Vibe

Yesterday I told my husband that I’d begun to query. It’s not something I would normally mention, but I’m nervous about the whole thing and I have a bad vibe, the kind that comes from wanting something too much.

Good, he said. Sell the book. We could use the money for the move.

Not for the first time, I explained that publishing doesn’t work that way. It’s slow, tedious, maddeningly uncertain. There probably won’t be money in this book, and if there is, the payout is a long way off. This is about getting an agent and getting published. This is writing, a labor of love.

My explanation felt narcissistic even as I gave it. Because who am I loving, really?

He didn’t have much to say after that. I got the feeling he was disappointed in me.

I don’t blame him. How awful it must be to be around someone who lives almost entirely in her own head, who spends hours and hours holed up with her pages and resents any interruption, who vacillates between a craven aloneness and the pathological need for approval that must surely exist in anyone with a big enough ego to imagine she can hold a reader’s attention for 250 pages. Until two years ago, he had a normal wife who engaged in her surroundings in a normal way. Now he has me. The least I could do for him and the kids is to approach the endeavor with the idea of making some money for them.

It might sell . . . I told him.

I know, he said. His face was very still. I’ve been waiting a long time.

What’s it like, living with you?

71 responses

  1. Thanks for this. You’ve described my wife’s and my relationship almost exactly. Whenever she mentions we should be spending more time together, I get defensive, protecting my writing life from attack.

    The more I think about it, the more this kind of life seems like a grand addiction. It keps demanding more from me, but rarely gives back in tangible ways. Perhaps, if some money or respect or something comes of it, then I’ll be able to say it was worth the years of shutting myself off from loved ones and friends. If not, I will say I gave it my best shot, but will that be enough?

    • No, it won’t be enough. To be honest, would it really be enough even to be paid or respected? I mean, you’re already respected, it’s a matter of degree. How much is enough? How much of any compensation is enough?

      That’s the pisser about writing. It’s a compulsion, a chasm of neediness. It’s like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with a garden hose.

  2. To live with me is very noisy. Except when it’s very quiet and then it’s pretty much silent. Probably a lot like living with a manic depressive without the HUGE mood swings, but lots of little ones. The truth is, I think my husband almost finds my writing a relief. For so long I depended on his interests to shape our world and now I don’t. I’m much more independent and protective of my time.

    • My husband is pretty quiet, too, and told me once that he’s got it good: Lots of sex, little conversation. But now he’s got a smut-writer on his hands and we’re taking it to extremes. Be careful what you wish for. . . .

  3. i cry a lot.
    or yell.
    and then i eat chocolate and ask if anyone is, “…up for a cup of coffee?” after 10 p.m.
    i like to think i’m like mary tyler moore, but probably more like rhoda.

  4. “Until two years ago, he had a normal wife who engaged in her surroundings in a normal way. Now he has me.”

    So what’d you do with the old wife? She buried under the back porch?

  5. When we met he knew I was wordy and arty but he didn’t know I made up stuff, in secret, up all night most nights, wildly jealous of my incubation time. And I didn’t know how much he muttered to himself in the mirror, needed big stretches of time alone, outside, on a surf board, a boat or a bike. So it worked out.

    • That sounds like a match made in heaven.

      I dated a guy once who loved to talk and used to follow me around the house. About a month into the relationship I wanted to smother him with a pillow.

  6. I am surrounded by happy faces, kids playing, a loving man, and all I want is to be alone. Even when I’m in the middle of the melee, I’ll be gone in my mind. John will lean over and ask what I’m thinking about and I don’t even want to tell him– like explaining myself steals some of my magic. Leave me alone. I want to be alone. Sometimes I wonder if I write just to have a good excuse to be left alone.

    I worry about it a lot. Am I neglectful? Am I selfish? Am I doing permanent damage?

    But I”ve always been like this. When he and I first met, he would complain/brag that I was just like a guy when it came to sex– afterwards, I’d roll over and pick up a book, I was done and ready to be separate again. So I have to believe he knew what he was getting into. I just hope it isn’t getting old.

  7. I loved all these comments. I’m sure I am awful to live with, always scooting off in my mind, at times craving everything – approval, acknowledgment, praise – only to scoot off again. When I lived with an artist there was a big ego clash and he won. I subsided and became domestic.

    But my first hub still understands me thoroughly and I’d forgotten. On the way to the divorce court I showed him DLC and he was enchanted. Like Drew he knows it’s been a long haul, that hopes are thin, but this is what drugs us.

    • That’s sweet about your ex, that you could show him your book and have him understand what it took to write it. What a darling.

      If Drew throws me over, I’ll be trolling through everyone’s exes. Look out, sister.

  8. This weekend I stood off to the side while my bookworm husband explained to someone how hard it is to publish a book, and even then it’s considered a grand success if you sell a few thousand copies. He went on to talk about how the great writers — like Cormac McCarthy and William Styron, etc… — did not have big print runs of their first books, and most of what they printed didn’t sell. But they kept working, and look at them now.

