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?

 


123 thoughts on “When Your Family Doesn’t Support Your Writing

  1. I felt so sorry for you when I read this, Tricia. I’m lucky to have an incredibly understanding and supportive husband who doesn’t care if the kitchen floor needs cleaning, as long as my book is going well. He gives all my books the final once-over before I publish. I have no children (because I knew that sort of commitment wasn’t for me), and this post had reiterated to me how fortunate I am to be able to do as I wish. I don’t know what the solution is, aside from perhaps to make set times – tell them that of course they’re the most important thing in your life, but writing is important to YOU, too, and perhaps say, look, Saturday is family day, but I want to have, say, 2-6 pm on Sunday to write, undisturbed. Monday Wednesday and Friday nights are for them, Tuesday and Thursday 7-9 for your writing. Something like that. Or do what I know a few people do – get up at 5 every morning and put in 1 and a half hours.

    My father is very supportive of me, as is my sister; my brother has never read one of mine, but that’s okay. Of my closest girlfriends, I’d say it’s about 50/50; half read them all as soon as they come out, half have never shown any interest. I think it’s best to keep rational about that, and remind yourself that you maybe don’t show endless interest in their job, either!!!! I hope you manage to sort it out xx

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    1. After reading some of the comments on my post, I don’t feel nearly as sorry for myself as I did when I wrote this post. I’m lucky to have some supportive people in my life. You make a very good point–I’m not 100% behind everything all my loved ones do. A lack of open animosity would be nice, but there have been times I’ve said things like, “Playing video games again,” which is sort of the same thing. I’m learning to put it in perspective.

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    1. I’m glad you’ve got your muse back. Things have been much better for me since I wrote this post. I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing, and if anyone is complaining, I’ve been too “in the zone” to notice. lol. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story. I’m going to check it out right now.

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      1. Thanks Tricia for checking it out. I also want to offer myself as a beta to you. Consider me a new Internet friend and I’d be happy to read your work 😉

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  2. As an artist I can relate to your situation – mine is much the same as yours. Painful, yes? But it hasn’t stopped me from creating – the loss, in the end is theirs to own.

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  3. I get “tolerance” from family – luckily I’m now retired and most live far enough away they don’t see how much time I spend on writing-related work; and they don’t need to know what I spend. Whew. But my other passion is just as bad – genealogy – another introvert activity which has me at the keyboard for hours, with sometimes nothing to ‘show’. You might want your husband to write his own dedication for your next book – ask him nicely now! As for your teenagers, their brains haven’t finished developing – at 25 they’ll understand about your passions and be more adult about it. Time goes by whether or not you write – why not write anyway?! Go, girl.

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  4. Oh, how familiar this struggle is to me.
    My family’s supportive of my writing for the most part, but they can be a bit passive aggressive about my “unrealistic goals,” and how I need a “real job” (Because apparently writing a book doesn’t count as work?). It’s so frustrating, but I’m still going to keep writing. I can’t wait til my book is finished, because even if it doesn’t sell well, how many people can say they’ve finished and published a book?
    Good luck to you in whatever you decide to do.

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    1. Good luck to you as well. I think you have the right attitude. It’s a tremendous accomplishment to publish a book. I think some people seem scornful of our writing because they might be envious. Maybe there is a dream they didn’t pursue, and now they regret it. Whatever reason they have for being disapproving is their problem, not ours. We have to keep writing because we love it. Approval from our family, sales, good reviews – all that is nice, but not the reason for writing.

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  5. I feel so much more equilibrated and calm now that I am writing that I think it’s worthy even if my ‘hobby’ doesn’t bring money return from any investment. I have seen family mothers who live exclusively for the house and children and have no life on their own and it didn’t turn out well for them. Sooner or later they get depressed because they have nothing which distracts them and belongs exclusively to them as a human being.

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      1. And this is extremely important, I have so many older female relatives that arrive in the 60s depressed because they never had anything for themselves and felt destroyed when the kids grew up and left home that their experience shouts out for me to have something that’s only mine.

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