Is Your Partner a Shadow Writer?!

Perhaps the most potent idea to come out of Julia Cameron’s landmark 1992 book, The Artist’s Way, is the notion of the Shadow Artist, an archetypal figure who tries to compensate for his own blocked creativity by latching onto an actual artist and lavishing praise on her.

Oh, I know. You’re thinking, What’s so bad about being lavished with praise? But you might feel differently on that eventual morning when Shnookums rolls over in bed and says, “Honey, it’s great that you’re an artist and all, but when are you going to get a real job?” Because adoration, left in the sun for too long, has a way of turning to bitter, coagulating resentment—and you have the nerve to be living your partner’s dream!

—By Michael J. Vaughn

Congratulations—you have just been targeted for a lengthy campaign of passive-aggressive sabotage from a Shadow Writer.

The obvious thing for a writer to do is to avoid these people like the lactose intolerant avoid ice cream. But it ain’t easy, because many of them resemble normal, even likable human beings. With that in mind, find out now:

Is Your Partner a Shadow Writer?

1. When my Hot Potatah goes to a karaoke bar, he likes to …

A.             Have a drink and listen to the singers belt out a few songs.

B.             Have a couple of drinks and try out one of his favorite songs.

C.             Have several drinks and try to get everyone else to sing one of his favorite songs.

2. My Pug-Nose Dream has some killer ideas that she’d like to try out as soon as she …

A.             Gets some vacation time.

B.             Takes a writing class.

C.             Gets Stephen King to drop that nasty restraining order.

3. If my Reason for Being and I were playing Scrabble, and I spelled out “effervescence” over two triple-word scores for a total of 192 points, she would …

A.             Congratulate me on my
linguistic skill.

B.             Jokingly stab herself with an
invisible knife.

C.             Douse the board with gasoline, light it on fire, put on a pair of oven mitts, and toss it over the balcony into the busy intersection below.

4. If I decided to leave writing for a different career, my Pookie would …

A.             Help me to carefully consider my options before making a decision.

B.             Tell me that whatever I decided was fine by her.

C.             Act elated, then dump me for a poet.

5. My Main Man’s favorite device for developing ideas is …

A.             Clustering.

B.             Speedwriting.

C.             Searching “writer” on

6. On the night of my book release party, my Huggy Bear is likely to ask …

A.             Isn’t this exciting?

B.             Are you nervous?

C.             Why is it always about you?

7. When pressed, my Darling Dude would admit that he puts off writing because …

A.             His parents wanted him to be
a doctor.

B.             He has a fear of rejection.

C.             Why bother writing when some big asteroid’s going to hit the Earth anyway, the only survivors will be cockroaches, and have you ever seen a cockroach trying to use a typewriter? It’s pathetic.

8. I knew my Squirrelly Girl was interested in literature when she …

A.             Asked me what I thought of
magical realism.

B.             Mentioned a poetry reading
she had attended.

C.             Showed up for our first date in
a negligee made entirely from
typewriter ribbons.

9. If a friend of ours signed a huge publishing contract, my Glamour Goddess would …

A.             Send him a handwritten note
of congratulations.

B.             Throw a big party with our friends.

C.             Disappear into the night, and leave me for him without so much as a typewriter ribbon as a memento.

SCORING: If you answered C on two questions, you and your sweetie might need to have a talk. If you answered C on three to four, you might want to seek counseling. If five to six, please send us your sweetie’s name and photo so we can put him on our Shadow Writer Watch List. If seven or more,
we hear Mexico is really nice this time of year. (If you answered C on Question 7, read something by William S. Burroughs.)

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Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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