Sunday, June 6, 2010

To Those Married to and Partnered-up with Writers

If someone marries an artist, whether they knew it at the time or whether it came later in the marriage, they're taking something on. Of course, it's implied that you should support the person you love in their endeavors. (Well, not illegal, immoral endeavors. But art? Sure, yes.) Easier said than done, most of the time. Are artists known for being docile spouses? Nope.

But there's more to it. Those who are partnered-up with an artist have another greater role. They're key to cultivating a civilization that is arts-alive. Their role is a holy one, to my mind. They have to be willing not just to (grudgingly) give time to the artist, they have to CHAMPION that artist. This is what true support is about -- it's an emotional effort. (And let's face it. It's not easy to be an artist to begin with.)

And how we support artists -- in our families, in our communities -- is critical to our overall cultural health. I deeply admire and am thankful for those who -- behind the scenes -- support the artists in their lives. We lose a lot of artists who are not supported and who are instead forced to choose between art and family. This is truer for women artists. (Resist that comment all you want, I'm not going out on a limb making that claim.)

If I could give a speech to those who really do support artists, I'd give a thankful one -- but one that simultaneously shames those who do a grudging job of it.

The bottom line is that if you're married to an artist, you can't just grudgingly allow the artist some time. You have to champion the work or they may well not survive as an artist. That's hard, but it's the truth -- at least in my case.

On the flip side, the artist has to be a true artist, someone who is actually working not just surfing the web or smoking pot to get into the groove then eating chips and falling asleep, for example. The artist can't simply be someone who is just carving out some quiet time. Though cool and all for partners to do for each other, that's not THIS deal.

And the artist must be thankful. In fact -- and this might be deal breaker for some -- indebted.

I am indebted to my husband who is a champion of my work, who makes it possible -- when it's income earning and when it's not.

And when he gives me the gift of his time (and urges me to work), I work my ass off -- in part to honor his gift. It's reciprocal and, in best scenario, one feeds the other and vice versa.