Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What It's Like To Live With A Writer

When I was in college I wrote a short essay about a painful experience at our Sabbath table at home.

My father reacted with such grief. I remember him picking me up one day in the city. His right hand gripped the steering wheel tightly, almost involuntarily. 

My mother sat next to him, explaining softly in soft tones: I had betrayed the family and our religion. I had shamed us.

I don't remember very many things from my life, unfortunately. But I do remember my reaction: angry, stony, ice-cold.

Maybe you think it was an odd reaction, but the truth is I did not care about my father's feelings. Nor my mother's attempt to explain. Frankly I had absolutely zero worry that others might look down on my for sharing such a personal thing.

Even then, I trusted the world to be a fair and objective audience. All I needed to do was put the words in front of them

I have been married for nearly 25 years now. We've raised two kids. 

It has been hard on my family to live with a writer.

My husband looks at the old pictures and says, "you were so much nicer back then." 

(When he feels like making a joke he'll add, "and better-looking, too.")

To live with a writer means that you are not, fundamentally, a passive wife and mommy, the kind that exists in fantasy and which we were supposed to have obliterated in fact.

It is to live with a three-dimensional person, who is also a shadow of one. Because in addition to critically thinking, inside they are always processing, processing, processing. And what they want to do, most of the time, is share their version of what they've seen.

It is the difference between shopping for furniture together, and watching yourself do the shopping so that you can document it for later.

It is a good thing to have a writer working for you. They're creative and productive. Plus they know they're different, and so they try harder to fit in and do well.

But it is difficult to have a writer working for you, too. That's true. Because the writer is loyal to The Truth, or maybe I should say the Quest For The Truth.

Even if they know what can and can't be said, and they stick to it, you may feel a bit uneasy about what lies behind that wide grin.

What saves your relationship -- that is, you and the writer -- is that you know in your heart what their intentions are. What they bring to your life. 

And that they are invested in the table at which you mutually eat.

A lot of people are writers nowadays. They work offsite and charge by the word.

But the kind of writer you want?

The  one who sits there giving you that funny stare, taking mental notes.

The kind who would actually work for free.

Disclaimer: All opinion are the author's own, and do not represent those of the National Institute of Standards & Technology or the Federal government.