Weekend Edition – Spouse or Lover Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Are You Better Off Treating Your Writing Like a Marriage or a Love Affair?

face love noteAs 2015 broke open with the dauntingly pristine blankness of a new notebook, writers swore fervent new promises of commitment to their writing. Whispered in secret or emblazoned nakedly across the digital landscape, writers everywhere renewed their vows with craft and muse.

Not being one for resolutions, I sat on the sidelines of this annual frenzy of fealty, but it got me thinking about the kinds of relationships writers have with their writing. For most of us, writing is not our primary profession. It is more avocation than vocation – more a calling than a career. In my case, though I do make my living as a writer, the words that keep a roof over my head and books on my shelf are not the words that stir my dreams as I drift off to sleep each night. Though, technically, the work I do each day is writing, it is not Writing. (You understand.)

How many times have you wished that you could catch a break and (finally) be one of the lucky few who earns an actual, sustainable living from creative writing? How many times have you fantasized about a life in which you are free to spend all the hours of your days (and nights, if you like) writing what you want to write?

But, is that really what you want?

You have heard, I am sure, the many stories about lottery winners who end up cursing their winning tickets. I wonder if writers who win the proverbial publishing lottery sometimes end up feeling the same way. After all, it’s hard to transition from a life in which writing is something that you do because you are passionate about it, stealing minutes and hours to connect with your creativity and your keyboard, to a life in which writing is something that you must do because you have deadlines and contracts and commitments.

Like a marriage between two people, a marriage between a writer and writing is a union with a delicate alchemy. On the one hand it can provide a strong foundation for your creative work by providing structure, support, and a certain confidence. On the other hand, there is a reason we say that familiarity breeds contempt. What was once a joyful pursuit becomes a tired obligation, hitting your word count is suddenly (and sadly) more a routine slog than a passionate dance with the muse.

Perhaps if you were married to your writing, you would no longer taste the inspiring sweetness of illicit interludes with your imagination. Perhaps, you would realize that your creativity was fueled in part by the need to fight so hard for what you thought couldn’t have. Perhaps, gods forbid, you would begin to take the privilege of writing for granted.

I recently watched a wonderful movie called The Hundred-Foot Journey starring, among others, the marvelous Helen Mirren. Mirren plays the pretentious owner of a high-class French restaurant that she runs in memory of her deceased husband. In one scene, she castigates her kitchen staff over the sub-par preparation of some asparagus. Holding up a limp spear of the offending vegetable, she says, “Cuisine is not a tired old marriage, it is a passionate affair of the heart”

Indeed. And so it should be with writing as well.

But, maybe you don’t have to choose wedded “bliss” or forbidden affair. Maybe there is a middle ground. Aren’t there relationships that are true and strong even without the binds of official sanctions? Couldn’t you create an enduring relationship with your writing, one that is deep and vulnerable, without someone else’s blessing? I think you could.

The artist’s relationship with art should never be defined by rules, limited by expectations, or judged by traditional standards. You are the writer – the artist. You create things. You can create your relationship with your art in whatever way best serves your artistic endeavors. And that freedom of choice, whether you choose to pursue betrothal or an endless courtship, will keep the fires of inspiration burning in your writer’s heart.


What I’m Learning About Writing:

For those of you who are regular readers, I’m replacing the “What I’m Writing” section of the weekend edition with this new “What I’m Learning About Writing” tid-bit. I hope you like it! 

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the local concert of a musical group called Project Trio. Featuring Peter Seymour on double pass, Greg Pattillo on flute (and beat boxing!), and Eric Stephensen on some kick ass cello, this unique and delightfully entertaining collection of world-class musicians have a sound that Downbeat Magazine calls “Packed with musicianship, joy, and surprise!” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a little taste:

Isn’t that fun?

One of the most interesting things about Project Trio is the way they take all kinds of music – classical, jazz, bluegrass, Indian, salsa, rock, you name it – and make it completely their own … which made me think about how, as writers, we can do the same thing with the stories we write.

