I have a work spouse.
It’s working out OK, because she’s also my actual spouse. Folks often wonder how that works. How do we write together and work together and still like each other?
How do you edit a spouse’s work without dying?
We know it sounds cheesy, but in our internal memos we call it “Team Trotter,” and we really do have a lot of fun. But it wasn’t always this easy. In fact, there were times we almost dumped our whole site into the black hole of DELETE. For real, there was a day when I left to lead worship at an all night prayer gathering, pretty sure that trotters41.com wouldn’t exist when I got home.
So, how did we recover from that? How do we enjoy our work spouses? Well, in short, we just really like each other. In addition to simply being good friends, we also enjoy each other’s differences. Oh, and we got some counseling. (For more on that part of the story, you can read Elizabeth’s article, Jesus Loves Me This I Sometimes Know.)
Same Same. But Different.
We both write and we both edit the other’s work, so it makes sense that people think we’re doing the same job, the same ministry, the same thing. We even write at the same spaces (this site, alifeoverseas.com and even occasionally at velvetashes.com).
But really, what we do is very, very different. We recognize the differences, we value the differences, we even enjoy the differences. I think that’s what really helps this to not crash.
Writer and Pastor
I describe it like this: Elizabeth is a writer who pastors and I’m a pastor who writes. It might not seem like those starting blocks are all that different, but they are.
Elizabeth is an artist with a keyboard. She treats words like colors, sentences like brushes, the internet like a canvas. I’m just not that cool.
I value her love of words and the way she uses them. As teenagers in the same youth group, I remember her answering a friend who asked the obvious question, “What does loquacious mean?” Elizabeth answered without thinking: “Verbose.” I remember smiling at this teenage girl who didn’t know how much she knew.
The way she and I tell stories is so.very.different. In fact, we used to offer style advice to each other, but we’ve pretty much stopped that now because we both know we like our own styles and we’re not interested in changing them. We’re both pretty secure in who we are and who we aren’t.
Elizabeth writes her muse. She writes about her journey and what’s inspiring her. She writes about the wind beneath her wings. I write about other people’s wind.
I look around and ask “What are people dealing with? What’s the Church or the missions community struggling with?” And then I write about that. Sometimes I share my story, but not nearly as often as Elizabeth.
And while we both cross-over occasionally, my writings tend to be more didactic. Her style is a bit more narrative.
Big Picture vs. Details
I never add commas. I mean, when I look at Elizabeth’s stuff, I never give editorial advice of the fine kind. I take a step back, away from the bark and look at the forest. Sometimes Elizabeth needs me to say, “OK, that doesn’t make any sense outside of your amazing head.”
Elizabeth always adds commas. Always. (I think she even knows what “oxford comma” means. I don’t have a clue.) When she reviews my stuff, she fixes it and makes it technically correct, but she never gives me big picture feedback.
Her ability to hyper-focus is awesome, and it’s what gives her articles such depth and clarity. She spends deep time really seeing herself, her words, and her readers. My ability is more like SQUIRREL!
We Just Showed Up
If you do the thing that you can do and leave the results to God, you’ll have way more fun. And I think it’s why we’re both still having fun. We’re not counting or comparing or striving. We’re just trying to do the next thing faithfully.
Neither of us set out to be writers. Neither of us cared about getting known (whatever that means) or anything of the sort. There was no agenda. We wrote for our friends; we wrote for us.
Our first exposure to a larger audience happened after I pitched a guest post idea to A Life Overseas. On a whim. It was literally one of the only things I’d ever written. I was browsing around the site for the first time ever (I had heard Elizabeth talking about it), saw the “Submit Guest Post” link and thought, “Well, what the heck, I’ll give it a whirl.” From idea to submission took about three minutes.
I wrote Outlawed Grief as a way of processing my own feelings during a week of pastoral counseling training. I didn’t write it to publish it.
When we heard back from the editors and they told us they liked the article and wanted to run it, along with a couple of Elizabeth’s articles, she wasn’t happy. She was scared and I was in the dog house.
She started writing for our family and friends. She wasn’t trying to “make it” or achieve anything. She was terrified of exposure. There was no striving or networking or ginormous ambition.
And that’s been a huge key for us. We’re not competing or striving. We’re just playing.
Of course, it’s still work and it’s often tedious and hard. It’s serious business writing about some of the things we write about it. But we do it for a purpose. And that purpose brings with it a whole lot of freedom. Freedom to be individuals. Freedom to rejoice in each other’s successes. Freedom to enjoy working and serving together.
And we do enjoy it, because work spouses rock.
Read Serving Well, our biggest project yet!