I’d like to tell you that this husband and wife team of creative glory is flawless in all ways, but when one of us spends several hours drinking multiple venti “red eye” coffees (espresso x1000) and writing non-stop while the other one lives inside digital media/content/photography la-la land all day long, the quality of evening conversations at home tends to go straight down the MF tubes. Adding to that is the fact that I’m fire and Todd is ice; I can be a very spastic, salty thing and he’s typically sweet and calm as a cucumber.
When Todd’s working on a book, he either comes home fully caffeinated and excited to share his latest revelation regarding the perfecting ending to the second-to-last paragraph of a chapter, or he trudges through the door on empty, barely able to talk because a productive writing day simply wasn’t had or a bazillion other things related to professoring needed to be addressed. And me? I go full-force all day long, overthinking everything, no matter what I’m doing (even if it’s folding the freaking towels). I’m always creating, even when I’m not “physically” creating. I might be walking to a meeting across campus, but I’m still thinking about what to post on social media, whether or not there’s a good shot to capture with my camera on the Academic Podium, or if I have time to update content on the alumni association website before I head home. I may also gaze up at the Carillon tower on campus and imagine how it would look in an abstract painting using neon pink, lime green and gold acrylics. I love all of these things that I think about nonstop, but once I’ve clambered through the front door and given my kiddo a hug and kiss, my brain is usually foggy as hell. Sometimes, though, if I’m feeling particularly energetic thanks to a late afternoon coffee, I’ll hop in my car and head toward home, and think about the creative projects I’d like to get into using my art supplies, or the book I’d like to start reading after Jay goes to sleep, or maybe some blog post ideas, or how I’m going to edit a specific photo I took somewhere some time ago because it would be perfect printed, matted and hung in the bathroom. 20 minutes later, I arrive home fired up, ready to get dinner going and eaten, and GET OUT MY WAY, I’m busting out the art supplies and the earbuds tonight, people of God! It’s a miracle that I don’t wreck on my commute home several times per year.
“It must be fun being married to another creative person!”
When two married creatives reunite after a day of creative work and creative brains that just don’t stop creating ever, ever, EVER, it never fails: one has a lot to say while the other one is shut down. Meanwhile, the preschooler is spinning around like a top, modeling his latest fireman/policeman/garbage man costume and begging for our undivided attention. And, we’re all starving like hostages. As my husband’s progress on Lo’s Gym moved forward, I learned the art of truly just listening. And that sometimes, listening alone is better than trying to listen and offer commentary, because it’s impossible to 100% listen and give top-quality replies when all a man wants to do is verbally express himself after not talking to a single soul except for the Starbucks barista for a solid six hours, and I’m trying to do whatever it is I’m trying to do after a long day. I usually settle on pouring myself a sugary bowl of cereal and munch away thoughtfully as I listen to my husband’s latest ideas and writing experiences. I’ve also found that being completely honest — by saying something totally heartless yet truthful like, “I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time concentrating on anything except replacing the empty paper towel holder, wait just a minute,” — is way more polite than struggling/pretending to listen and offering an almost aggressive “Mmm HmmmMMM!” here and there. Also, it’s important to point out that I often write run-on sentences and my mind works much like that of a run-on sentence, so there’s that.
Thank God for Cap’n Crunch, is all I’m sayin’.
It took Todd nearly 10 years to completely flesh out “12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym.” What began as a creative writing assignment, a short story of sorts, in a grad school class (“that sounds really cool, honey!” I imagine I probably said in 2008) eventually found its way to a becoming a non-fiction book published by WVU Press (“halle-freakin’-lujah,” I definitely thought and probably said in 2017). I stood by and listened and learned, offered support, said lots of the right things — and undoubtedly, lots of the wrong things — until the sucker was printed. How did we survive this long process and start raising a child without getting a divorce? Some fancy-ass communication skills, that’s how. Understanding and respecting each others’ personality differences, work patterns, attention spans and energy levels became crucial in making this whole book thing an enjoyable ride. Setting aside specific times to talk about the writing process, listen to Todd’s ideas and offer honest feedback over lunch or midday coffee benefitted us both ( I felt valuable, and confident that I was being a supportive spouse while he could brainstorm freely and share his work with someone he’s completely comfortable with i.e., it’s easier to stomach when your wife thinks an idea is stupid, not so much if the editor does). Over time, I learned to not even try to comment on specifics regarding sentence structure, chapter order, themes, whatever. I stuck to what I knew, which was a basic-level offering of things like, “you better change so-and-so’s name, you’ll get freaking sued,” and, “This sentence would be a perfect teaser for a Twitter post.” When the book was nearing finished draft status, we had this communication shit down to a “T” and I began offering my expertise in social media and web content. Todd Knew that this was my area of expertise, and though we had the occasional mini-tiff over what would make for effective digital marketing of the book, fancy communication skills conquered all.