    I’m telling you, I stood to the side, kept my mouth shut, and tried not to weep.

      • Of course I should have, but I was too busy listening to people tell me how they don’t read and have I heard about that Fifty Shades of Gray book and am I not just dying to write a BEST SELLER LIKE THAT.

        • That Shades of Grey book is making me insane. Absolutely insane. And I don’t even know why, since in theory it should help my cause. It’s just EVERYWHERE.

  9. Now, let’s see. Living with me, probably really great I think.
    Well, I do have constant pain, regardless of all the narcotics I take, so I get a bit grumbly at times. Lots of times.
    And I kinda swing wildly from depression to mania and back again quite a lot, that’s gotta be fun to be around, right ?
    Can’t really do any housework apart from the washing up, and have no job, so I’m home all the time, and I seem to accumulate a pile of books and pillows and shoes and stinky clothes and stuff wherever I’m lying down at the time, and also a bit of that along a trail that leaves to wherever I am, but hey, I only ever use one coffee cup…
    I kinda forget to shower for a few days at a time, but I hardly ever forget to brush my teeth in the morning.
    Oh yeah, I’m also THAT GUY that follows his girlfriend around talking to her until she eventually asks for a bit of time to herself.
    Also, when I’m in writing mode I get pissed off with anyone who tells me anything that isn’t to do with what I’m writing, claiming that I don’t have the energy to hold any other person’s information in my feeble brain.
    I have ADHD and manic depression, but can’t take any sort of medication for them.
    I am intolerant of most people, quick to anger, refuse to attend social gatherings, tend to argue with stupid people, I stare down smokers in public areas and have a huge desire to kill them because the way I see it they are attempting to kill me.
    I forget to take my medication, and to eat.
    I never tell my girlfriend I love her, even when she needs to hear it, because I’m afraid if I do that I’ll lose her. Yes, I’m superstitious.
    I have no interest in money, and if I have respect for anyone who does, it’s because of other qualities, not that one.
    I met my girlfriend on an internet dating site, which showed photos of me clean shaven and with a proper haircut, still looked like that when we met, and never looked like it again.
    I stay awake until 2 or 3AM most nights, sleep in every morning, and mostly don’t remember to thank my girlfriend for bringing me coffee when I wake.
    I swear often and loudly, and when it’s pointed out to me that the neighbours might hear, I very loudly say “FUCK THE NEIGHBOURS”.
    I have a huge ego, and am a better writer than I am a person.
    I write bad sentences on purpose, then argue for them if anyone’s brave enough to point them out.
    I’m honest, and mostly nice to dogs and small children, and like to give loved ones birthday cards I’ve spent hours making myself.
    Pretty easy to live with mostly, don’t you think ?
    Oh, and I fart a lot. Loudly.
    But girls love that. Right ?
    Hello ? Hello ?
    Damn.

    • You had me in the palm of your hand until you mentioned the f-word.

      Boys are so gross.

      If you don’t tell Ms iSkirt you love her, I will ride my broomstick down under and clout you upside your unwashed head, you stubborn Aussie.

      • I’ll tell her nothing.
        However, actions speak louder.
        She’s been away for the past week caring for her dad, and I insisted she take my iPad. My baby.
        The Real Harry iPants, who never leaves my sight.
        And you wouldn’t be the first broomstick rider I’ve had to deal with. Nor would you be the last.
        I seem to attract such creatures…

  10. I get basketsful of clean laundry dumped on me a lot while I’m writing in the evenings. “This needs folding,” my husband says, and walks away.

    This is probably indicative of how much I’m not pulling my weight around the house . . .

  11. The comments on this one have made me wonder.

    I’m by myself here but I have two profiles up on free sites (which don’t work if you want a man who will read your profile and understand something about you) so I’m obviously looking. But now that I refuse to sit back and be what some guy wants me to change into, I’m seriously afraid that I’ll never have to consider what it’s like for someone to live with me. Unless it’s my daughter, mortified to see me at her door with a suitcase.

    Of course, because I’m a writer, I know it could go any of a hundred ways.

    • »What’s it like, living with you?«

      Choose one:

      A.) Fabulous meals, clean laundry, shampooed hair, cheerful demeanor.
      B.) PB&J for dinner (if I bother to think about food at all; I’ve been known to eat slices of cold butter right off the knife for an energy boost),* snappishness, bad breath, and a word count in the 2000-4000 words per day range.
      C.) B., minus the word count.

      *Do fingernails count toward the minimum daily protein requirement for adults?

      • Fingernails don’t count. Cold butter slices either. (I’m starting to feel better about that toasted blueberry bagel I had for breakfast–with peanut butter melting all over the top. Nom nom nom.)

    • The theory I expressed to Tetman is that writers should only intermarry, so as to keep from inflicting ourselves on an innocent populace. What you need, Ré, is a tall, neatly bearded man who will quote Neruda while he feeds you strawberries in bed. Someone who will know by looking at you whether it’s safe to talk. Who will understand when you leave your pen uncapped on the bedspread because you’ve written yourself to sleep, and will always have an intriguing book with the best passages marked when you ask him for something to read.

