Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Loving A Writer

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 30, 2010

Are you in love with a writer? Are you sure about this? Sure you don’t want to try someone easier on your heart, like a bull rider, a Black Ops commando or a motorcycle stuntman?

Jack Kerouac. He's cute, but ...

Herewith, from painful experience, a few guidelines for those who have given their hearts to servants of the literary Muse. (The following observations apply equally, of course, to actors, artists, musicians, comedians, entrepreneurs and all others of this particularly unruly stripe). Please, lovers, keep the following in mind:

1) Writers are not normal.

E.L. Doctorow calls writing “a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” What he means is that artists and entrepreneurs are a little crazy. They hear music that the rest of us don’t. And sometimes the pursuit of that music carries them apart from their kinder, gentler selves. We must exercise great patience when we love artists. They are driven by forces that they don’t understand and cannot control.

2) Writers live in their heads.

What is fun to normal people—sky-diving, say; a weekend in Aruba—means nothing to your writer. Her fun is in her head. An epic is playing on the big screen and she is taking dictation as fast and furiously as she can.  “When I work, I relax,” said Picasso. “Doing nothing … makes me tired.”

The unifying principle beneath artistic nuttiness is that writers/artists/entrepreneurs are struggling with Resistance–and with inspiration. They are walking a tightrope over a thousand-foot-deep fiery gorge, simultaneously dueling the devil and courting its divine opposite–inspiration, magic, “flow.”

3) Writers are not governed by reason.

We imagine that artists and entrepreneurs are smart, even brilliant. But in truth they are operating on instinct and raw nerve. Don’t be fooled by their mastery of the Panavision 3D camera or their ability to string together a dozen complete sentences. They are skating over cracking ice. “Every time I face that yellow pad,” Maya Angelou said, “I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find me out now.'”

How do you handle an artist? Like a trainer handles a racehorse. Remember, you’re the one with the feed chart and the stopwatch. Your mount will burst his heart for you if he knows you care and you will let him, even help him, run his race.

4) Writers are primitive.

Have you read Bob Dylan’s Chronicles? Mister D’s recounting of how he puts together an album reads like the saga of a Neolithic shaman prepping the plans for the tribe’s autumn mastodon hunt. Gods and monsters appear; epic treks are undertaken; incense and incantations are offered. Compared to Bob’s working method, Hunter Thompson looks like a paragon of civilized order.

Artists and entrepreneurs require adult supervision. No matter how eloquently they put forward their case, underneath they are struggling, like you, to find and keep their emotional footing. They are insecure, grandiose, jealous, charming, fickle, romantic.

Are you an artist? Then cut your mate some slack. It’s no day at the beach, loving you. You’re a handful, baby.

Try to visit Planet Earth as frequently as possible and, when you do, camp out for a while. Really stay. Really listen. Remember that your g.f./b.f./spouse is struggling with the fact that you’re serving the Muse. Your mate worries that she’s #2 in your heart. Reassure her. A little sex, flowers, champagne go a long way.

Remember your partner can be as insecure, grandiose, jealous, charming, fickle and romantic as you.

5) A last word to lovers of artists.

Why are some of us attracted to artists in the first place? Do we seek proximity to the magic? Are we intoxicated by our mate’s power to produce wonder out of blue smoke, big hair and a Fender Stratocaster?

Two warnings: if you want to be close to that magic for the rush and the buzz, be ready to pay the price.

But here’s the Big One. If you’re drawn to your artist’s power because you feel a similar gift inside yourself, but you don’t know how (or lack the courage) to access it, stop and think hard. That twist in your guts might not be love. It could be Resistance. Your own Resistance to embracing your unique, authentic, as-yet-unmanifested gift.

In that case, love may be a trainwreck for both of you. Be your artist’s friend instead—and do your own work.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

31 Responses to “Loving A Writer”

  1. June 30, 2010 at 4:05 am

    As always, a fantastic summation of the journey to becoming an artist – which is oddly similar to being an entrepreneur.

    And, I’ll heed the advice and ‘return to Planet Earth’ for a while… :)

  2. June 30, 2010 at 5:40 am

    There are perils in generalising, of course. Some writers seek out experiences so they can know of which they write and jump at the chance to skydive or wield a sword. For part-timers and wannabes, resistence isn’t the problem, it’s finding the time to write.

    However…

    “Are you an artist? Then cut your mate some slack. It’s no day at the beach, loving you. You’re a handful, baby.”

    …is very true indeed. Artistic leanings is an explanation, not a license.

  3. Malay
    June 30, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Gave up reading before the last para or so. A) because of the sweeping generalisations – (entrepreneurs and writers are chalk and cheese while ‘artist’ is just a loose term for anyone with talent) and B) its not funny or sarcastic, but borders on being arrogant and pompous.

    • June 30, 2010 at 7:25 am

      When you gave up reading you should have given up on leaving a mean comment too.

      • Holly
        June 30, 2010 at 9:30 am

        Another wonderful Wednesday post and gut-check. Thank you!

      • An artist
        June 30, 2010 at 11:14 am

        I didn’t give up reading and I agree completely with Malay.