It’s said that there are no new stories. Every possible story has been told and retold thousands and thousands of times. The characters, setting, and other details change, but the underlying story is the same – boy meets girl or good vs. evil or whatever. The creative opportunity lies in taking these ubiquitous and eternal truths and using them as the basis to create our own reality. Like the musicians of Project Trio, we can take the raw material and turn it into something that is uniquely our own. We can make the old new again, help people see it in a new way.

What stories are you retelling? How are you making them your own?


What I’m Reading:

book airbornMy daughter and I just finished a swashbuckling read by author Kenneth Oppel. Airborn is a young adult novel that is part steampunk, part fantasy, and part pirate adventure.  From Oppel’s website:

Matt Cruse is the 15-year-old cabin boy aboard the Aurora, the 900-foot luxury airship he has called home for the past two years. While crossing the Pacificus, Matt fearlessly rescues the unconscious pilot of a crippled hot air balloon. Before he dies, the balloonist tells him about the fantastic, impossible creatures he has seen flying through the clouds. Matt dismisses the story as the ravings of a dying man, but when Kate de Vries arrives on the Aurora a year later, determined to prove the story is true, Matt finds himself caught up in her quest. Then one night, over the middle of the ocean, deadly air pirates board the Aurora. Far from any hope of rescue, Kate and Matt are flung into adventures beyond all imagining. . .

I read this out loud to my daughter at bedtime and I have to say that I often felt it was a poor choice for pre-sleep reading because it was so exciting. I have never had such an easy time getting dramatic with my reading. To say I was swept up in the action is an understatement.

Though this award-winning title has a male protagonist (not a bad thing – at all – but I like to find books with strong female leads for my daughter), I loved that he was paired with a smart and dauntless female character who is largely responsible for the events that drive the story forward.

If you or any young readers you know enjoy well-written adventure stories with a touch of fantasy, I highly recommend Airborn. I’m so glad that it’s the first of a trilogy. We’re starting the second book, Skybreaker, tonight. I can’t wait.


And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

From AuthorsPublish.com

From AuthorsPublish.com

Here’s to keeping the love alive (however you can), putting your own spin on classic stories, and embracing adventure along the way. 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Photo Credit (love note): Send me adrift. via Compfight cc

48 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Spouse or Lover Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

  1. Terrific analogy with marriage, love affair and one’s relationship with writing. I’m fortunate to have a marriage that is (almost) always a love affair, too. I’m in the early stages with my writing relationship but it looks like a keeper as well 😊

    I click on blog music links about 50% of the time, and even then rarely watch/listen until the end. Not only did I enjoy this trio all the way through, I had to replay it. Loved it!!

    • Hi, Sammy! So nice to “see” you. 🙂
      Glad that both those relationships are keepers. That’s lovely to hear.
      And I’m glad you not only clicked the music link, but actually enjoyed it. My daughter and I have been listening to the three CDs I bought at the show last night and I’m thinking it may make for good writing music. Each song is so different from the last and each is so evocative and yet not distracting. We’ll see. I’ll experiment.

      Have a great week!

      • I think it helped to be able to watch them because they are all so expressive with their body language and facial expressions. After you’ve seen a group like that, listening to a CD takes on more meaning. Enjoy 🙂

      • I am enjoying the CDs, but you are totally right … there’s something about seeing them live that has SO much more energy and aliveness. The studio recordings are well executed, but they lack that in-the-moment magic of a live show.

