How Can Writers Deal with the Pain of Non-Supportive People in Their Lives?
Having people around you who support you as a writer can affect the visibility of your writing.
Everyone knows what a great form of marketing word-of-mouth can be, even when it’s confined to just a small group. That is why writers who have a support system around them can end up gaining more visibility for their work than those writers and authors who don’t. You know how it goes, “…you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on…”
A Lonely Writing Life
I can only imagine how it must feel to have a great support system in your writing life, but without one, life can be lonely in many ways. For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve had to accept the fact that when it comes to belief in my abilities to succeed as a writer and author, I have no real support system.
At age 61, my circle of friends has dwindled down to one or two individuals, and in truth, they’re really just neighbors who I’ve lived in the same building with for many years. Neither of these two women really get the “writer” side of me, or even care enough to try. I’m not knocking them, I’m just acknowledging the truth of the situation.
As for my family members (the few that I’m not estranged from), they never have, and never will give a hoot about my writing. I know that I’m not the only writer who has to cope with a lack of support, but if you keep reading, you’ll see why I find this situation particularly disheartening for me.
Lack of Family Support
I’ve been a freelance writer for a lot of years, more than 20 to be precise, although my level of professionalism has taken at least half of those years to develop. During all that time, I’ve been writing and sharing my work in various public forums, mostly online. Also during that time, I’ve tried on multiple occasions to enlist the support of my family, but thus far, I still haven’t been successful.
In all that time, my family has never bothered to check out anything that I’ve written, and I’m talking my immediate family, not some distant relatives or anything like that. Granted, for a long time I mostly wrote articles tailored to specific niches, and not necessarily the kind of content that would appeal to the average reader. But there were also topics I wrote about that were interesting enough to at least give the article a read and comment on it. Why none of my family could find the time to even bother in between posting on Facebook is still a mystery to me.
Whenever I felt enthusiastic about a project or a particular article, no one cared to hear it. That really bummed me out. Then later, when I started writing small ebooks in 2011, I mistakenly thought that things would be different. Why wouldn’t they? “I’m a bonafide author now,” or at least that was the way I saw it, at least for a while.
Then I began to second-guess and belittle my own accomplishments. I told myself that my ebooks were only collections of researched material, consisting of non-fiction stuff. No one I knew was about to read any of my ebooks; that would be too much like work or studying.
Doubting Your Writing Abilities
Not having people you care about support you as a writer can sometimes cause you to start doubting your writing abilities. When I wrote and completed my very first novel “Experimenting with Murder,” I had such high hopes for the book’s success. But more than anything, I just knew that at the very least, my older sister would finally read something I wrote and see that I was actually a pretty good writer. She’s retired, home bound, and a voracious reader. She reads everything!
If nothing else, I expected the worst case scenario to be that she would read my book and give me lots of negative, but constructive criticism. I was wrong. The worst case scenario was that she wouldn’t even bother to read it. In fact, no one in my family bothered to read the book or offer any feedback, useful or otherwise.
The most hurtful part of all this for me is having to acknowledge that 3 individuals in my immediate family and household are all AVID readers. That’s right, count ’em, one, two three! You would think that at least one of them would have bothered to crack open my first novel, but no one did. Clearly this would start to give anyone a complex, so for a short period, it caused me to question my own writing abilities, even though that made absolutely no sense. It wasn’t as if anyone had read what I wrote and decided it wasn’t worthwhile. Instead, they came to that conclusion with nothing to base it on. Now that hurt!
In case anyone is wondering did I come right out and ask them to read my book, let me say, YES, of course I did. I asked point blank, even though I was a bit timid about doing it because I didn’t understand why I should have to ask them in the first place. I had made a big enough deal of letting everyone know when the book was released, not to mention, making it available to whoever wanted a copy via an email blast, but apparently no one even looked at it. If any of my folks or friends read it, they never said and I never knew.
I didn’t get pushy about making anyone tell me if they read the .pdf version that I blasted in the email. I didn’t bother to check up on the status of the few gift copies I sent out. I didn’t even insist that anyone buy the book on Amazon, though I did emphasize my need for feedback and/or book reviews. When no one bothered to respond in any way, fashion, shape or form, I never even said anything. I just kept my disappointment to myself and held it all in.
Pride in Writing Accomplishments
You can probably guess how I felt whenever my sister tried to talk to me about some new book she was reading or listening to. How could she be so enthusiastic about writers she didn’t even know, spreading the news about their books and talking to anybody who would listen to her. I’ve heard my sister talk on the phone for fifteen minutes to the cable representative, not about our cable bill, but about some book she was reading. Boy, could I use that kind of support and word-of-mouth marketing! Maybe my book would have received more visibility with family and friends helping to spread the word.
I don’t know why instead of just telling my sister exactly how I felt, all I ever did was steer clear of the conversation. It hurt for so long, to think that she could be so insensitive. I didn’t understand how she was so blind to the situation and oblivious to what I was feeling. But eventually, over time, none of that really mattered to me as much. I had to learn how to take pride in my own writing accomplishments, and let that be enough.
As a result of my crash course in self-pride, I managed to publish a second novel (Skipping Childhood), which accidentally turned into a mixture of fiction and memoir writing, although I didn’t really plan it that way. My plan was to wait and write my memoirs several more years down the line. I guess I was the kind of writer the editor of Women Writing Memoirs had in mind when she wrote what she said about writers who express a desire to write their memoirs. “They feel their life has to have an ‘ending’, or a tidy bow to wrap things up with, but life is constantly changing and shifting.”
Sharing my truth about my lack of support is something that I have been wanting to get off my chest for a long time, even though I felt like I was surely over it by now. I’ve self-published my third novel, and still lack a support system from my family and inner circle. I can’t lie; I resent the situation and probably feel a little sorry for myself, but that hasn’t stopped me from writing. To substitute for the support that I lack from family and friends, I constantly look for creative ways to puff myself up with pride. Not enough pride to come off as arrogant or conceited about my writing, just enough to honestly acknowledge my accomplishments.
Whether you’re a new or existing writer, whether you’re brave enough to write your own truth, whether you’re writing someone else’s truth, whether you write about mermaids, or whether you write non-fiction; YOU can succeed and reach your goals! You can do it, and you can even manage to pull it off without the support of those who care (or say they care).
Don’t stop loving them, but don’t keep wasting energy hoping that they will see just how creative and talented you are. Even the good book says that a prophet is not well-received in his own town (or something to that affect). It’s too bad that the people closest to us are sometimes the last to give us applause, but never let that stop you. Just take a moment and applaud yourself. YAY ME!!!