• jessrinker

How These Coupled Creatives Live

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

childrens books junior  monster scouts the dare sisters
A few of our books

People ask us all the time what it’s like to be married to and living with another creative soul. To be clear, I believe creativity is part of the human condition, even though countless people say they aren’t creative. Some of us are more comfortable with it, or tap into it more, but everyone has it and uses it. Often people assume creative = art, but creativity is needed for everything. If you live with another human, you’re living with a creative being and we basically all have the same relationship challenges and delights. Actually, if you’re living with an animal you’re still with a creative being! Your conversations probably just look a little different.

Joe and Pepper making dinner

All that being said, there are some aspects of our marriage as creatives that are pretty unique because we both literally do the same exact job. Our creative paths intersect in both writing and teaching, and so there’s a lot of potential for similar experiences, challenges, and accolades. Some have asked if we’re ever competitive and I can now confidently say no. At least not against each other, but maybe sometimes for ourselves which I think is a natural part of this particular job of authoring. In the literary world, you see others being recognized on lists, winning awards, going places. And while you’re incredibly happy for your colleagues, you also want that for yourself and so it can anger you, make you jealous, or it can fuel you. In our marriage I think our individual successes fuels the other person rather than aggravates or causes jealousy. I’ve always been more competitive with myself than other people anyway.

Early on, when we first began living together, Joe was a little further along in publishing and I was worried at that point that if I never “made it” I’d seriously struggle in the relationship. Who wants to see someone else living your dream up close, day in and day out! At the time I was also trying to land a decent day job which kept proving fruitless so, it was a couple years of uncertainty and a LOT of rejection coming at me from various sides. We struggled financially as well so I constantly felt like a non-contributing partner. It probably seemed longer than it actually was, however, and eventually I began to make headway in both publishing and jobs. Today, we’re in such a different place that the fear I had then is totally gone. We’re both prolific writers and active teachers, and extremely proud of the other’s success. Having such a strong love and belief in the other person truly carried us through all of it.

For the most part our relationship looks like any average married couple. We cook, clean, watch the newest Marvel show, cut grass, grow cucumbers, play games with our kids, and walk the dogs. I mean, it’s about as exciting as it gets, folks! But there are some aspects that I really treasure, such as art nights when we paint together—Joe's minifigures and my super-elaborate paint-by-numbers. We’ll play music and challenge each other to find certain songs based on themes. Sometimes we play board games and drink too much. There is a playful side to our relationship that really makes us work—we enjoy doing so many things together and I think that makes a huge impact on how connected we remain.

Schitt's Creek costumes
Dressed up as Schitt's Creek Johnny and Moira Rose, and my daughter as David

My favorite, however, are hot tub nights, which have become a nearly weekly event. We talk about pretty much everything and often either brainstorm for each other or for a client we’re working with. In fact, my most recent book, which I just turned in to my agent, came from one of these hot tub nights. Normally I don’t latch on to an idea from someone else’s suggestions, but I was feeling desperate for a new project as I was in the trenches with one I was not in love with. I wanted to feel completely lost in a story again and it had been a while since I’d felt that way. So, we were just chatting about possible ideas and Joe said, “What if you do something with a kid who finds a monolith?” At the time, an actual monolith had appeared in Utah and gone viral and my oldest son had a bit of an obsession with it. He’d text me constantly about aliens and UFO’s—still does—and so the spark of an idea took hold because I could SO relate to that kid. MONOLITH was a complete joy to write. And it never would have happened without having a partner to help reignite my love for a story at a time I was wondering if it would ever happen again.

We used to be critique partners for each other as well, although the more entrenched in work we are these days it doesn’t happen as much. We’re fortunate to both have incredible agents for both books and film, and a slew of talented editors. Generally, we don’t read each other’s books until they’re published—and I’m admittedly a little behind on Joe’s. But it’s not my fault! He writes too many books!

There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe two writers could live together, but we make it work. Even through challenges like moving every year as we did for a while, a fire that took everything we owned, a pandemic that shut the world down, and the needs of six kids who spend time with us on various schedules, we make it work. We get each other’s quirks (usually) and while we argue like anyone else, and have different writing styles and processes, we’re on the same page when it comes to cultivating the life we want to share. I think that’s pretty much the most important part of any coupling.

Dancing in the dark

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