    • Yes, and if you are (as your handle seems to indicate) a mum writing, I imagine you really do have to steal them. I know I do since my daughter (soon to be 11) was born. But, that’s all good. Having her in my life brings so much inspiration that any loss of time seems minor in comparison. 🙂

  2. Hi Jamie, you made some interesting points about writing. I actually don’t fantasise about a full time writing marriage – i like being able to go out into the world and do different things. I love working in education, and my job there helps me write, i think! Not full time work though, but part time. I loved that music trio – love! What a treat 🙂 i used to play the stand up bass (badly) at school, so i’ve always had a love for it. Thanks for sharing that xo

    • Hi, Sara. : )
      I’m not sure (yet), but I am beginning to wonder if being a writer on the side may be the sanest thing I can aspire to. When I first realized the truth about successful, “professional writers” (that many of them do, in fact, also hold full-time jobs outside of their fiction writing), I was surprised. I figured that once you had a bestseller on your hands, things changed dramatically. I was so naive then.
      But, maybe having one foot in your stories and the other in … something else, is a blessing. Maybe living a life that bounces and balances between all kinds of experiences and forms of expression is the best way to improve our writing.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the Project Trio clip. They were SO fun live. My daughter plays the flute and her friend plays the cello (but wants to play that HUGE double bass). They are already discussing how they can form their own group. 😉

      Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

      • Yes…of course, we are all different, but I find that too much time alone in my own head isn’t that good for me. My day job is interesting, inspiring…and not writing, although this year I will also be working on the school website and newsletter, and the end of year magazine 🙂
        The double bass was so much fun…but there is a reason that mostly men play them 🙂 They are really heavy, and I needed two fingers to hold the strings down 🙂

      • Sometimes I wonder i, as a group, writers ought to think about being human beings first and writers second. I feel like, for many of us, it’s such a battle to find the time and means to write that we defend it tooth and claw, elevating it above the experience of actually living. More to chew on. Thanks!

        The funny thing is, Sara, that the young lady who is interested in playing the double bass is a tiny thing. The instrument would not only tower over here, but probably outweigh her by two or three times. I suppose, however, that where there’s a will, there’s a way. 😉

    • Wasn’t it great? I love “quiet” movies like that. It seems like not much is happening (especially when compared to the movies that are full of aliens, car chases, and shoot outs), but at the end you feel like you’ve lived another life. At least, I do. 🙂

      Nice to “see” you & so glad you enjoyed the post. Hope the links give you some good stuff, too! Enjoy.

      • I so agree, Patti. I’m always SO delighted when I find a movie that takes me away. The ones that come to mind at the moment are The Grand Budapest Hotel, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Way (with Martin Sheen), Rare Birds (William Hurt), and The Best Marigold Hotel. I’ve also been itching to watch an old favorite, Shirley Valentine. Maybe tomorrow night. 🙂

  3. Reading this I hope to make my writing a passionate affair Jamie! More than one bestselling author has said they often long for the days before they were published and successful and were expected to churn out a book every year. I think of that whenever I feel ‘rushed’ to finish a story. I too enjoy quiet movies and loved The Hundred Foot Journey. If you enjoy Foreign movies there is a great one called My Afternoons With Margueritte starring Gerard Depardieu about books of course and much more…have a great weekend!

    • Thank you for the movie recommendation, Yolanda. As I was just saying to Patti in the comment above, it’s SO hard to find good movies these days.

      I have heard similar stories about writers who long for the days before there were heavy obligations and expectations on their writing. You put your finger on the thing that makes me the most unhappy when it comes to writing – rushing. It has taken me a long time, but I finally realized that feeling rushed is the thing that drains me of my enthusiasm for and joy in any process. Hard to avoid in this rush-and-bustle world, but now that I know what to look out for, at least I have a sporting chance!

    • It can be scary to put your words out there, but sharing your words and then engaging in a conversation with your audience is the most efficient (and, in my humble opinion, enjoyable) way to really start to understand how your words appeal to and affect your audience.

      I hope you get unstuck soon. 🙂

  4. So excited to see Project Trio show up on the blog! I LOVE, LOVE them. They frequent the Cleveland, OH area and this last time I took all of my kids to see them. Now I have a beat boxing recorder player in the house. 🙂 Great post!

