I’ve been looking forward to writing this post all month. When I made a list of the things that support my writing, my spouse jumped to the top. Finding the appropriate letter proved to be the only challenge. (C for Chris? H for husband? P for partner?) So almost-last but certainly not least, I’m writing about my spouse today.
In his excellent book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about his Ideal Reader, the person whom he pictures when he’s writing, the person he shares his work with first. His Ideal Reader is his wife, Tabitha. Mine is my husband.
The actual act of writing is a curious experience. Most of the time I’m stumbling in a half-trance, piecing plot twists together, transcribing dialog, wondering if the evocative sensory details I added to a scene are really all that evocative after all. I’m often not thinking about my husband directly when I write, not like when I email or text him. But when I reach the sloppy end of a third or fourth draft, it goes to Chris. Immediately. He is the one who will read it, ponder it, and – without fail – get what I’m trying to say even when I don’t.
Showing your work to someone else can be terrifying, especially when the work is new. Even when I hand materials to close friends, a teensy part of me worries that they’ll read it and think, “Well, this is dumb. Why am I still friends with you?” (No one’s ever said that, by the way – but what can I say? This writer has a fragile ego.) I’ve never had that worry with Chris. There’s a safety and a trust between us (one of the many benefits of 15 years of marriage) and I know he will take my work seriously, even if it’s still a mess on the page.
Then comes the fun part – all the conversations about the work! My Ideal Reader is not only ideal at reading – he is ideal at brainstorming and talking through all the issues and questions raised by those early drafts. (He is also remarkably patient at listening to me blather on and on about made up worlds and people.) We’ve hashed out plot lines and characters on road trips through Nevada deserts, hikes along Lake Superior, and once over pasta at a cozy inn in Nova Scotia. And this doesn’t even count all the conversations at the dining room table.
My spouse is awesome. He knows lots about military history, regular history, politics, land disputes and nuclear physics, all of which – to my great surprise – have appeared in my work. He’s also really good at doing math in his head. (This hasn’t been useful for a book yet but it’s great for calculating tips when we go out to eat.)
Chris has always believed in me and my writing, even when I have been awash in doubt. He shoulders single parenting duties so I can go to conferences and writing retreats. He encourages me to apply for grants and fellowships. He reminds me that life is about much more than our paying jobs. It’s about following our true passions and dreams.
Words will always fall short in expressing my gratitude. All I can say is that it’s a privilege sharing this writing adventure with you, Chris.