In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,
Whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, there’s someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.
Believing is always enough, especially when it comes from your partner, your significant other, the person you share your life with.
But what if that person doesn’t believe in your writing? What if he or she actually thinks you’re wasting your time?
Let’s get real for a moment. I have a partner who rests somewhere in the middle. On one hand, he lets me go after the dream. He gives me the space to work on my writing, whether it’s early in the morning or late at night. He recognizes my passion for this career path and never steps in my way. Ever.
On the other hand, he doesn’t really believe in what I’m doing, and I’ve had to make peace with that. He doesn’t think I have a shot at making any real money as a fiction writer. And he often discusses with me the need for a back-up because, at the end of the day, no matter how many years I go after this dream, it’s highly unlikely the dream will ever come true. He believes that I might get published one day, and he understands I want this to be my life, my job, my everything, but he doesn’t think any true monetary success will ever come of this. He just doesn’t.
And who can blame him? I’ve been actively writing fiction and pursuing a career as a novelist since April 2010. It’s been more than eight years. I’ve made a little money from my self-published novels, have sold the occasional short story. But I’m still not traditionally published, and I’m not making any real income from the work I do day in and day out.
And so he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t think success in this business is real. He’s not a creative person. He works in an industry that makes him a lot of money, that is stable and flourishing. He puts in his time every day, and makes good money for what he does. I put in my time every day, and then have no guarantee of financial success in the future.
That’s the thing about the publishing industry, isn’t it? You have no idea. After many years, you could hit it big, with the right book, at the right time. You could also spend a couple of decades working hard at this with no success at all. It’s a total crap-shoot. Some of us will hit it big. Some of us will get lucky. Some of us will get published but not earn any substantial income year after year. Some of us might give up on the dream and go do something else. Some of us may keep going until our dying breath.
In all honesty, I may have quit writing fiction by now if I genuinely wasn’t sure I could be successful at it. I’ve written many novels. I’ve queried a lot. I’ve received so many rejections over the past eight years I’ve lost count. A rational person in my shoes might have thrown the laptop at the wall by now and said, okay, enough. Let’s do something else, anything else. This is too painful. This is too hard.
And you know what? When you’re at your darkest moment, when you’re frustrated, when you don’t know if you should try to write just one more novel, your partner’s attitude toward your writing career is going to be more important than ever. If you have a partner who believes in you, who tells you to keep going, that might mean all the difference between you continuing on and you officially giving up.
I’m a stubborn person by nature. When I want to go after something, I do.
And when my partner occasionally chimes in with a negative comment about the dream I’m going after, I shut it down, fast. And trust me, when you shut it down enough, your partner will either get it, or get the hell out of the relationship.
Here’s the deal: your significant other should, by all means, be your first fan, your ultimate believer. I really want this for all of you.
But that might not be the case. You might have someone who rolls his or her eyes at the idea that you’re going to spend another summer writing a new novel. Because this book might be the one. Because the next year toiling away at this new writing project might result, finally, in publishing success.
I believe if you’re with someone who doesn’t really agree with or understand your writing ambition but still lets you go after it without insults, without negativity, then that’s acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable.
But if you’re with someone who makes fun of you for trying to be a writer, who wakes up every morning frustrated and upset that you’re going to be spending part of your day at your laptop creating, then that relationship might not be right for you.
If you’re with someone who deliberately spits on your dream and tries to get you to stop, that person, I’m sorry, needs to go.
If at all possible, you want your partner to be someone who loves you for you, and who believes in your ambitions 100%.
At the very least, your partner should let you go after the dream, and leave you be while you write the next thing. Anything less shouldn’t be tolerated.
Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, as they say.
Have a partner who’s willing to run alongside you no matter what.