Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If you can't be an athlete...

Be an athletic supporter!

Yes, I still giggle at this joke. I’m secretly twelve.

But in all seriousness, I’ve seen a few conversations over on AW that have always stuck in my brain (trust me, there’s room up there) and I felt like pondering on them today. Those conversations inevitably start with someone saying “My parents/friends/significant other aren’t supportive of my writing ambitions, is it like this for anyone else?” Their stories often run the gamut from vague disinterest to outright and open mockery. And every time I hear that, my heart breaks just a little.

First off, this whole concept both baffles and saddens me. Why would people NOT be supportive of something that made a loved one happy? Yeah, most of us aren’t going to make that jump from writing in the corner to J.K. Rowling-level wealth, but often, that’s not why we write. So what’s the big deal, people? I mean, how petty and mean do you have to be not to just smile and tell someone “Good luck!” (and I mean in a genuine way, not in a snotty way)

For some folks, reading/writing just isn’t their thing. (I know! Mind-blowing, isn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t like to read??) For whatever reason, they don’t find enjoyment in it, and so maybe they just don’t understand their loved one’s passion. I speak from experience when I say that it’s very frustrating for all parties involved when there’s a disconnect there. The writer wants so badly to gush about a new idea they had, or talk out a plot snag they’ve hit, whereas their whoever-is-is just doesn’t understand why anyone would want to spend so many hours in front of a computer/with a notebook in hand.

For some, maybe they’re operating under the mistaken idea that they are “protecting” their loved one from rejection and disappointment. I guess I can understand that, to some extent. Sure, this writing gig is hard and roller coaster doesn’t even begin to describe the highs and lows. It’s rough, and it can be hard to watch a loved one go through that turmoil.

Still, how rejected and disappointed do you think they feel when they hear “Why don’t you get a real job instead of working on this little hobby?” or “I’ll read it if it ever gets published.”

Writing anything is like bleeding on paper. That’s part of you out there in the open. It’s me, wearing a bikini to the water park (trust me, no one needs to see that). You’re naked! And offering to show that to someone, ANYone, is one of the biggest leaps of faith a writer can make. It’s that one hurdle we all have to get past, if we ever want to move on to that big world called “publishing.” Some people never make that leap. Either they don’t want to, or they’re simply terrified to their very core to show that much of themselves to another soul.

And then on top of that, imagine having those people closest to you point and laugh at your pathetic little scribblings. It would be devastating. Crushing. Some of those people will never show their writing to another living creature again. Some will stop writing altogether, and it’ll be something they get teased about at family reunions. “Hey, remember when you used to think you could write?” Ha ha indeed.

I’m lucky. I have the most amazing family/friends/total strangers you can imagine. My hubby is the first one to say “If you want it, go get it.” He’s been my most enthusiastic cheerleader, dating clear back to high school when we weren’t even thinking of being a couple.

My real life friends are at once my greatest cheering squad, and my greatest critics, and I love them for it. At the same time they’re clamoring for more, they’re not afraid to say “Whoa, this sucks! What were you thinking?” (In a totally loving way, of course.) My online friends are just the same. They celebrate my victories, and bring me virtual alcoholic beverages when I need to wallow.

My family… They have always believed that whatever I said I wanted to do would be done. If I’d have said I wanted to ride a bike to the moon, they’d have sat patiently in front of the TV, waiting for the news bulletin with complete and utter faith that it was coming shortly. My mother-in-law is currently stalking bookstores, waiting for her moment to push my book into unsuspecting people’s hands. All of hubby’s family is the same way, bragging to anyone who makes eye contact long enough.

I have a support group that spans the entire U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, a good chunk of Canada, Mexico, England, Sweden, and several tropical islands that I have only the vaguest idea the location of.

And the big secret is, if I had never found an agent, if I had never signed a book deal, they’d have all still been there for me. My success doesn’t matter a whit to any of them, so long as I’m happy with what I’m doing. That’s what a support group is supposed to be.

So, for all those writers out there who aren’t getting any encouragement from your family, your friends, I say to you “Keep at it! You can do it! It’s hard work, but if you want it, it’s there for the taking.” Because I’ll be your support group. I’ll loan you mine. There’s plenty to go around.


Eileen Andrews said...

I always find it annoying when people ask me what I've published to verify my legitimacy as a writer. It's like telling an artist they need to have sold pieces to qualify for their chosen career. But art doesn't work that way; it's its own beast, owning the artist, not the other way around.
I tell people I'm a writer much like I say I'm a woman, I'm 30. It's part of my identity, darnit. :)
Thank the gods for your support group. They appreciate you as the artist, not the published author. And those are better than paychecks any day.

sue laybourn said...

Writing is such a solitary pursuit and writers need reassurance and validation from somewhere. I'm very lucky that my husband, son and family support me and humor me. As for AW, I can't imagine not being without the brilliant people I've come to know on there. It's made so much difference to my writing, both in terms of quality and in terms of how I feel about it...like I could really make a go of it.

BeshterBooks said...

*looks for pom poms lost in last drunken haze...finds under empty tequila bottle*

Do I really have to start with "Give me a K?" I might need more Patron first....

No really, hon, you know I was there with the VtM fanfic years ago, and I brag about THAT to anyone who would listen, (as Dad stared at me in growing alarm when the words "vampire" and "role-playing" were mentioned.) Hell, I keep telling strangers to go buy it and put my adopted niece through college, (always a good way to convince them to at least look, a nice sob story.) I adore your writing, always have. And will get beta feedback to you as soon as I get done with...on the two papers due next week. *head desk*

And if anyone you know needs a beta reader, cheerleader, person to get stinking drunk on their behalf, send me their way. I seem to collect writerly friends like baseball cards, and I'm finding beta reading is helping with my academic writing immensely, (did I really want to use that typo in that sentence, or perhaps a different typo?)

Dawn Nikithser said...

I agree entirely. I've just started trying the scary move from the writing that pays the bills to the writnig that makes me happy and might someday pay *some* bills, and my family and friends are supporting me in every way. I've got betas. I've got researchers. I've got plenty of interested readers and even proofreaders. I'd never be able to do this without them!

Gretchen said...

I think that's why I transitioned from opera with writing with relative ease: they are both like standing naked in front of your entire high school while people rate you mercilessly.

And I don't know what I'd do without our support group. Be a bluthering mess? Prolly.

Lara said...

I didn't really admit to many people that I was trying to write/ get published till about a year ago. It was a real secret thing for me for a long time. It was a tremendous revelation when I found a group of people who not only didn't mock my ambitions, but would pour me virtual drinks when I failed and prop me back up on my feet. :D