One of the (offensive) pieces of advice often given to young (female) writers is this: marry rich. As someone who did happen to marry a man in a far more lucrative profession, I admit it’s entirely useful. But it’s also (a) blatantly unfair that society places so little monetary value on the arts, (b) not a situation to accept lightly, and (c) certainly not a valid career plan.
I DO have an opinion on the ideal match for a writer, though. Writers should marry extroverts.
Most of us spend hours a day communing with our notebooks or laptops, and blinking half-focussed owl eyes when another human being attempts to communicate. At writing workshops or conferences, the first half hour is often silent, as people file in one-by-one and pretend to busy themselves because they’re not sure how to begin conversations with strangers. It’s excruciating, really.
Far more than I value Min’s earning potential, I value his confidence. I can take him to an event, choose anyone in the room, and say, “I’d like to meet that person.” Within minutes, Min’s introduced us, cracked a few semi-inappropriate jokes, and made everyone feel comfortable.
I had coffee with Deborah Hodge last week, and we talked about this phenomenon. She, too, married an extrovert. We agreed that not only do you benefit from extroverts in social situations, you also learn from them. Having lived with gregarious husbands, we’re both more likely to introduce ourselves to strangers and reach out during those silent, awkward moments. (Still working on the inappropriate joke part.)
So there it is. Marry rich if you want to. But it’s better to marry an extravert.
(While I’m talking about Deborah Hodge, you MUST read Rescuing the Children. With a box of tissues close at hand. It’s a poignant and thoughtful book about a time and place where families made choices now difficult to imagine.)