11 years ago I won my girlfriend over (and now wife of 10 years) because I was a serious writer. I wrote short stories, little poems, and especially small strings of love lines for her. As much as a fairly ignorant 21 year old could, I knew how to choose really good words and thrived on doing so. After marriage started and the intensity of infatuated romance stabilized, I found writing became work, really hard work. When it wasn’t hard, it was because I was drinking but the writing was no good; it was self-indulgent or just scattered. So I stopped.
This many years later, grad degrees, good jobs, three kids, and multiple cities lived in, I feel like that passion of writing is begging inside me for a restart, to finally face the hard work and overcome it. What advice do you have as a busy husband and father to make time and harness motivation to keep printing the good words?
Dear Something’s Burning,
Thank you so much for your question. Your note is rich but brief, so my response will be only as far as I can see based on your words. My words will by no means shed light on the whole path to your desired answer, but hopefully they’ll sorta kinda illuminate that next step or two, which by the way I fully believe you can take. The quote below is specific to novel writing (discovered in Lamott’s Bird by Bird) but general enough to apply to quite a lot of other things, including love, which is what I believe your note is really all about.
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
~ E.L. Doctorow
As far as I can see into your scenario, here goes. There seems to be a lifeline between the woman in your life and your writing. You wooed your girlfriend’s heart back then, won her over, yes, with your serious writing, but especially by those small strings of love lines. That was back in your twenties, in those days of infatuated romance, the days of wine and roses huh? But then she moved from being your girlfriend to being your wife, and responsibilities set in, jobs, kids, this stuff called life. Man, can I ever relate. You sound like a good man, a man who takes his life and the gifts he’s been given very seriously and you strive to be response-able in all aspects. I respect that very much, and I believe the people around you do too. But in the midst of all that accumulating life your writing became work, really hard work. And although I don’t know this for certain I’m guessing the relationship with your wife did too, not all at once by any means, but gradually. You’re asking for advice on how to woo your writer’s heart once more, and I believe a good first step is to try to and woo hers again.
What if you started writing for her like you did back then? Forget the short stories and poems for right now, just focus on those little threads that you and she so enjoyed back when your love still had dew on it. I fully agree with Madeleine L’Engle that our younger selves still live within our older selves, so that fairly ignorant infatuated twenty-something boy writer? He’s still in there – find him, and give him permission to write some small strings of love to her again, then see how her heart responds. Now she might roll her eyes, turn toward the wall, and say silly rabbit, we’re too old for this. But she might not. She might get a little teary, take your hand, and say Oh I’ve missed this so much. Now this probably won’t happen all at once. It didn’t the first time, did it? Chances are good that if it happens again, it’ll happen as it happened then – gradually. But just remember, you’re wooing, and that takes time. But you believed she was worth it back then, right? Help her, and yourself, to re-believe she’s worth it still.
Is this going to totally rejuvenate your writer’s heart? I don’t know, it might not. But I’m afraid, and this is just my opinion, that if you take any other approach to getting your writer-mojo back its going to be short-lived, and will soon feel like work, really hard work. There’s an old book that has a line in it that goes something like this: Love your neighbor as yourself. In your case, your neighbor is your wife, and the best way to practice that vitally important thing called self-love is to practice a little neighbor-love, because its all connected. And in your case you get to sleep with your neighbor, which is cool. Plus this is also loving your kids in a slant way that they may not realize until they’re older, but trust me, they’re paying attention.
Look out as far as you can see via the headlights and write her some love lines. Those small steps might just make a world of difference in your writing. But most importantly in the heart of your neighbor, and yours. Again, I believe you can do this. If my math is correct, you’re in your thirties. You’re still so young, my friend, and you can so do this.