How Writers Ruin Relationships

This entry is cross-posted at the Liars Club website as the answer to: How does writing affect your relationships?

Writing is a solitary business when you are in the creative stages of things, but life is not a solitary business, so naturally there are conflicts.

I’m a wife, a mother, a homeowner, a scout leader, a friend.  I belong to various groups, have to attend meetings, clean house, make meals, food shop, do laundry, watch out for my kids, listen and lend a helping hand to people I care about. But when I’m in the creative mode, it’s like other parts of my brain just shut down. I don’t know how else to describe this. It can definitely cause problems.

See, when I’m in the middle of plotting a scene, I have no idea that several hours have passed and my daughter is waiting impatiently in front of her school for me to pick her up.  I don’t feel hunger, unlike my husband, who will tiptoe into my writing studio around 8:30 p.m. and say, “Are we ever going to eat?” When I’m really into the thick of writing, I don’t notice that someone is out of clean underwear, or that I’ve missed a meeting. And I won’t even go into what my poor dog has to endure.

I try to keep functioning. I talk on the phone in the evening with my mom, and find I barely can form sentences. I run to the food store, but wander around without a clue of what to buy. I can’t seem to plan anything but what happens next in my book. To the untrained eye, I’m just another flake.

But actually, I’m only like this when I’m in the midst of my writing.  When my scene is written or my deadline met, I’m a whirl of efficiency. I’m organized, I’m a planner, I’m a cleaner, I’m Supermom. In short, I’m coherent. This is confusing to folks. Who am I, really? The person who seemed to check out of a conversation? Or the one who thoroughly planned a trip to Europe for a slew of Girl Scouts? Well, I’m both.

I’ve had some pissed off friends over the years who have never called me back because my brain misplaced some very important detail about their lives. It’s as if I’ve forgotten their name (and sometimes I have). As if they don’t matter. I try to explain this away: I’m vague. I’m sorry.

But the people who are still with me – my family (who is stuck with me) and my friends – have come to understand this ebb and flow part of my personality.  My husband sees that writer mode kick in and suddenly starts feeding me and the kids, and handling life’s daily demands.  My kids recognize what is happening and suddenly become more self-sufficient and start reminding me of things like “sign this form now” and “remember the parent teacher conference in one hour.”  And my friends don’t expect me to necessarily call them back. They understand that they have to grab me out of my studio if they ever want to hang out with me.

And I’m grateful.  I feel taken care of.  I’m allowed to be that creative productive writing flake for a while.  And when I finally come back to earth, I make sure to take extra good care of the understanding folks in my life. Man, do they deserve it.

So I wonder, am I the only one like this? If you do creative writing, does your everyday brain get scrambled too?  Comment with your thoughts!

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6 thoughts on “How Writers Ruin Relationships

  1. No, you are not the only one, I can’t remember the last time I made my bed…this from a NEAT freak. Yep, when in the midst of writing, I am not only messy but forgetful, plus I am convinced writers enter some kind of time warp where time passes twice as fast.

  2. Oh my gosh, this exactly describes me right now with my work in progress! And my fiancé has been so tolerant as have the kids. It makes it easier to write when I am not consumed with mommy guilt because stuff isn’t getting done. I have found communication is the key. I let him know what I am trying to do (I.e. finish my children’s novel by the end of the year) andy fiance, who loves to solve problems, find ways to help me squeeze in an hour or two of writing time right after dinner when I still have a little energy left. Thanks to him I wrote 2600 words in a week. Not as much as some but definitely enough to make a difference!

    • He sounds like a keeper to me! And you’re right, Michelle. Communicating your goals to people who need to know is very helpful. If they know there is some limit to the nuttiness (a deadline, a short-term goal), family can really be key to keeping the creativity flowing and you functioning!

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Marie

  3. We seem to have a lot in common. I am a mother of five children, the cook, the driver to various extracurricular activities, Boy Scout parent/volunteer, and a full time student. I can write only when some of the other people in the house disappears for a while. 🙂 But I don’t think any of my support system would disown me for my faults. Which are many. So if others cannot understand why I don’t surface too often well then they will just have to understand I am not ignoring them but just working. 😉

    • Too true! Other jobs have a 9-5 ness about them, but writing squeezes in everywhere. It’s important to make time for your creativity, but there have been times in my life, too, when I put creativity on hold to enjoy moments in life. Like when my kids were little, I had to curb my frustration over lack of writing time and remind myself that soon enough they’d be in school full time and that I should savor every moment with them that I could. I’m glad I did 🙂

      Marie

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