends, or taking up an artistic practice of your own, that also requires solitude. This will not only occupy your time away from your literary loved one, but give you an individual sense of accomplishment that you can then share together. It will also help you understand that need for solitude. As long as it’s temporary and not a symptom of some underlying relationship issue, but that’s outside my field of expertise. Of course, it’s all ultimately related.
So good luck with all that! If my wife can do it, with all she has on her own plate, so can you. Just make sure they’re worth the effort. And that’s up to them.