During a recent Jack Vettriano kick, I was reading one of the many, many biographies about the painter where he admitted to finishing a relationship once because the girl that he was with made him too happy. He found himself sitting around, staring at the sun and loving life, and he couldn’t paint. He was actually too happy to feed his artistic side and because of that, the production of his paintings suffered. Ultimately he decided that it wasn’t worth being in a relationship with someone who made him happy if it was going to eventually hinder his art, and so he finished with the girl in question and became an outstanding painter instead.
It seems a little extreme, on first reading, but the more I think about it the more I think, ‘Yeah, okay, I can dig that.’
Vettriano needs a certain amount of misery to make his art so good. And while I’m not claiming to have the same amount of commitment to my work, I have openly admitted to people recently - and will openly admit again - that writing is one of the only things in life that makes me truly happy. In a message that I sent to a writer friend yesterday, I said, ‘Honestly, I think it’s [writing] the only thing that makes me happy at the minute. I just want to write all the time, even when I have nothing to write about.’ Is that what makes artists really hard to be with? That you’re sometimes playing second fiddle to a higher artistic power that will pull your partner away from you at any given time? It seems like a small thing to have sparked such a grim stereotype; although, I suspect there are other aspects of the average writer’s life that put people off, too.
I imagine life is really nice when you’re dating someone and randomly, out of nowhere, they will write about you. There is a notion circulating the internet at the minute - pardon me, but I have no idea who said this originally - that if a writer loves you, then you can never die. It’s a little romanticised but I’m inclined to agree with it. Writing about someone that you love is a writer’s nature, at some point or another, I think, maybe? Or is it just me? In fact, it’s become such a habit for me to write about someone now that it’s kind of become the bench mark for how much I like someone. If I write about you, then I’m serious about you; if you don’t inspire at least one poem, then we’re probably not going anywhere. I imagine everyone has this sort of test that they rely on, it’s just not everyone uses writing poetry as their indicator-scale for the success of potential partners.
While it’s nice to have people writing poetry about you at the beginning, and sharing that emotion with the world, it’s probably not as nice for that same person to pen every argument you have, convert it to iambic pentameter, and share it with anyone who is willing to read it. I can see why that would be a bit of a deal-breaker, although I am half-inclined to say something like ‘Well, you’re dating a writer, what do you expect?’ Privacy, I suppose, it was people expect. And that’s completely understandable.
I suppose people also expect continuity, happiness, time with their partner, and a bunch of other things that writers can’t always provide. But I don’t think that’s writer-specific, is it? I’m fairly certain that accountants, and librarians, and taxi-drivers aren’t always happy, aren’t always available, aren’t necessarily the most stable people to be around. Everyone is busy, everyone has a wobble, and everyone has a job. So why has it become worse for artists? Is it because we’re stereotypically crazy - see previous blog post for my true thoughts about this - and are therefore hard to be with? Or is there something else that I’m just missing?
While I bang on a lot about stereotypes - there will be a blog post about this in the future - I suppose the one stereotype that is true is that writing is a solitary career. You can’t do it with someone standing over you, and it often isn’t something you can share with people until you’re quite far into the process. The same lecturer who told me that partners of writers have a difficult time is also the same woman who told me that you can’t write with someone; you can’t work with someone holding your hand and saying, ‘How are you getting on now, dear?’ When she said that in our seminar I laughed, but she’s right, really.
So, is that the depressing answer to the question that hangs as the title of this blog post; yes, writers are hard to be with, because there are times when you can’t be with them at all, and you just have to accept that? I stand by my initial response that that isn’t writer-specific; everyone has a time when they won’t be there for their partners, when they’re struggling with work, or when they’re going through an unhappy period in their lives. It’s a human thing, I think, but somehow it seems to be worse for writers, sometimes. But for all the still-single writers who are reading this, have hope that there are literally hundreds of happily-married authors out there! And have hope that while you put up with someone’s snoring, smelly feet, and terrible taste in television, they will also be happy to put with your strange sleeping pattern and irritating work hours. Because that’s how the whole relationship thing works, I think.