    • Oh, hello! So nice to meet another fan of Project Trio. I am hoping they come back to our neck of the woods soon. I would love to seem them live again – such great energy and joy. And I love that you have a beat boxing recorder player. My daughter has started experimenting with beat boxing on her flute. It’s not perfect, but it’s still music to my ears.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  5. That piece on spouse or lover is quite insightful. I was just thinking that in successful marriages the partners experience an intense love affair as well. When I was in grad school & driven by the due dates, I still experienced great pleasure when I knew my writing was exceptional. When I (hopefully) get to that point in my career I think I will feel the same.

    Excellent writing here.

    • So glad you enjoyed the piece and even happier that it sparked some insights of your own. Thanks for coming by & sharing your two cents. Much appreciated. 🙂

  6. The nature of ones relationship with ones writing? Like a marriage? I’m not sure. If it were we would have been divorced years ago. Perhaps one of the problems is that it is too easy to get analytical about the relationship. Is this not just another avoidance technique? Like, you know it is time to sit down and write – yet there is this sudden, unavoidable urge to clean the oven, or wash the car. Anything that means you are unable to sit down and write. And yet I know the moment I touch the keyboard and pick up the thread of the last chapter, the flood gates open and you’re away. So why all the stalling? The procrastination? The need to analyse? They say most marriages survive because the participants ARN’T dismantling their relationship. They also say the most important ingredient is sticking power. In the case of writing “bum-glue” – that which keeps your backside glued to your desk chair and your eyes and mind on the next chapter.

    • I know all about the sudden allure of chores when it’s time to write. I think we all do that to some extent. But I wonder if the relationship with writing was more like a love affair, if we would eschew our household duties (and anything else that might distract) just to steal away for a few moments with our stories.

      Even if you are not bearing the weight of professional deadlines and pressures, if your mindset about your writing makes it feel more like an obligation (I must put my butt in the chair and write) than a treat, perhaps it still feels more like a tired marriage than an affair.

      But, as you say, sometimes the strongest relationships are those that are allowed to exist without scrutiny. Maybe that’s a key to a healthy and enduring relationship with writing as well – don’t think about it too much, just do it!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Love affair, 100 percent. As soon as you start writing for someone else, you become dependant on them and lose sovereignty over your writing.

    On the other hand, you can afford to eat.

  8. Hopefully writing can be like many successful marriages where the love affair remains an integral part of the marriage. Like these human relationships, the unique courtship with writing probably depends on the personality of the writer.

    • I tend to agree. There’s not much black and white, right? For most of us, I’m guessing there are elements of the marriage interspersed with elements of the affair. And we survive the parts that need to be survived and we take inspiration and energy from the parts that provide inspiration and energy. And we try not to worry too much about the fact that some days it’s the marriage that feels like our saving grace, and other days it’s the affair. Who are we to question the muse too sharply?

  9. There are times when I wish I was a full-time writer, but the fact is that I know I need interaction with the outside world through a full-time outside-of-the-home job, for I am one of those hermit writers. It’s almost as if I hole myself up so that I can write in a dark cave, free from all distractions. I know that this is not healthy and that there are a lot of wonderful websites to connect writers (including Nanowrimo.org and agentqueryconnect.com) and although I sign up for these sites, I have difficulty following through. But the truth is, I despise my day-time job, constantly wondering how a creative soul was sucked in to the world of accounting. But here is the conundrum: I have written some of my greatest words while at work. Why? Because I am bored with the mundane. So I guess that means that for me, writing is a love affair, a clandestine tryst, that sends an electric thrill amplifying my sense of creativity. And if I live for the moments when I can look back at a sentence and think, “That was a work of art,” then why should mess with a good thing?

    • “Tryst” – I love that word. 🙂

      I think many writers (even ones who have “made it”) would relate to your experience. I have heard many stories over the years of writers penning novels in the little pockets of down time afforded by their day jobs as cab drivers, hotel watchmen, waitresses, etc. There IS something “electric” about creating time for your art on the sly – it’s a little rebellious.

      And, really, whatever works, right?
      Thanks for sharing.
      I’ll have to think more on the idea of writing in a cave vs. engaging in online communities vs. interacting with people in real life. That’s another whole topic!

