I recently came across this article about how a lot of authors don’t feel like they have much or any support from their family and friends, when it comes to their writing. It struck a big enough chord in me to write a blog post about it.
First off, let me say: This won’t be a negative or complaining post. Life is hard and really crappy sometimes, but I strive to keep that out of my author platform because this is not the place for it.
Also, I must be extremely lucky or blessed or something, because I don’t have any people in my life who’ve actively discouraged me from pursuing my writing dream. Several of my family members have bought and even read my book - thanks, guys, love you! - and that’s more than many authors can say. I’m also really grateful for the words of encouragement and other ways my family has helped me; it all means a lot! (So you guys can read the rest of this without fear, lol.)
I guess I just wanted to make non-writers out there aware of some of the challenges writers face, especially this one, since it’s probably not one that people tend to think of. But support from family and friends is really, really important to writers and other creatives.
You may be thinking: “Duh, it’s important for everyone and in almost every area of life.” And you’re right. But if the poll results in the article linked above are any indication, our creative side often gets treated differently than other parts of our life, whether intentionally or not.
I do happen to know someone whose family doesn’t seem to support her writing pursuit at all, and she struggles a lot because of that. She’s very talented and writing is therapeutic to her, so I believe she ought to keep doing it. But she’d get a lot more benefit without opposition.
In the above article, Allen speculates:
“There are a number of reasons people don’t support our writing dreams. Some involve a genuine desire to protect us. They know writing for publication is a tough, dangerous path, and want to save us from pain.
“I think some are afraid of seeing themselves in our writing - either as a fictional character or a direct portrayal in memoir. They also may fear knowing too much about you - information that might necessitate guilt.”
I believe she’s right, and those are understandable reasons and not really bad. But I’ll do my best to assuage those fears here:
Re: her first point, emotional pain from agent and publisher rejections is going to happen, guaranteed; it’s just the nature of the industry. I’ve gone through plenty of this heartache and it has helped me grow and become more resilient and proactive. Writers are gonna write if it’s really in their blood! It’s actually more painful to deny what’s in our nature, to not pursue what we know we should pursue. Pain might be tough, but I think regrets are worse. And the hurt of trying and failing only becomes more severe without comforting, sympathetic family and friends. You might not be able to remove or prevent it, but you do have the power to ease it by listening and being a shoulder to cry on and speaking words of encouragement.
Re: her second point, if someone is writing a big old exposé or damning memoir about others, chances are the relationships are already broken, so they’re not loved ones. As for the milder, more subtle form of this: Many writers tend to be on the sensitive side, which means we don’t like confrontation or friction. Odds are good that we realize our loved ones might be afraid of the things in her second point - I’ve thought of them many, many times - and so I’m willing to bet a lot of us avoid portraying loved ones (at least negatively) because we don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. . . . I actually did model a character in Book 2 after my hubby, but it’s in a good way and I told him and he doesn’t mind. Real life does, indeed, seep into our writing and inspire it, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Note to writers: I hope you will be wise about the real-life and personal details you choose to incorporate! You can keep a private diary if you need to spill your guts! (:
Another reason for lack of support of writers that readily occurs to me: America is such a career-driven culture. (I’m sure we’re not the only one that is.) We tie our identity into our job - which is neither good nor healthy - and we work ourselves to the bone and are constantly tired but striving for more, more, more. Since writing* is one of the riskiest and least lucrative careers, it isn’t typically valued as a legitimate one. But, I hope we all know, money and careers aren’t everything! They certainly aren’t our identity. There’s so much more to life, and our souls need to be fed, too. Everyone should have more art, literature, and music in their life, even if they’re not creating it. This is a major reason to be thankful for (and supportive of) people who do create it!
The best part is, support doesn’t have to cost you any money! :) I know that financial matters can be super awkward among family members. The concept of patronage isn’t really around anymore (I mean, there is Patreon.com, which is a great resource, though it’s not right for everyone). I also understand most people don’t happen to be “into” the kind of artistic thing their loved one produces. It’s just natural. Or you might want to help out financially but not be able to. (Been there! . . . Am there, lol.)
But good news: there are many ways to support creatives that don’t cost you a penny. Like sharing or liking their social media post, leaving it a nice comment, reviewing their book if you did read it (very helpful, and it can be short, simple, and even anonymous!), or any of these other suggestions from my company, Thinklings Books.
I would guess that many loved ones do want to support the writer in their life but don’t know how. And we get busy and we forget. So I hope this post helps in that regard, and we all just need a gentle reminder now and then!
Maybe you’re still having trouble understanding why people do all this artistic stuff in the first place. I can’t speak for all writers and creatives, but for me personally, it’s a compulsion/need/drive/whatever that’s so deeply a part of who I am that I can’t imagine not being a writer. I did go for a while without writing (that time in my mid-20s that I call The Void, when I was suicidally depressed) and that was the worst five years of my life. When I came out of it, my desire to write surged back, but I was afraid that maybe I’d lost the talent my college professors said I had - I’d even won the annual essay contest the one time I entered it, but still, anxiety and doubt nagged and nagged at me.
But . . . Oscar. My husband. Family. He’s the one who really encouraged me to work on my novel again. And that led to my being able to finish the first draft of Hunter’s Moon and then have it edited, and rewrite it, and rework it, and chop it up to bits and put it back together, and learn a whole lot in the process. It was a hard, slow process, but it was SO worth it: I felt renewed and restored and ready for more!
The “more” that I never knew I wanted but now is my absolute passion came with the founding of Thinklings. Back in 2019 when my friends came up with the idea for the company and got me on board, I had no idea how much it would grow in my heart - and grow my heart! But I came to realize that helping talented-but-overlooked writers via Thinklings was definitely what I was supposed to be doing with my life. And it’s been so fulfilling!
But I wouldn’t have known of or realized this dream without Oscar and Deborah and Jeannie, and other family and friends telling me to keep going and that I can do it, even when it’s hard.
See what a huge impact for good that our loved ones can have when they do support us?
I’m not saying that your support of your loved one is going to turn them into the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or Shakespeare, or help them find the meaning of life or anything that dramatic. But you just might help their soul come alive again.
Can you think of anything better than that? :)
*Please allow me to generalize; there are many different types of writing jobs, and it’s not my point to elaborate on that here. I’m not really thinking of journalists who make good money, but more the creative writing side, especially novelists. Even bestselling authors aren't rolling in it.
Btw, if the writer in your life is a lazy moocher who’s just trying to live off everyone else . . . this post doesn’t apply to you/them because even though I don’t believe in being a workaholic, I don’t believe in laziness either. (I imagine this is mostly not the case, though.) In other words, I’m not telling you to be a financial or emotional crutch or let them take advantage of you! (:
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Sarah Awa lives in Ohio with two hairy guys and writes books about werewolves.