I’ve never had a partner who reads my work, or has taken an active interest in my writing. This used to make me sad.
Then I discovered there are many writers whose partners actively discourage it, saying it’s a waste of time, it would never go anywhere, that they should be doing something “productive.” They can never work in an environment free from judgement and criticism.
I am so thankful, every day, that while I’m not always helped by my family (chosen or otherwise) they have never stood in my way.
As much as I am grateful, I find that my most favorite authors thank their partners or spouses first and foremost. Those partners work with their writer, around their writer, applying their shrewd minds, asking good questions, and pushing their writer to be the absolute best they can be. As a mushy example, the writer in Stephen King’s “Bag of Bones” had his wife type out the last line in every story. I’ve been giving it some thought, and come up with a word to describe this person: Artspouse
This might be your husband or wife, this might be your best friend. This might be someone you absolutely cannot stand on a personal level; but when you come together to collaborate on a project, the results are absolute magic. This is the person who knows what you’re going through as an artist, as a creative, as a person trying to meet a bloody deadline — and knows when it’s time for chocolate and tissues; and when it’s time to kick the door in, turn the lights on, and yell at you to get your fucking act together.
Within this sphere of your life, on this particular path, they are your partner, your ally, your battle-buddy, your greatest nemesis, your soulmate, and anything in between. They are the constant measuring stick that says you can do better, and the little voice in your ear that helps you get there.
As a test request, here’s what I would look for in an artspouse. You may assume that these wishes are expressed with an intent of mutuality (I would provide the same support I ask for):
- Interest in the same medium — a reader to my writer, an audience to my show, a hunter to my bladesmith.
- Complementary strengths — if I’m good at structure, you’re good at emotional resonance. If I’m good at sculpting, you’re good at interior design. If I’m a lighting guy, you’re a sound guy.
- Matching goals — whether it’s a quest for excellence, or commercial success, or attaining a certain level of mastery.
- Seriousness of intent — less blah blah, more pew pew. We’re always aiming for the next level.
- Commitment to your own work — different goals on the same path. It makes sense to run together for a while.
- Enjoyment of each other’s work — I’d buy your stuff because it’s good, not just because I know you.
- Fearlessness — we can argue, we can risk, we can fail, we can get up and try again.
- No man left behind — I’m speaking at this con, and so are you. I’m getting published, you’re putting on your show. I’m climbing this fucking mountain, and you’re coming with me. And in that vein…
- On the level — we’re about the same skill level, or same stage of our artistic careers. Maybe one of us is slightly ahead, but will be outpaced in a moment. They might piss you off a little because they’re so talented, and you have to hustle to catch up. There’s always something to learn, always something to offer.
- Aw, buddy — we maybe, just possibly, actually like each other. It’s 2am. Let’s get tacos and talk about that weird dream you had the other day.
What do you want in an artspouse?
Do you already have an artspouse?