Sunday, November 24, 2013

Personal Rant #3: Support

In Stephen King's book On Writing, he talks about the early days, when he was still a struggling English teacher and his most lucrative work was a short story sold to Playboy Magazine. He talks about his wife, who also worked full-time and the glamorous trailer, dying car, and pile of bills they shared. He says at one point "If she had said to me, Steve, it's time to put the writing aside and take a position that can support your family, I would've put away the typewriter right then and there. But that statement never came." Of course, one thing that can be proof of is that if you love someone, then nothing else really matters as long as the bare necessities are covered. The other thing that is proof of, is how important it is to have people that approve of and support you in what you want to do.

I'm not talking about financially, although at the worst times, it can come down to the choice between keeping a roof overhead and food on table or chasing a dream. After all, unless you're a pokemon, you can't eat dreams. I'm talking about support emotionally and mentally.

Specifically, I'm talking about writing, but this applies to anything you want to do. A lot of things can be done solely on your own back, but a lot of things aren't that clear-cut. Writing is a very solitary business. Sitting at the computer, typing away for hours every day, sacrificing time that could be spent with friends, family, relaxing, or even at another job. For weeks, then months, it can drag on. And despite that it's not particularly physically demanding, it can be a very draining experience. People aren't meant to be solitary creatures and when doing something like that, they need the support of those around them. They need to be assured that the sacrifices will be worth it and that the parts of the life being sacrificed stand behind you to help you do what you want to do.

When you don't have support, it makes things that much harder.

When you turn down hanging out with friends to write. When you sit at home instead of going out to ensure you can afford the cover, editing, and marketing that your work will need to be professional. When you take your work with you to family gatherings to do. When you do all those things and people tell you that you need to put it all away and get a "real job", it is an incredible weight on it's own.

Now, I'm not talking about constructive criticism. Sometimes, people will want to do things they just aren't good at, and nor will they ever be. At some point, someone who is aware of the sacrifices made and that has objectively looked at the end result should probably sit down and talk to them about it, but honestly, and because it's true. Not because they just don't believe in them.

But when people who haven't looked at your work, who either aren't aware of or care about the sacrifices already made are saying things like "Get a real job" and "It's nice, but how long until you start making money?", it's more of a burden than having people say nothing at all. They might mean well enough, but all they're doing is making an already difficult task even harder with their own ignorance.

Three guesses which end of that spectrum I'm at, and the first two don't count.

My family isn't exactly the best at being supportive. Often they do it at the wrong times for the wrong reasons, and then don't when it is actually appropriate. Those comments I listed above: "Get a real job" and "You need to make some money" are both things I've been told multiple times, by people who have no idea how much effort, money, or time has gone into this. Nor have any of them actually read any of my work, despite a few of them buying the books. I can't even ASK them to support me, by something as simple as sharing posts to let their friends know my latest book is out or offer my book cards at their meetings or what-have-you. I tried that twice. Once, I was told sure they would and I gave them a small stack of cards. That stack was sitting untouched exactly where I had put it a month later. The second time, I got the full eye-roll.

So for those of you that are so oblivious, I suggest the next time you're going to whine about someone following their dream, do it in a mirror first. See how you look when you say it, and if you can, try to imagine what that might feel like to be on that other end.

For those of you who have to deal with family and friends that aren't supportive, remember, you're not writing for them. You're writing for yourself. You're writing for the people that actually READ your works. And, you're writing because for one reason or another, you just have to. Power on through it regardless, and all on your own if that's what it comes down to. The only person you should care about letting down in this situation, is yourself.

I'm willing to bet more people fail to achieve their dreams because the people that should have been supporting them turned their backs on them instead, more than any other reason.

1 comment:

  1. That's harsh to experience. On the plus side, I think many of us authors do a good job of supporting each other in various ways, because we understand. And I think that's the issue: not that anyone's mean, just a slight lack in understanding, empathy or imagination. But it still hurts. I'm lucky: my girlfriend fully supports me, and doesn't mind that she ends up paying more of the bills because my writing expenses are far greater than the writing income!