When the Dream Becomes a Nightmare

My husband had a dream we divorced because I am married to writing.

Sure, the majority of my social events center on writing and literature and book promotions. Sure, I spend a good portion of my day writing and a good portion of my nights editing. And the weekends, well, they fall into the dark side of creativity.

My family constantly makes sacrifices to support my writing habit. My husband assumes all responsibility for childcare and housework, letting me have the space and time to concentrate at home instead of renting an office downtown. He postpones intimacy so I can meet deadlines. My children wait and wonder when I will have time for them. Sometimes they understand. Other times my son will shut the notebook I am writing in and shout, “The End!” before grabbing my hand and demanding, “Eat!” My daughter fluctuates from pride in promoting my work to frustration in wanting to eat breakfast with me without the clutter of notes on the kitchen table and a pen nearby in case inspiration strikes.

I have been writing since I was ten. That means long before I met my husband and gave birth to my children I had logged in hundreds of hours at the desk, typing away on an electric typewriter, writing draft after draft. I had my first poem published when I was 15. By the time I was 17, I was writing for the local paper. Two months before my twenty-fifth birthday, I received a check for my first piece of fiction.

But to dream that all of that came before him and displaced him, left me feeling bereft and helpless to convince him otherwise.

How can you tell your spouse the written word means less to you than he does when the only vehicle you have to use is words?

Showing him didn’t help. That meant canceling speaking engagements, book launches, signing parties, and other literary events. It meant pulling back instead of reaching out, but if I didn’t do something, my marriage, my family, the foundation I stood on, would crumble.

Sure, he says the dream was just a dream. He doesn’t feel that way. Not really.

But still…I have to be wary…how much do I push the envelope before the whole contents spill out?

I’ve been told I’m ambitious. I have enjoyed moderate success as a writer, enough to pay some bills, obtain some local recognition, and open a few doors to big-time opportunities, but not enough to replace the income from my other jobs, gain national recognition, or capitalize on any of those big-time opportunities. I’m what the industry calls a mid-list writer, one who falls between the cracks of oblivion and fame. But the potential exists to break out of that rut, to possibly become more, with each new poem, essay, article, screenplay or book.

That’s the real threat to the marriage—the breakout novel that will catapult me from where I am to where I want to be—that’s what will cause all the rest of my world to tumble down. And that’s the tension I live with every day: not whether to write or not to write, but whether to write better and reach further, to stop doing what I’ve already done and reach for something more.

That “more” tips the scales between the best wife and the best mother and the well-paid, well-recognized and well-respected writer.

I cannot predict the future, but I can tread lightly on the present. And that means declining some opportunities for more time to devote to those who have come into my life either by choice or circumstance to form what I call my family. To sacrifice one for the other isn’t ideal, but it is reality.

That’s why I chose to help my husband with much needed home repairs instead of attending another book festival. That’s why I refused to travel out of the country on a three month writing retreat to be with my family—correcting my daughter’s homework, discussing behavioral strategies with specialists for my son, supporting my husband emotionally as he reorganizes and expands his business. For in the end, it does not matter whether or not future generations study my novel in their junior high English class, but whether or not I showed the ones I love I care more about them than anything else…and that they feel it and believe it and know it to be true.