Two weeks ago, our guest blogger was Eric Wasserman (click HERE for his post). But he’s merely one half of a writing couple. This week’s post is written by Thea Ledendecker. It’s a sort of he-said, she-said pair of guest posts this month, though each writer takes up an individual topic that deserves its own due. In fact, we’re especially interest in that balance of separate and together that Thea and Eric seem to manage well.
Thea earned her M.A. from Emerson College and now works in the English Department at the University of Akron. She writes fiction (sample HERE) and also writes the blog Celiac Shiksa, which features gluten-free recipes.
LOCKED IN THE BASEMENT
My husband, Eric, locked me in the basement again.
He said he wouldn’t let me out until I’d written something. Anything.
For those of you with your hand on the phone ready to call the spousal abuse hotline, fear not. The finished section of the basement is actually quite nice, with two comfy chairs, a faux-wood floor, and even a little window. The door isn’t actually locked. It’s not even closed, since the cat gets angry when he can’t escape.
The real reason I’m stuck down here is that I’ve been procrastinating. Eric hates that, mostly because the longer I go without writing, the worse my mood gets, until it spirals into a dark mix of self-loathing and despair. Luckily for me, he found a solution.
My husband writes almost every single day, but I write in spurts and starts, which sputter and die out quickly. Then it starts all over again. Eric has been trying to train me to have a writing routine for the last decade. He’s learned that just saying I should do something isn’t enough. There has to be some kind of punishment involved, even if it doesn’t hurt in the slightest. One time he got so frustrated with me that he told me to go to the bedroom (we had a one-bedroom apartment at the time, so it was the only place to go besides the bathroom) and not come out until I’d written at least one thousand words. This worked. I huffed and I puffed, but I didn’t open the door, and after a few embarrassed curses aimed in his general direction beyond the closed door, I sighed and sat down to write. Every time my mind started feeding me the usual excuses to stop, the thought of coming out empty-handed and facing his disappointment was what made me soldier on. After a while, I forgot that I was locked in the bedroom and that it had been so much trouble to write. A few hours later, I triumphantly handed him a whole chapter of the novel I was working on.
Granted, this method doesn’t always work. Sometimes I just tell him to go to hell. He knows I appreciate it, though, so he waits until he thinks it’s safe and then locks me in the basement again. Sometimes I ask him to.
That’s one of the great things about being married to a writer. He gives me the kind of kick-in-the-pants support that I need. No one but Eric would even have thought of locking me in the basement. He just doesn’t put up with bullshit.
Unlike me, Eric can’t seem to stop writing. He writes every day for hours at a time, sometimes more, drowning out the world with a sensory overload of cable news and YouTube videos of butt rock bands from the 1980s. Over it all, I can still hear the sound of his index fingers jabbing at the keyboard as if he was angry with each letter. This is another reason that I end up in the basement, where it’s quiet.
But if the music stops and he starts frantically cleaning the house while muttering that his novel is never going to be finished, I know it’s time for an intervention. There are times when he writes too much, and it’s my job to make him stop, take a break, and put his novel away for a little while so that it can sort itself out in his head. Of course, I let him finish cleaning first. Then I hide his novel. I always give it back.
We don’t necessarily like it when the other one gets temperamental, but we do recognize it as part of the creative process. If Eric barges into my office while I’m in the middle of a paragraph, sure, I’ll snap at him. By the time I’m done, we’ve both forgiven each other for our sins. Living together works because we understand that it’s writing that soothes the savage beast. If we don’t let our spouses lock themselves in their offices to write out all their demons, then we’d each have to deal with the worst parts of the other person. If we didn’t let (make) each other write or stop writing, we’d probably have killed each other by now. This would not be conducive to writing.
So my husband locks me in the basement. It’s good for me.