I’m obviously going to get into deep doo-doo once my wife reads the title of this post. Trust me, after 23 years of marriage, I’ve been in trouble before. But here’s the thing, she’ll smack me on the shoulder or rub my head (which would partially explain my lack of hair), and get over it. Writer’s spouses have to put up with a lot—and there is no way I could be the writer I am without my wife.
When I first started writing, I thought the writer’s life would be a solitary experience. But I soon learned, like is often the case, that I was wrong. Writing is a community effort.
I may sit in my office on a cold rainy day and visit Tokyo or North Dakota in my imagination, or be a killer, a cop, or a hooker as I tell a story, but at the end of the day, at the dinner table, I am a husband and a writer. In the heat of a novel or a short story, my wife will ask, “How’s it going?” She doesn’t pry, she doesn’t prod–well, that’s not really true, she prods when I’m in a procrastination phase, and is happiest when I get back to writing—she just lets me know she’s interested, that she is waiting for the next story or chapter to be laid in her hands. She is my first reader. The first person I count on the most to be totally honest with me about what I’ve created. Sometimes, we argue about my characters as if they are real people. Does it really get any better than that?
Some people say never trust what your spouse says about your work because they hold back and will tell you it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever read. Not true here. My wife knows how important writing is to me. She understands that I cannot improve as a writer if she is concerned about my “feelings”. If I am going to achieve my goal of living my life as a writer, I can’t protect my ego as if it were made of rare, irreplaceable, crystal. I have to take the knocks, and she has to be willing to give them. That’s our agreement, our bond, forged over years of rejection slips, false starts, and happy days when an acceptance comes in the mail. I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone who views writing as a hobby or a pipe dream. When I get thumped on the head, I know I’m a lucky guy.
Past my wife, I have a group of writers that I have known for a long time, and they are champions of my work and I am a champion of theirs. When I see them (on the rare occasion when I leave the house), they will always ask, “What are you working on?” or “How’s the novel coming along?”. A few of them are my second and third readers, practitioners of the craft who will catch things my wife might not. I’ve always found it interesting that there are writers in this world that are concerned about another writer’s development. But I’ve been lucky to encounter people who believe, “A rising tide lifts all ships.” I heard Harlan Coben once say that “His success doesn’t depend on someone else’s failure.” I couldn’t agree more, and I am grateful to have writers as my friends who believe the same thing.
Once I publish something, I am also lucky enough to have an independent bookseller who supports my work and schedules readings and signings, helps me with publicity, and is genuinely happy when I have something new for him to sell. And then there are the golden readers, strangers who have invested their time and money into my writing for a moment of entertainment or pleasure, who ask, “When’s the next story coming out?”
In between the time I sit down at the computer and write the first line until the time a reader asks me for more, my writing has been touched by, or touches, an editor, a cover designer, a mailman, a UPS man, a pilot on a FedEx plane, a printer, a paper manufacturer, a sales rep, a bookstore clerk, and on and on and on. Just because I decided to sit down and say, “Once upon a time…”
A solitary experience? I don’t think so.
So, you’re probably still wondering about the puppy…I have 2 dogs, both Rhodesian ridgebacks. One, Brodi, is 5 years old, and the puppy, Sunny, is 7 months old. (You can view their pictures on the dog page of my Web site: www.larrydsweazy.com) They are one of the most important cogs in the community writing wheel. I work at home, and the dogs force me to walk 3 miles a day. Rain, sleet, or snow, (which is just how the weather is today) we walk out into the world, where I fret over plot ideas, solve character deficiencies, come up with titles…and breathe. I wouldn’t walk without the dogs because I’m too lazy to do it for myself, but it’s hard to resist a 125 pound dog who comes into the office and nudges my wrist and growls until I get off my duff. Now there are two of them—one of my brighter ideas of late, because Brodi and I were both slowing down a bit.
After a walk, they lay down on their respective couches and take a nap. Yes, they snore. My wife snores (and no, she won’t deny it—I have a tape recording to prove it). I snore. We all snore together. As tiring and exciting as the writing life is, it’s a community effort.