Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When Your Family Doesn't Support Your Writing

Excuse me if this post gets a little rant-ish. Maybe you’ll relate to this, maybe you won’t. Maybe your family and friends are your personal cheerleaders. Or maybe your family told you to stop playing with your imaginary friends and get a job. Or maybe your family is like mine and happily supported you back when everyone thought you’d make it big, land a million-dollar publishing contract, and get a movie deal, but fell out of love with your writing once they realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Lack of support. This is a very painful topic, but it’s one I think it’s important to discuss. Writing is largely a solitary endeavor, often undertaken by introverts. But even though we’re introverts and we’ve decided to travel the often lonely path of the writer, we’re still human beings. We crave love, acceptance, and acknowledgement. We crave community, and who better to fulfill our need for human connection than our closest loved ones?

When friends and family belittle our efforts or talk down to us, it hurts. When they ask us questions like, “You’re still doing that writing stuff?” it makes us feel like our talent is unappreciated and that our dreams don’t matter.

Like I said earlier in this post, my family was supportive at first. My mom read my book. My husband promised to read it when it was published. When the first few rejection letters came, my family reassured me I’d find an agent. They stood beside me through the endless round of queries and rejections, celebrated with me when I signed a contract with a publisher, bragged about my book to their friends, and came to my book signing when the first book was released. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Flash forward almost two years from the publication of that first book, and my family barely asks about my writing anymore. My husbands and kids complain that I’m on the computer too much. The clacking of the keyboard gets on their nerves. I’ve lost count of the amount of times my teenagers have accused me of caring more about my computer than I do about them. They openly resent the amount of time I spend reading and writing, even suggesting quite recently that I find a hobby. The aforementioned quote–“Are you still doing that writing stuff?” That’s from my husband who still has yet to read any of my books. My mom, my sister, and a couple of my friends read my newly released books, but for the majority of my friends and family, my writing is old news.

Maybe it’s my fault my husband and children aren’t enthusiastic about my writing. Maybe I do spend too much time at the computer. Maybe I read too much. There have been times I’ve been so caught up in what I’m writing, I tune out the world around me. It’s understandable that my family would resent me for that.

Or maybe they’re unhappy that the writing has cost me not only time, but money as well. Last year, my royalties did not sufficiently cover what I spent on book covers, domain registration for my website, and other miscellaneous expenses. I had a net loss of about $200. (Though, if you think about it, there are people who spend a lot more than that on hobbies–skiing, scrapbooking, tennis lessons–all those things cost money.) This year, I’ve turned a corner and my writing is now a money-making venture. I don’t make a lot of money, but it’s enough to buy lunch or maybe a tank of gas every month. Still, it’s not enough to buy my family’s tolerance or respect for what I’ve chosen to do with my time.

Why am writing such a depressing blog post? Because I know for a fact there are others like me. Some have it worse. Some have never had their family’s support, not even when their writing was shiny and new and full of possibilities. At least I have a small group of family and friends who are supportive. I’m incredibly grateful to them, and I need to express my gratitude more often. For those of you who have a good support system, be grateful. Hug your supporters. Thank them. For those who feel the sting of rejection from your family, you are not alone. We’ve all been there, some more than others.

If you’re an aspiring writer who doesn’t think you can handle the pain of rejection, I’m here to tell you YOU CAN. Rejection is part of life. It’s part of being a writer. We deal with rejection from agents, from publishers, from reviewers who hate our books, from friends and co-workers who are jealous that we’re following our dream. Spouses and partners will complain that you’re not keeping up with the house the way you used to, even when the house looks fine. Kids will complain that you don’t spend enough time with them, even when you were up all night the night before cleaning up their vomit and holding a cool washcloth to their fevered forehead. Parents will tell you they didn’t pay all that money for you to go to college so you can fritter it away on writing fantasy books. Friends will tell you they won’t buy your book because they don’t like to read your kind of “stuff.” Someone is always going to complain, or try to make you feel crappy about your writing. Will you let that stop you?

You can’t prevent your family from belittling your dream, but you can refuse to back down. You can refuse to feel guilty about the time you spend writing. I stopped feeling guilty a long time ago, but I still allow my family’s criticism to get to me. I get defensive. Sometimes I even grumble about giving up, but I’m usually clacking on the keyboard again within a week.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. You can call it a hobby, a small business, a waste of time, a guilty pleasure–whatever. I’m still a writer. Are you?

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