      • I would love to read a blog post on the exploration of the different ways of writing. Of course there is no right or wrong answer, for we are all different, but I am always open to a post that encourages lively discussion and exploration.

  10. Hi Jamie! I like that analogy-I guess like any relationship we have to figure how we are best served by it. If it troubles you to the point of being unfulfilling then it’s not serving you. You either let it go or change the rules of engagement. My writing feels a bit like “friends with benefits.” Though I liken relationship to exercise and is similarly complicated. I need it, even have moments of deeply and passionately craving it, but I have arthritis making what’s good for me also painful. Writing, I want and need to do it, but when it gets painful/frustrating I can set it aside until I’m strong enough again. But like exercise, sometimes I have to force myself to do it since I’m best served by being consistent, showing up and working out to the best of my ability in the moment.

    I too like to write alone in the quiet, but crave community. Thus the WriNoShores were born and finding how productive writing can be in the midst of others. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, both serve a purpose, as do my connections online and with living breathing beings.

    Participating in the creative endeavors of others is so important to our own creative process. Whether viewing art or attending performances or actively creating in another medium. I find it very stimulating for my writing. The collective creative energy is inspiring.

    • “Friends with benefits” – that may be the perfect solution! 🙂
      Thank you for sharing a bit about the push and pull of your relationship with writing. I think the analogy to exercise is also spot on in so many ways … including the old adage, “Use it, or lose it.” 😉

      I also love what you said about participating in the creative endeavors of others. Art is, ultimately, a connection. So, it only makes sense that our art should be fueled by connections with other people and ideas as much as it is fueled by our connections to ourselves in times of solitude. I have little practice writing in the company of others, but perhaps it’s time I give it a try.

      Thanks for being here, Lynne. Always nice to see you.

      PS – I don’t think I ever found out what the WriNoShores’ mascot was finally named. Love to know!

      • In some ways, I couldn’t agree more. I am an aficionado of music, art, books, and culture. I feel like a sponge, soaking it up, allowing it to inspire me. I am in the constant pursuit of the beautiful, ugly, creative, and unique. The things I find may not always be to my taste, but I appreciate the effort that went in nonetheless. I am a firm believer that we all have a creative side and that it should be explored. We all express ourselves differently. Some in the kitchen, others on stage, or on the streets, or with their style of dress, or with their words.

        No matter what, we can’t allow ourselves to be defined by another’s perception. For that very perception can kill the art in you. And it can be because of that fear that so many do just like me: write in a cave; however, like Jamie, I feel it might be time to try something different.

  11. Thank you for the inspiring blog post and great discussions! I find that in relationships communication is a must. If I don’t tell how I feel and what I need, others won’t know and vice versa. So if/when we are in a relationship with our writing, how to communicate needs and feelings? I’m still learning that in in my writing relationship.

    I also wanted to thank you for this blog! I have followed it for a while but commented now for the first time. Communication, also discussed above, is one of my resolutions for 2015 🙂

    • Thank you so much for being here … in spirit and now in the comments. Glad to have you. 🙂

      And thank you for bringing up such an interesting question. I agree that communication – honest, clear, consistent communication – is critical to any successful relationship, whether personal or professional. So, as you’ve asked, how do we establish an open line of communication with our writing?

      It’s tricky, right? Because our writing isn’t another entity, it’s part of us. So, it’s kind of like having a conversation with ourselves. It makes me think I should take some time to bring some additional clarity to not only my hopes and dreams about writing, but also my needs and expectations. Based on what you’ve said (which I think is so true) we need to understand how we feel about and what we need from the relationship. And, I think we need to understand that in as much detail as possible. It’s not enough, perhaps, to simply know that you love writing. You need to know why and how and exactly what you love about it (and, what you don’t) so that you can learn to craft your relationship with the practice and the art in a way that best serves your needs and aspirations.

      Hmm … LOTS to think about here. Thanks for greasing the wheels in my head!

  12. Pingback: Writing like marriage, reblog, writing tips, live to write, D.G. Kaye.

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