        • July 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

          Hey Artsies! Get your head out of your arse and re-read the title…this isn’t about us, it was written for the people who love us and are puzzled by some of our behaviour.

          Steven does an excellent job with these posts – without renumeration – so cut him some slack if he doesn’t cowtow to whatever hurt little feelings you get because he has a wide audience and didn’t pat you on your head personally.

          Critics. You piss and moan about others who climb above the treeline to slay the dragon but the only thing YOU have to offer humanity is cheap shots and pissy little comments on a blog. We’re all very impressed with your enlightened post, now go have a cookie and be bitter to yourself. Or you could try stepping up and offering somethign constructive to the world…and see how you like the pissants who show up to feed…

          You have every right to your opinions. As does Steven. As do I.

    • Josh
      July 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      must you take things so literally, Malay? He’s a writer, after all.

    • Teh Won
      July 6, 2010 at 6:22 am

      Funny seeing a Troll on a site like this. I guess comment boxes breed them.

  4. June 30, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Thank you, Steven. This article is so very relevant. While I do agree that you have included many generalizations, the nuggets of truth and clarity come shining through. Being a writer is strange and beautiful existence that many a lover have difficulty understanding. Perhaps this will shed some light onto it for them, and give them an invitation to being more compassionate with us.

  5. June 30, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Both insightful and comical. Love starting my day with a cup of Joe and Pressfield blogs.

  6. June 30, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Some days, you just want to apologize to your spouse. Tell them you didn’t mean it – being a writer and entrepreneur.
    (and of course, I forwarded this article to my wife).

  7. June 30, 2010 at 7:22 am

    My wife and I will read this together at some point this evening, I imagine; hopefully while following your instructions for relationships. Thanks for the humor and wisdom.

  8. June 30, 2010 at 8:02 am

    At last I have justification for being me!

    Thanks Steven!

  9. June 30, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I’m guessing if one of you is an artist and the other a writer, you’re doubly screwed.

    I find that both of us have to make time to come back down to earth every now and again.

    On the other hand, we both understand the other’s insanity.

    Thanks for putting the whole thing in perspective.

  10. June 30, 2010 at 10:39 am

    What if you’re both an artist and a black-ops commando?
    In all seriousness – Extremely well said, particularly the closing thought. That will be something many don’t want to hear, but it is spot on – I’ve been on both sides of it.
    Thank you.

    • June 30, 2010 at 10:47 pm

      I am an artist and former black-ops professional who identifies with most of your numbered points. However when it comes to your last word on the subject. What if the significant other was rescued as you preformed one of your black-ops missions and is now your muse?

  11. J. Scott
    June 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Very good post, Steven! Thanks!

  12. June 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Love these blogs!!!!
    Always so inspiring and assuring. At times you need validation of your insanity, here you find more insanity :)

  13. June 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    This was awesome, well said, and rather accurate. That is all.

  14. June 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I enjoyed reading this, although, I just have to say that my boyfriend is an author of 3 books and he is not like any of those things you said. I guess I’m a lucky girl?

  15. July 2, 2010 at 1:10 am

    I’m a writer, married to another creative, with two small creatives. Our house is sometimes a bit angsty, but it is worth the ride. I particularly identify with the bit about taking dictation while an epic unfolds…hard to let good dialogue/inspiration go to waste. That being said, I would happily stop writing for a week on Aruba.

  16. Josh
    July 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    you don’t have to agree with Steven Pressfield. He’s a writer. Like any artist his job is to capture your imagination and provoke some thought in you. Whether he’s right or wrong, if he made you think then he’s done his job.

  17. July 4, 2010 at 7:58 am

    thanks steven–all of this is required of me living outside the loop of the city-I also have a forgetter the size of Kansas-this is like a trail of breadcrumbs leading me back home

  18. July 6, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Terrific, Steven, you hit the bullseye! Isn’t it great being crazy?!
    I think I will cut this out and pin it to the door.
    It might prevent some from losing themselves into another fantasy.
    All best,
    André

  19. July 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for another amazing post, Steven. Everything you said is so true.

    One time when John Denver was guest hosting for Johnny Carson (wow, I’m dating myself big-time), he commented about some great hit song, “I wish I had written that song.”

    He said it more than once. I’m sure it seemed like a selfish remark to many in the audience, thinking he just wanted to be the one making a fortune off that song.

    But I think he was paying the songwriter the ultimate compliment. So, let me just say: I wish I had written this post. 😉

  20. July 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    If there are two creative people in the house I’ve learned that you have to watch for when you are projecting your own resistance onto them. It’s not pretty when you get mad at your spouse for procrastinating when you are really just mad at yourself.

  21. August 1, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Love this! I wish it weren’t so true… but….

  22. August 1, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Masterful as always Steven!

    Thanks for putting the madness in words…

    Here’s to a day on earth.

    Shawn

  23. November 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Hi there, just stopped by doing some research for my Fender Guitar site. Can’t believe the amount of information out there. Not quite what i was looking for, but good site. Take care.

  24. January 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Decent information, many thanks to the author. It is incomprehensible to me at present, but in general, the usefulness and also significance is overwhelming. Thanks again and also good luck!