There is a standard joke in Nashville that goes "What do you call a songwriter without a wife or girlfriend?" The punchline is "homeless."
There is almost always some truth in a joke. The truth in this one is that most of us - me included - need some support, both emotional and financial, early in our careers if we hope to succeed.
It takes a long time to make money in this business. if you are not independently wealthy, then you are going to have to have someone help support you if you decided to devote all of your time to songwriting at some point.
That can take a toll on relationships. In my first marriage, my wife agreed to go back to work full time as a pharmacist for a while to let me try to get things going as a writer. It took much longer than we thought it would take and it caused a lot of friction. She wanted to quit work and be home full time. I was always "right on the edge" of something big happening.
By the time something big did happen, she was angry and bitter. She resented my songwriting and she resented me. She even resented my success. She resented the fact that I loved my work when she worked in a job she didn't enjoy too much. Trouble was, I didn't find out about all of that resentment until it had been festering for about 5 years. By that time, it was a tough mountain to climb. And we couldn't fix it.
So, what did I learn from my experience?
1) Communicate, communicate, communicate. I should have communicated more to her about what was going on with my music. If I had kept her more in the loop, she might have been more understanding. if she had told me that she resented my songwriting, we could have at least addressed the issue. Lack of communication cause LOTS of difficulties down the road.
2) Plan for the long haul. There are very few quick success stories in the music business. If you are making a plan to try this full time, talk to your significant other about a number of "what-ifs." Talk about what happens in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years if you still aren't making a full-time salary at songwriting. Planning in advance can avoid lots of trouble later.
3) Show appreciation to your significant other. I didn't do this enough. If your significant other is supporting you while you chase your dream, a DAILY thank you would not be too much. Tell them in person that you appreciate their support and brag on them in front of others. Remember that you would not be doing this if it weren't for their support.
4) It is not your significant other's responsibility to "get" you. Writers are a weird breed. We get on creative bursts and forget to pay bills or take care of other life issues. We sometimes go inside ourselves and seem to be pushing the people around us away. We can be hard to live with. It's not their job to understand that. It's OUR job to communicate what is going on in our heads and to help our significant other feel loved and appreciated. They will "get" you if you communicate well and often.
5) Put your relationships first. Songwriting is not the most important thing in the world. No job is more important than the people that you care about, and that care about you. Keep those priorities straight.
If you are a "significant other" helping a dreamer you love chase their dream, THANK YOU! You are a special person.
Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here: www.facebook.com/songtownusa, at www.facebook.com/martydodsonsongwriter and at Twitter @SongTownUSA or visit martydodson.com