My husband says I look like a different person when I write.
Some days I sit and ponder, and he can smell the cranial smoke boiling out of my ears as my brain turns on the problem of removing as many occurrences of the the word “was” from a given chapter as possible. Other days he tells me I have a maniacal gleam in my eye as my fingers speed across the keyboard and I cackle like a mad scientist in a laboratory. He catches me picking up strange habits from my characters – every time I write a particular thief, I must have a toothpick in my mouth (which is odd, because nowhere in the manuscript does he EVER have a toothpick), while another character demands I constantly spin a pen in my fingers while editing his parts and IF YOU PICK THAT TOOTHPICK UP EVEN ONCE I WILL BEAT YOUR ASS! I’ve been known to wrap up writing for the day and it will take me an hour or two to stop speaking with a weird accent.
Sometimes he’s compared me to a person with Tourette’s having a seizure while doing the Macarena, because I’ll randomly shout or mutter lines that I’m having my characters say or suddenly twist my arms in a bizarre fashion as though I’m trying to figure out a specific kata or yoga move without pictures.
He’s gotten used to me barging into his office or any other room he may be in, asking him to pause activity X while I examine a scar on his hand, or ask him to help me figure out a particular fight scene by moving through what he considers natural reactions to punch X or hold Y. Slowly. He’s been subjected to bizarre and personal questions. “What’s it like for guys when their voices crack? Psychologically and physically. Can you reproduce the sound for me?” “Does it hurt more when you get racked if you have a hard-on than not?” “When you do go racked, what does it feel like? Are you going to puke? Is it a blinding pain that peaks and falls or is it more steady and drawn out? Please be specific when you describe these things.” “If I download this free macros designed to go through my manuscript to find and highlight all instances of words commonly used in passive voice, what would you do?”
“Revoke your admin privileges on the home network,” he says without looking up from his book.
It took me 3 years to get admin privileges. I casually leave the living room so I can delete that file before he finds out.
He’s walked into a room and found me skipping through the steps of dance I just made up that I want my characters to do.
He has not seen me name my characters. Character names are sounds that define the personality. I can’t just name a character “Bob.” In order for a character to be “Bob,” he must understand “Bob.” He must be one with the “Bob.” He must be the “Bob.” It may turn out that “Bob” doesn’t like Bob at all, but prefers “Robert.” “Roberts” are different persons than “Bobs.”
I have to be in a building alone to name characters. Because I first shout at the manuscript. In anger. Sometimes just random syllables come out that I juggle around into a name. Other times out pops “David.” I repeat the name a few times. In anger. In jest. Pleading or sometimes … ah … what sounds like the throes of passion, if I know I’m going to put my character in a scene like that.
I don’t need my kids hearing that. And I especially don’t need my husband looking under my desk for someone answering to the name of “Naisha,” intent on asking some very hard questions.
He’s seen me giggle as I plot assassinations. He’s sighed when I come home with books guaranteed to get me put on a government watch list. He’s patiently listened as I explained my justification for an Amazon binge. “You spent $75 on books about the history of New York?” he’s asked.
“Well, they were all used copies. And where else am I going to find the nit-noid details about 1897 NYC? If I’d paid full price it would’ve been closer to $400.”
“How many books are we talking about, Katty?”
“Ah … 10. No, wait. 11. Maybe 12.”
He’s looked around the house and agreed that the uncleanliness has not yet reached toxic levels, and since everyone still has clean underwear, it’s good enough.
He’s watched me as I retreat into my shell when we’re out with friends, frantically scribbling notes in a journal because a spark of inspiration has come NOW and if I wait to document it at a more appropriate time, I’ll forget it and be all pissy.
He’s handled the kids for a whole Valentine’s Saturday by himself so I can hide at the library and work.
He’s watched me rub my hands together like a mad genius, fully convinced my work is of GREAT SIGNIFICANCE, and two hours later comforted me when I think every word I’ve written is shit that will be noted only because of HOW BAD it is. He’s teased me about how I’ll have to learn all the features and apps on my phone when I’m a big name New York Times Best Selling Author and traveling to cons everywhere, promoting my work and total awesomeness.
He’s told me I’m not allowed to quit writing, that I have to publish and while he thinks waiting 6 years to build up my back stock before hitting the “go” button on the self-publishing fiction racket is selling myself short, it’s okay if the books aren’t wildly popular. “If they pay for themselves, that’s good enough,” he says when I stare hopelessly at the numbers I’ve churned together to publish a single book and do it right.
I wouldn’t call the life of a writer’s spouse a roller coaster, because those have safety features to keep you from falling out of the car. Life with a writer is probably more like accepting that you’re stuck with the Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, so you may as well roll with it.