From Lina, Stories

Creativity Ever After? What it’s Like to Be Married to Your Creative Partner

February 12, 2015 From Lina, Stories

Although our wedding was in 2008, my husband and I have been married for 36 years. I know it sounds impossible, but it all comes down the hours really.

According to the Office for National Statistic, the average couple spends between 2 and 2.5 hours together, including the weekends. This seems rather low to me, and even more disturbing considering that average American spends double that time each day glued to the tube. (But that’s a different topic, for a different blog.) So, generously estimating the high-end figure of 2.5 hours of weekday togetherness and skipping the weekends (because 2.5 hours a weekend seems even more absurdly low, and how can you even estimate this, really?) comes to 12.5 a week and 650 hours a year that a couple spends together.

Now for us. My husband proposed to me in 2007, the same year we created an our own Interactive design agency, Good World Media, which we named after our favorite lounge in NYC. We were then married the next year and have been navigating life together ever since. So that means, each weekday, we spend roughly 13 hours a week (up by 7 and to bed by 12, on average)and 3380 hours a year together–a whopping 5.2 times longer than the average US couple. So by my estimations, we should be entering the golden age of our marriage soon.

Our yearly holiday card

Our yearly holiday card

What this has actually translated to is many, many hours of time together, not only living, but working and creatively collaborating on numerous professional and personal projects. When we met, he was attracted to my passion to the graduate work I was doing at Parsons, and I was intrigued by his multi-album anthology of self-recorded suburban hip-hop he had produced in 1996 featuring he and his friends, pre-Eminem and far before creating an record was as easy as owning a Mac with garage band. It wasn’t his only creative pursuit, but those stood out. And it was this shared creativity connection that inevitability led to our union, and after that, the decision to form Good World Media seemed like a no-brainer. While we’ve produced hundreds pieces of client work, our favorite creations are the ones we did for ourselves:

  • Video documentaries we did on each of our grandmothers, one who lived through World War 2 in Japan and experienced being Vietnamese in the US during 60s and the other who lived to 93 and passed away 6 months after the filming.
  • Video birthday cards for our nephews, including one where I dance with our unhappy cat.
  • A club dance mix of “Memories” from the Broadway show Cats, featuring yours truly on vocals and shaky harmonies. I’m never posting this!
  • A book about “Beating the Buffet”, a rather silly yet useful book that outlines the human frailties that buffets exploit and strategies to beat them at our favorite buffets in NYC.
  • Halloween costumes for our son, who is, like most young boys, completely obsessed with trains.
  • An apple pie, which is now jokingly called the “That Time We Almost got a Divorce”. Apparently we can work on a website project together over the course of 6 months and with corporate-grade budgets but attempting to put the dough over the top half of a pie dangerously tested the strength of our relationship.
The infamous near home-wrecker

The infamous near home-wrecker

Click to enlarge. Then, eat to do the same.

Our book. Available nowhere. Click to enlarge.

Since working together, we’ve started to notice creative couples like us everywhere. Our friends Avery and Heather at Viaspire, Erin and Chuck at Blackbird Pye, and even Jake and Pum, the famous duo of Design Army, who we don’t know personally but wish we did. Living and collaborating together doesn’t work for everyone, but in my experience, just like anything else, it has it pros and cons.

Pro: You always have a sounding board for your ideas and you can spout them out at will without fear of sounding like an idiot.

“Oooh, I have an idea. Come here! Listen and tell me what you think.”
“I’m in the shower!”
“Ok, I’ll come to you then”

Con: Our creative inspiration and moods often rise and fall with each other.
When the laundry in the house slowly starts to resemble the great Pyramid of Gaza, we’re BOTH in no mood to brainstorm. When our son decides to distribute his pee in 3 different puddles all equidistant from the bathroom and then giddily looks to see what we want to do about it, we’d both want to crawl in a hole, not design wireframes.

“So, did you a chance to look at the designs I did?”
“No. Did you do the dishes?”

Pro: I can be more honest with my feedback.
Now this may be a trait I learned from my lovable yet stereotypically pushy Asian mom (think Tiger Mom, but less so. For example, I airbowed in the last row of the Greensboro Youth Orchestra first violin section, not soloed Carnegie Hall). Because of it, I’ve always felt more comfortable giving honest (though sometimes blunt) feedback with the people I’m closest. For better or for worse. I’m not afraid to criticize his work time and time again. (And on the flip side, he does to me). But our work comes out better for it.

My turn to be a tiger mom, though my son's clearly not taking me seriously.

Following in my footsteps in becoming a serious musician.

Con: We’re always talking about work.
Even when we make a point to not talk about work, we talk about work. My parents came to visit us sometime near our son’s 1st birthday, giving us the first night out in almost a year. What did we talk about? Work. A few exclamations of “I’m so tired.” Then more work and a quick brainstorm session for a book about my family’s escape from Vietnam before the fall, one I will probably never write but like to pretend I will.

Pro: We’re always talking about work.
I’m all about efficiency. Also I’m mostly introverted. Social interaction takes so much energy from me, which is already at low supply by having a wild monkey as a son. Having a partner for work and life that is one and the same, to me is a win-win–2 social obligations accomplished at once.

In the end, being with someone who shares your love to create and who’s creative opinions you greatly trust and respect is awesome. And, somehow working together for such extended periods of time has just has worked out for us. What’s even better is that it give us a very even distribution of time with our son and the opportunity for both of us to play a big part in his everyday life. We’re very lucky.

Our greatest creation

Our greatest creation