Friday, December 22, 2017

5 Ways to Balance Writing with Marriage

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Wide-eyed fiction writer Mike Dellosso didn’t start out as a writer. More science-minded than literary-minded, he’d been a physical therapist assistant for two years before he discovered the joy of expressing himself through the written word. He’d write whenever he could—early in the morning, late at night, and often to the neglect of his wife and children.

“I was a jerk about it,” he said at a recent Word Weavers conference. “Don’t be a jerk.”

Today is my 33rd wedding anniversary. Like Jan Dellosso, my husband also didn’t marry a writer. He married a dental hygienist who worked eight hours, clocked out, and had nights and weekends free.

Three decades later, however, he’s married to a part-time dental hygienist and a full-time writer. (Just to clarify, these two are one and the same. No polygamy here.) He didn’t sign up for a wife who spends hours gazing off into space, takes her computer to bed (sometimes), and serves fish sticks and tater tots when deadlines loom.

Yet my husband is my greatest supporter. He’s a kind man who’s happy when I’m happy, which is usually when I’m writing. But that doesn’t mean I can be a jerk about it.

Here are five ways I’ve found to balance writing with marriage.
1. Share the highlights, but not every detail.
I can wax eloquent on the nuances of deep POV, the pros and cons of self-publishing, and why it’s imperative to attend certain writers conferences, but I shouldn’t. When my husband starts looking like he does when Aunt Winifred corners him at the family reunion, I need to stop. Just because I’m excited about every little detail doesn’t mean he is. Like horseradish on a roast beef sandwich, less is more.

2. Cultivate writer friends, but not to the exclusion of your spouse.
I’m blessed to have writer friends whose spouses my husband enjoys. When we start chatting about the latest publishing news, they wander off to talk about football. Writer friends give me an outlet for shop talk, which spares my husband (see above). But we also need to cultivate friends who share common, non-writing interests. This gives both of us a much-needed break and varied, valuable experiences, conversations, and perspectives.

3. You gotta live life to write about it.
Professional writing requires diligence and commitment, but not to the exclusion of spending time with family and friends. Often “wasting” time (as in not writing) can make us more productive when we do sit down to write. We have new ideas, fresh experiences from which to draw, and a better outlook. Best of all, we’ve invested in our most important relationships, which is never wasting time.

4. Draw boundaries around your writing time.
Because we love writing, we could do it all day, every day. But like too much chocolate syrup on a sundae (can there be such a thing?), too much of a good thing is, well, not good. Just because you can carry your laptop to bed doesn’t mean you should. (I’m preaching to the choir, here) Just because you can write at the dinner table, on vacation, or in the car (with someone else driving) doesn’t mean you should.

To have a healthy marriage, we must draw appropriate boundaries around our writing time and stick to them. In our home, I write hard whenever my husband is away from the house, but restrict my evening computer time to when he’s watching television or otherwise occupied. If I need extra time because of a deadline, I set my alarm to wake up earlier. This gives me the time I need without robbing my husband of my attention. Occasionally, despite my best efforts, I still need to work overtime. If I’ve done a good job guarding our time together, my husband is usually very understanding.

5. Don’t let writing become an idol.
Our writing, characters, and careers can be very satisfying. Positive reader comments, five-star reviews, and compliments from other writers can be heady—and sometimes more affirming than our in-person, often-messy, real-life relationships. But they cannot and should not take their place.

God has given us two commandments—love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbors (which includes our spouses) as ourselves. These simple instructions should be the plumb line for how we spend every day. We have no business “writing for God” if we’re neglecting the people he’s placed in our lives. “As you’ve done it to the least of these, my brothers,” he said, “you’ve done it unto me.”

When we stand before him to give an account of our lives, I’m confident God will be more interested in how I’ve treated my spouse, family, and friends than how many books I’ve published.

Now it’s your turn. How do you balance your writing with your marriage? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women and  Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. Lori, thanks for the great wisdom in this post. I see it in all of your points but particularly the first one. I have a supportive wife but I have to be wise about which details I tell her (your first point).

    The Writing Life

    1. Thanks, Terry, and you're right. We find this writing life so fascinating it's really hard sometimes not to go on and on about our latest discovery. I'm very grateful I married a patient person. Sounds like you did, too. Merry Christmas!

  2. Amen Mrs. Lori. While I love writing, God and family come first and second in my life. I know just what you mean in that when their eyes start to glaze over, that's your cue to changeover and talk about them or anything else except writing and publishing. My worst habit is; "Honey, can you read this and let me know what you think?" One, she's too kind to tell me it stinks, and two she's not my editor, she's my best friend. God's blessings and Merry CHRISTmas! p.s. just got your "Hungry for God" book for her yesterday. Hope to get you to sign it one day ma'am.

    1. Oh, Jim, your post made me laugh. YES, I, too, run many of my posts pasts my patient husband. He's my theology checker, and often has some wonderful suggestions. But there are those days when I know his heart is willing, but his mind is somewhere else . . . ! Thanks so much for sharing my book with your dear wife. When she finishes it, I'd love to hear her thoughts (Amazon review *hint* *hint). May our good and gracious Lord direct our paths to cross one day. When that happens, I'll happily sign her copy :) Merry Christmas!

  3. Great advice, especially as my husband and I are embarking on a career path - together! In addition to my writing, I will be the secretary/data entry/sales & marketing person in our new venture as the owners of the feed and seed store he's managed for the past 10 years. I've already been reminded not to share work after 7 p.m. LOL

    1. Wow, Cindy, you are stepping into new territory. May God richly bless you and your hubby in this new adventure. :)