Wendyl Nissen

Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: The bottom line to writing in tandem

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Working in tandem. Photo / Thinkstock
Working in tandem. Photo / Thinkstock

I haven't worked in an office for more than 10 years. Before that I did a fairly constant 20-year stretch of what began as smoke-filled newsrooms with bottom-grabbing drunks and clunky typewriters.

The office then slowly upgraded itself to glass-walled editors' offices with tea-and sympathy-delivering PAs.

Since leaving the office environment I have been unable to return. The mere sniff of industrial-strength carpet or hint of bad art bought at a charity auction sees me running for home, happy to curl up with my laptop on the couch.

In our old home I was allowed to "put my stuff" into one of the spare rooms. I never called it my office as it was really just a place I kept my books for research, art my children made and gifts my girlfriends gave me.

My workplace was really my bed, or sometimes the couch, but mainly my bed.

When we were looking for a small place in Auckland we needed a third bedroom for my husband's office.

Unlike me, he's an old-fashioned type of guy who likes to set himself up with a desk, a bookcase, stapler, hole-puncher, calculator and tape dispenser. Not until these things are in place will he begin to work.

And so, we moved in and he had his office and I claimed a bookshelf in it for my stuff.

For the past few months I have happily worked on the kitchen table in the sun, or on the couch or in bed (although strictly that is more of a winter office environment). Then my husband had a great idea.

"We can share my office. What a wonderful thing that would be, both of us side by side, writing away," he said with an enthusiasm which assured me that once again my year-long supportive wife challenge was about to force me to agree. Just to be supportive.

It was probably my own fault for crooning and sighing with romantic appreciation when I discovered that the recently deceased writer Elizabeth Jane Howard and her third husband Kingsley Amis used to sit at a table facing each other as they wrote.

"What a wonderful way to work," I think I said.

So as I tried to ignore the fact that I was about to be put in an office again, my husband bought and erected a new desk for me (buying took five minutes, erecting five hours). He drove all the way to Stanmore Bay to pick up the set of drawers he bought on Trade Me to keep my stationery, nail polish, spare sanitary supplies and muesli bars in.

And then I was in. Sitting side by side with my husband, our laptops twittering away in unison, sharing a phone and a printer and a dog who likes to lie with her head on my side and her feet on his.

"Isn't this nice?" he said on day one, a smile as wide as a new moon.

For me, it is like being back in the newsrooms of old. I have a writer sitting next to me who likes to tell jokes and laugh at them himself a lot.

Who seems unable to read anything without offering a noise of some sort. A snort means it's ridiculous, a snigger means it's sort of funny, a belly laugh means it's hilarious and a groan means it's the accountant.

Meanwhile, as my husband processes his daily intake of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and boring-old-man sites about literature, I struggle to write a few meagre words to earn my living.

So far he has resisted boring me witless with pictures of his children and pets doing hilarious things, talking too loudly on the phone to his mates, eating disgusting food at his desk and gossiping every five minutes. Nor has he suggested I "think outside the box", "step up to the plate" or "open the kimono".

But I am looking forward to the drunken bottom-pinching at our birthday shouts.

- NZ Herald

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