Two Careers, One Marriage, and Self Doubt
This past weekend was the five day weekend of Writing Excuses podcast recording. Howard, Mary, Brandon, and Dan all shut themselves in Brandon’s basement for four days (with a one-day break in the middle) to attempt to record and entire year’s worth of episodes before Dan leaves to go live in Germany. I was not part of the recording. My efforts involved making sure that Howard had quiet spaces to depart from and return to when he was exhausted. And then there was the emotional support. This was hard on all of them, and therefore hard on their support systems. But the result is 44 episodes ready to go. They won’t record again for a year, which at the moment is relieving as they’re worn out, but later it will be a bit sad for me personally because Mary will not have a business-driven reason to come to town and Dan will be far away. These are people I like being around, hence sadness. At least the League of Utah Writers Round Up in September will give Brandon, Emily, Howard, and I a solid day to hang out and talk.
Writing Excuses is the one business thing where Howard is thoroughly involved and I am not. For most of our business ventures I’m in charge of operations, tracking schedules, sending inventory, accounting for both money and time. With Writing Excuses, I arrange nothing, plan nothing, am not involved. It is kind of nice, because I’ve got lots of things to track and don’t really need any more. However it is also a bit sad because the podcast is a truly worthwhile endeavor and I’d love to be part of that energy. I’m not though. I’m vitally important to Howard and a good friend to everyone else, but Writing Excuses exists entirely without my supportive efforts. I have no claims on it. On the days I feel a little sad, I have to remember that it is good for Howard to have professional spaces which do not include me. It is good for me to have professional spaces that do not include him. Our careers flourish best when they are unshackled from each other because we have very different professional focuses. The tricky bit is balancing those against our marriage in which we share all things. The other tricky bit is that whenever Howard and I are together the room is crowded with Husband, Wife, marketing directer, accountant, merchandiser, artist, art director, graphic designer, warehouse manager, customer support rep, and best friends. All these various roles have different relationships to each other, different authority structures. It gets quite complicated, particularly when we trade roles based on context. On the other hand, if all of those roles where filled by different people getting them all into a conference room and making them to agree with each other about priorities would be a monumental endeavor. There are also, of course, the times when Howard just hangs out with Sandra and all those other people are nowhere to be seen.
I think about all of this as I look at the list of things I need to do to prepare Howard for both GenCon and WorldCon. He will be running a booth at both conventions. I will be staying home, quite glad to shed the roles of booth manager, shop clerk, and talent handler. That particular trio of roles, when combined with parenting guilt for leaving the kids, has proven bad for me emotionally. I can do it. I will do it again as necessary, but this year we’ve lined up two different dream teams for the two events. Howard could not be in better hands. Now all I have to do is scramble hard to make sure that necessary preparation gets done in advance. Now if only I can find the appropriate business focus despite the heat and long summer days which play havoc with family schedule.
Come August Howard will go and I will stay. It would be nice to be able to say that I’ll stay behind and get writing done, that at least some of my summer will be spent working on things to build my career in my own space. Thus far that has not been true. My summer fishtails between family concerns and business tasks, skidding along, never quite out of control, but never feeling straight or steady. I have spaces, quiet times, but they’re used for things not-writing. Other than the League of Utah Writers event in September, I have no professional events currently scheduled. I hope to be involved with both LTUE and the Storymakers conference, but official invitations to present have not yet come and won’t until sometime in the fall. Right now my career is idling and part of me feels a bit pretentious for calling it a career at all. In theory careers pay money, which my writing only has in small sporadic amounts.
This points up another challenge, Howard’s career is a behemoth around which our family must constantly adjust. My career squeezes in around the edges. Howard and I talk about this sometimes. In our heads both careers have equal value. In the bank, his pays the bills. Granted, he would not have his career without all the work I do. That bill payment money is as much mine as his, but it is hard on the days when I realize that my real career, the one that makes money, is “business manager” while “writer” is actually a hobby. Then I have a whole argument with myself that the value of an effort should not be measured in dollars, which I feel strongly to be true. Yet bills don’t pay themselves and so work that pays bills is important and valued. Other work comes afterward. All of which explains why my writing continues to linger in the spaces and around the edges of everything else. I just have to confront this more when Howard disappears to record with three really cool people and I’m on the other side of the closed door.
We’ve taken steps to address the career imbalances. I’ve started giving myself royalty checks and statements for both Hold on to Your Horses and Cobble Stones. We try to send me on a career-related solo trip at least once per year. This year it was to the Nebula weekend. The thing is, I think that all relationships have similar imbalances, or could if the relationship is not carefully managed. It is easy to accidentally make one person seem more valued or important than the other. In our case, I’m guilty of doing it to myself. I give myself away without even noticing I’m doing it. Then every time I mark out territory for myself, a host of voices in my head tell me how that space could be better used. All I can do is keep plugging away, keep treating my writing like it is a career, and hope that some day I’ll have financial statements I can use to pummel the voices of self-doubt into submission.
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