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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Does Your Partner Support or Sabotage Your Writing?

steal creativity canstockphoto5447021 (2)Steven Pressfield’s latest post was so on target, I’m taking the liberty of using it as a launch point.

Please come back after you read Love in the Time of Resistance.

Have you ever felt your writing was sabotaged by your partner? I know it happens, but I haven’t experienced it. So I have a different perspective to offer.

Just to clarify, I have been through my share of messy relationships, but the messy wasn’t about my writing. Now, I’m blessed with amazingly supportive spouse, family and friends. I’d like to think it’s because I finally learned how to discern who to invite into my life. But mostly I’m lucky.

So here’s my perspective. In Chapter 10 of Around the Writer’s Block, I wrote:

“Be careful with what you expect from your spouse, life partner or other family members…

From your perspective, writing is an important part of who you are… so a partner who reflects your doubts or expresses disbelief about your capabilities can wound you deeply. But as a writer, you have to be able to step into another person’s perspective; so do that with your partner.

Does your partner see writing as a frivolous hobby that cuts into the time you could be spending with her/him? Is it an excuse to “get out of doing your share” of income generating or household chores?

Is it a dangerous, misplaced pipe dream that will only end up disappointing you, so the kindest thing your partner can do is to keep reminding you not to get your hopes up too much? Is it a (either conscious or unconscious) painful reminder of your partner’s own unfulfilled creative dreams and the chances s/he regrets not taking?

brain 3Start by explaining how and why writing is important to you and how everyone will benefit from finding ways to balance your desire and need to write with the desires and needs of everyone else in your family.

Ask your partner and other immediate family members how they perceive your writing. Consider how you want to be supported and how your family is willing and able to support you. Expecting someone to give you something s/he doesn’t have to give is a setup for disappointment and emotional turmoil.

Most important, make this a reciprocal, mutually beneficial and mutually agreed-to arrangement. That way you won’t feel small, dependent or indebted every time your partner gives you support and your partner won’t feel resentful or rejected every time you disappear into your writing.

You want to have reciprocal relationships with all your writing allies. Many writers hesitate to ask for support because we don’t want to feel dependent or less-than. Or we’re afraid to commit ourselves to some future, undefined obligation.

This is why it is essential that we have reciprocal relationships with our allies and that we define those agreements in advance.

Whether you’re enlisting allies from fellow writers/artists or from friends and family, I recommend you make copies of the Ally Agreement Worksheet below and use them as a starting point in a discussion about how you can share support.

Ally Agreement Worksheet

I, ______________________ would like ______________________ to be my writing ally. In this role, I would like______________________ to take the following action: ______________________

I, ______________________ , agree to be ______________________ ’s ally. I am willing to take the following action to support ______________________ ’s writing or other priorities: ______________________ “

Have you made agreements with the people in your life to maximize mutual support and minimize sabotage? What works or doesn’t work in your writing life?

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10 Comments on “Does Your Partner Support or Sabotage Your Writing?”

  1. Leni April 8, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Found this post through #wwwblogs and glad I did. I’m a late bloomer to my creative expression. It’s hard to get family on board that hasn’t been exposed to this facet of me.


    • rosannebane April 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      Thanks Leni! You might want to freewrite about what it means to you to have family on board, who you want to support you as a writer and how you want them to support you. For example, “I love the way Bob asks questions without ever judging or dismissing my writing. I want him to keep asking me what’s new with the book in a way that invites me to talk about my writing.”
      Thanks to you and other readers who commented, I think I have a Part II on partner support stirring in my brain — stay tuned.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Leni April 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

        Thank you!


  2. Amalie Cantor April 8, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I have heard SO MANY STORIES (almost all from women) whose spouses/partners do very little to support them in their writing endeavors. I actually BLAME my partner for any success I have, since she’s the one that’s constantly pushing me to write more, to write the stories she (and admittedly I) want to read. I give myself all the Resistance I need. I don’t need her to do it too.

    I have found myself on the other end, though, the one unconsciously doing the sabotage. For me, writing is a relatively innocuous pastime. It doesn’t require tons of money to do (and the little bit I have spent on it was well worth it), although it does require a huge investment of time. Because my partner’s passions are not so easily managed without additional monetary input, I will admit I’m sometimes more hesitant with supporting her. Thanks so much for reminding me of what I SHOULD be doing rather than what I AM doing!


    • rosannebane April 8, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      Thanks Amalie for reminding us to appreciate the support we get from our partners and family. I hope you and your partner talk about how you can support each other, what each of you wants, what each of you is willing to do, and what’s good for your family emotionally and financially. I’m always cautious of “should” and encourage you to be gentle with yourself. It’s not easy to recognize and acknowledge you might have been sabotaging someone you love. Now that you have that awareness, I hope you’ll use it to strengthen your relationship.


    • Lisa May 29, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

      Women are expected to do chores and care for their spouses and children. If they focus on their endeavors, they’re labeled as narcissistic.


      • rosannebane May 30, 2016 at 8:16 am #

        Thanks Lisa Writes for your observation. Fortunately, that (women are expected to care for family and home) is not as true as it used to be, but unfortunately, it is still true. Often women are our own worst judges of ourselves and other women. One more reason to be wary of “shoulds”.


        • Lisa May 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

          Actually, men are the worst judges of themselves and other men, especially to the point of violence against each other.


  3. Lyra G. April 2, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    I get no support whatsoever from my spouse. Despite having three books published (with him publicly raving about my success), he still does everything possible to sabotage my efforts during the last three weeks of a deadline. The interruptions were always needless (Where’s my blue shirt? Do you want spaghetti for dinner tonight? Have you seen the stapler?)
    I never could figure out why he would jeopardize my career (not to mention risking his personal safety) when leaving me alone would benefit him. He couldn’t explain it, either.
    I recently decided to rent a spare room for half a day all week from an empty-nest friend who lives nearby. I get more work done in five hours there than in five months at my own home. I can also just sit and think, without someone inquiring: “What are you thinking about?”


    • rosannebane April 8, 2015 at 11:43 am #

      Thanks Lyra! I, too, need uninterrupted time to write and appreciate the frustration of being talked to when I need to focus. However, in defense of my spouse and yours, talking to someone in the same house is not exactly criminal. It can be difficult to remember when to ignore your spouse (which is what we’re asking them to do), especially when your spouse is right there. I’m glad you have the option of renting space for your writing. I hope the post prompts you and your husband to talk about what you both need and make conscious, reciprocal ally agreements.


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