      And if you don’t want him . . .

      • Oh, I do! And if he takes me on little adventures, knowing they’ll keep us apart for days because I’ll have to write them down, I’ll use a pencil when I write in bed.

  12. What a fabulous post! But remember that you took that cruddy job because you felt like you’d failed your husband financially. You need what you need and you should have your writing time. Besides, it’s likely just a phase. :0P

    • I’m always fucking up the finances. Always. I don’t have the money-seeking gene one needs to be successful, unfortunately, so every undertaking ends up as some elaborate and implausible hobby.

  13. Averil, to answer your question – i imagine living with me is the same as living with you. as to “This is writing, a labor of love.” and your question “… who am I loving, really?” i hope you are loving yourself…and i am sure you are loving your husband. i hope he keeps on being as understanding as he can. continue…

  14. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/179843

    My husband (then boyfriend) and I howled over this. He is a fiction writer. I’m friendly, grouchy, irritable, sociable, withdrawn, and always quick with a pun. I cry when I think I’ve been an asshole in my relationship. But you know when the man who leaves his socks on the floor in front of the dirty laundry bin starts telling you that you’re not pulling your weight it’s a bad sign. However, I like to think it’s worth it. It is to me.

    • Oh lord, I laughed and laughed. I love the bit at the end about the $11 million dollar novel and the poem paid for with an origami swan. Priceless.

  15. It is not easy living with me, but I don’t think I can blame that on writing. If anything, I’m happiest when I’m writing, so even though I’m off somewhere writing a lot, when I am around, I’m happy. Or at least when I’m miserable, I’m miserable about my story as opposed to my actual life. Not that my life is bad. It isn’t AT ALL, but I’ve never had trouble finding problems.

  16. To live with me is to face my low tolerance of stress. There are lots of “I think I’m having a panic attack!” warnings. Lately my husband has taken to prefacing everything with “Now don’t freak out…” I like to whine and bitch about certain things in my life and then inevitably say, “Oh God I am so sick of hearing myself bitch about this, it’s worse than the thing itself.”

    Also, I sing ridiculous songs to the cats when I think he has headphones on (but too often he overhears me).

    • Your cat songs make me think of all the ridiculous names I give my children. The young one is The Bean. Middle child is Person (there’s a story behind it). With my oldest I must have become overwhelmed by the height of him and resorted to the unimaginitive Large. My husband always wants to know why my voice changes when I talk to them, as if they’re all still four years old.

      Lord. I’m even more annoying than I thought.

  17. Living with me could be hell, though I try really hard to be kind, if possible. My husband takes the brunt of whatever moodiness seeps out, but he’s used to me by now. He’s a really good guy. I enjoy solitude, so that helps. And I didn’t/don’t want to wreck my kids so very often I’d rage about on paper. Then I”d burn the pages, often saving the ashes just as a reminder of how crazy I am!

    Averil, have you been following Betsy’s porn writing thread? I honestly don’t think your stories are porn. or even smut, like you say… they just aren’t. They’re sexy and more refined, but I really think you could be the next Fifty Shades of Noir, or some such thing. Just thinking…

    • That’s a healthy way to let out your rage. Better than mine. I once left the kids outside my bedroom door, shut myself into the closet, and screamed. Several times, at the top of my lungs. When I felt better, I went back outside and found them in the hallway, wide-eyed and near to tears. I had scared the hell out of them!

      I’m a little conflicted about the whole smut/porn thing. I’ve been such a good girl all my life, so writing this kind of material can be embarrassing at times. I’d love to be successful, of course–and you’re sweet to think it could even be a possibility–but to be honest I sometimes wish I were drawn to less shameful forms of writing.

      Most of the time I do have fun with it, of course. But querying has put me off-balance for the moment. (That could be the query drinking game kicking in.)

      • Yes. One Query. One shot. Sounds good to me.

        I once threw all my daughter’s toys out in the yard because she wrote, in Sharpie, on the wall. The house was on the market and I went INSANE! When my husband came home he said she was shell-shocked. Oh well… We just do the best we can.

  18. You’ve always said that Drew has never been interested in your writing so it doesn’t surprise me that this was his reaction. Better not to say anything more to him. It’ll just depress you further.

    I don’t know what it’s like to live with me. I know it’s a pain in the ass living with others. I’d do so much better on my own. But that would be weird, right? Married and a mother to four with my own apartment? Hot damn, I’d love that!

    • The children would track you down, MSB, there’s no escape.

      I hope I’m not making Drew sound like an asshole, because he’s a wonderful man. He just doesn’t get the whole writing thing–hell, I hardly get it myself.

    • Oh how lovely that would be. But crowded, maybe. I wonder if we’re drawn to what we need, even if we don’t know what that is.

      Such an adorable avatar, by the way. Thank you for visiting!

      • I don’t believe we are drawn to what we need– maybe sometimes but not always. I think we’ve both been with people and sort of questioned our judgement before.

        Thanks, it’s me.

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