Lots of people give out lots of advice about how to be a successful writer. You’ve got the “write a lot, read a lot,” crowd. You’ve got the, “write everyday,” crowd, and a whole slew of others. One thing I don’t see a lot of people talking about is support of someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. In his book On Writing Steven King compares being a novelist to “…crossing the Atlantic in a bath tub. There’s lots of room for self-doubt.” Coupled with that is that we artistic types tend to live at the extremes of emotions. Yeah, we can put up a good front out in public, but once we get home, where it’s quiet and the world isn’t watching, things change. We can get bogged down by our own internal voices and self critics poking at us…sometimes poking at us a lot.
One of the best things that a writer can do is find someone willing to be the writer’s biggest cheerleader, but not the kind that is all, “Yay team! Go! Go! Go! You can do it!” You need someone who is going to look you in the eye and say, stop being all tortured artist and get back to writing.
Thirteen years ago today, I was wandering about at a renaissance faire before opening. I wasn’t even in costume yet. I was wearing zoot suit pants, suspenders, and a white t-shirt. I saw a group of people I knew and wandered over to them. One of them introduced me to her sister, Robin. “You’re Robin?” one of the others said, “I thought you were single and available.”
So, this sister of a girl I knew was drop-dead-smoking-hawt-gorgeous. In one of my finest moments of being the universal embodiment of suave, i said, “Oh, really? I think I feel a crush coming on.”
Typing these words cannot covey on any level the extra helping of cheesy that I managed to lather into my voice, nor the expression of lechery that only over-confident young men in their mid-twenties can manage.
Despite this, Robin decided to go out with me. More than once. Three years to the day later, she married me. From day one, she has supported my creative endeavors, whether dancing, storytelling, and/or writing. She has not done so unconditionally, nor should she. While cheering me on, she has also called me out on my crap. She has demanded progress and that I constantly work to better myself as both an artist and a business man. She has little patience for me being a wuss about any aspect of my writing. During a several week dry spell during the first draft of Arms of the Storm, I was shuffling my feet with a character I had to kill. (I know you don’t believe me, but it happens.) One afternoon, Robin came home from work and asked, “Is he dead yet?” I sheepishly replied, “No.” She pointed back toward our room where I had a writing space in the corner, and said, “You get in there and write. Don’t come out until you kill me a character. And then…bake me a pie.” Game. Set. Match. Character was a corpse by the end of the night.
We’ve had several more talks like this over the years, and without them, I would not be as successful as I am today.
This is what every writer needs: someone in their life that is going to push them to be better. Not just better writers, but better producers. Better about understanding the business of being a writer. Better about observing and understanding the human race. Better about getting out from behind the desk and getting out into the world so that they have something to write about. And one of the most important things, better about not being too hard on ourselves when the work isn’t coming as fast or we just can’t seem to get the words right. Robin does all this for me, while also being a perfect wife, mother, and geek adventure buddy.
Happy anniversary Mina’Tsydaen. In the words of Jack Nicholson, “You make me want to be a better man.” Thanks for putting up with my rough edges for all these years and all the years yet to come.
For the rest of you out their who strive to make something of your art, I wish for you someone who supports and drives you the same way Robin supports and drives me.