Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How Being Married Made Me a Better Writer

Now that December’s over, I look back on the month and the progress I made on my new novel. It’s not bad progress, but I don’t write everyday like I planned, and I’m starting to peter out.

It’s weird because in November, my book was literally all I ever talked about. I had trouble sleeping because I kept coming up with ideas and I’d have to turn on a lamp and scribble them down before I could go back to bed. Now only a few weeks later, I’m just not into it.

People often compare writing a book to getting married. You fall in love and everything’s great at first, but then you get into a routine, sometimes you lag behind where you should be, and you go through a lot of struggles to make it through. In the same vein, I’ve fallen out of love with my book.

If writing a book is so much like a marriage, I decided use the same techniques I use on my marriage in my writing. Here are the ideas I came up with:

Remember what made you fall in love in the first place. Every time I write a book, I start out with grand ideas of the themes and the purpose of the book. Then as I work on it, I get so wrapped up in the details that I lose sight of the whole. For Sacred Fire, I wrote in my notebook why I wanted to write it and what I wanted it to accomplish before I started working. When I lost sight of my purpose, I read over those notes. I need to do the same for my new book. (Incidentally, this fixed my current problem.)

Focus on the Positive. This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s easy to make your book/spouse look bad when you focus on the negative. You can make a list of your strengths and the good qualities of your book to help you focus on the positive, and you can make the same list for your spouse.

But don’t hesitate to deal with problems. So many writers get deluded because they won’t accept their faults and put the work into improving them. Such writers can’t stand to be critiqued. Some couples also avoid problems so they don’t have to deal with them and the problems resurface again and again. Writing and marriage takes a lot of work, and we won’t do it perfectly, but we need to improve constantly to make it work.

Give yourselves space when you need it. Just because you’re writing a book doesn’t mean you can’t take a break and write a short story, a poem, a journal entry, a blog post, whatever. It’s important to write every day, but it’s easy to get tired of something or someone when it’s all you ever see or do. Take time for yourself every now and again.

Don’t consider giving up. I’m not saying you should never abandon a book or a marriage. Sometimes an idea isn’t worth the pain and effort it would take to bring it to fruition. In this case, it’s the thought that matters. When I thought to myself, “I wonder if anyone’s going to like this story, I should be writing something more mainstream, what if I’m wasting my time,” I could have spent my energy thinking, “When Tuccia gets taken away from her parents, should she blame the gods, the Pontifex Maximus, or should she just accept that it’s her fate and move on?” Whenever I wondered if my marriage was going to work, I obsessed over the reasons it wouldn’t work instead of trying to make my marriage better. Thinking about not writing your book and thinking about divorce makes you focus on your doubt. At some point, a writer needs to decide that it’s worth it and stop considering giving up.
Teralyn Rose Pilgrim Teralyn Pilgrim
Be patient. Not every day with your spouse is going to be happy, and not every writing session is going to be perfect. You’re in for a rough ride, but writing – and marriage – is wonderful and well worth the work.


  1. Interesting post! I bet being married to Andrew also taught you lots of patience? ;)

  2. Just started reading your blog and I love it. (Followed you over from Writer Unboxed.) I totally agree with this post. I've been thinking about trying to write a novel for years but never started until I dreamed up a story and characters that I was head-over-heels in love with. I wouldn't write about just anyone, just like I wouldn't marry just anyone. This is a very sweet post. Keep up the good work. :)

  3. Thank you so much! I'm glad you like it, and I'm happy to get positive feedback. It's exciting that you're starting a book! You can keep us posted on your progress, and feel free to ask for advice if you need any.


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