Dear [Loved One]: I am a writer

My name is not Shakespeare, Poe, Bronte, or Rowling, but I am a writer just the same.

I may not be a doctor, lawyer, or executive chief, but my writing – to me – is just as critical. Can you indulge me, just a few moments?

You read articles in People, Sports Illustrated, Time, or Cosmo about the problems with celebrities and their children, the latest athlete arrested for drugs or spousal abuse, the trouble on Wall Street, or how to apply your make-up for a night on the town. However, when I try to talk to you about the article in Writer’s Digest about e-book vs. print book or how to improve my web presence, you give me the hand wave and say, “Who cares?”

You’ll spend a half hour with your nose in a catalog for new clothes, a new computer, or new hunting gear. I’ll spend a little time trying to find that just-right creative writing class or the perfect book for getting my novel to market, and you tell me I’m wasting my time.

I supported you when you wanted to start a small business, when you wanted to get out of a small business, when you wanted to start a new job, or retire. When I have a great idea for a new book or realize the book I’m writing must be shelved, you say, “Oh well” without lifting your head.

I’ve spent hours in the car with you to get to the ball game, watch the ball game, and get home from the ball game. I’ve watched, waved, and smiled as you pull out of the driveway on your way to that week-long hunting or fishing trip or when you were going for a girls’ weekend at the spa. But when I plan a day-long workshop at the local university or a weekend conference in Vegas or Seattle, you ask me, “What about the kids?” “What about dinner?”

I’ve sympathized over your aching joints and shin splints, your aching back, and your stress-related headaches. But when I describe my tired, bloodshot eyes or I’m afraid I might have carpal tunnel, you remind me you told me I shouldn’t spend so much fruitless time at the computer.

I’ve observed as you spend hours watching L&O marathons, night after night of Dancing With The Stars or American Idol or weekend sporting events. But if I ask for one hour of uninterrupted time to hash out a new outline or finish my edit, you complain.

You go online and spend hours sifting through junk email, silly chain mail, and funny pictures. You play farm games, card games, or puzzle through Sudoku. I spend online time with writers, agents, publishers, editors; I learn about writing, how to query an agent, or how to land a publisher. And you wonder why I don’t do something productive.

You regale me with stories of the quirky character at the grocery store, the fabric store, or the paint guy at Home Depot. But if I try to describe one of my book characters, one of my villains, or my protagonist’s triumph, your eyes glaze over.

I agreed when you wanted to upgrade to a $1,000, 54-inch TV, when you wanted another new car or yet another pair of designer leather boots. Yet you scoff when I want to spend $500 on a weekend writers’ conference or a professionally-designed website.

You spend hours tending your garden, washing and waxing your F-150 baby in the driveway, or creating the perfect lasagna. But you tell me I’m wasting time when I struggle over the perfect paragraph, the perfect opening line, the perfect surprise twist.

I celebrate with you when your second cousin in Alaska has her first baby, your aunt and uncle buy a retirement condo in Florida, or your friend in Arizona graduates from ASU. The birth of my novel is barely a blip on your radar.

I have coddled you through the flu, knee surgery, and that pesky rash. I have consoled you when you were depressed and commiserated with you over what the boss had the nerve to do on any given day. Yet when I try to tell you how much mind-bending, sleep-losing trouble I’m having with my final chapter, you suggest I just give it up.

You will read a book if it’s on the NYT Best Sellers list (by someone you don’t know and have no hope to ever meet), a tell-all book by a politician you didn’t vote for, or a memoir by your favorite sports figure. Why won’t you open my manuscript?

You read numerous blogs every week about cupcake-decorating, care and feeding of a Labrador, how to paint a War Hammer figurine, or how to grow the perfect rose bush. Why won’t you sign up for my blog?

I hope we never have to talk about the death of my dream. I’m afraid you won’t listen.

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.” ~Author Unknown

Photo – Paul Anderson, MorgueFile

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Dear [Loved One]: I am a writer

  1. It is amazing how often creative folks are considered “boring” by those around them. A prophet is not without honor except in his own home, perhaps? Yet each of those indifferent people, there are likely ten fans that pour over your every word. Those are the ones you write for, the ones you study and learn your craft for. They’re the ones that ultimately make it worthwhile and understand that you are providing information and mostly likely dreams that inspire. Remember them when you start to get discouraged, and try to ignore the indifference of the others.

  2. I could fill in the blank with a few names. It is sad, but I am grateful for the connections I’ve made via internet, the support from across states, countries, even. I tell myself, “This is my dream, for me. I’ll be damned if I’ll let it go.” Perhaps, the day will come when I’ll stand in a room of people who’ve read a book I’ve written, and care about. Then, I can tell them about passion, and what grace it can bring to a life. If nothing else, I’ve given my children an important legacy. Such as you have. I respect you, Karen. Just thought I would put that out there. 🙂

  3. Spot on!

    It is all those things which people–hell, even the best intentioned people–don’t get. And don’t know how it erodes our writer’s confidence and resolve.
    It is a lonely profession of which we are members, and not much to ask for the tiniest bit of support. Even if there isn’t understanding, a patient nod and interested look can work wonders.

  4. Thank you, Duncan, Tonia, and Shawn! I appreciate your support.

  5. Karen, this post reminds me of of the frequency with which I ask myself, “Is this a _______ (fill in the blank with spouse’s name) thing or a guy thing?”

  6. I think it’s just an “I’m not a writer so I just don’t get it thing.” But I was hoping this post would clear the way for writers to talk to their spouse/partner/mother/father/sister/brother/son/daughter …

  7. This breaks my heart. And gives me cause to count my blessings. So thanks. I am going to hug my wife the minute she walks through the door tonight.

  8. Wow, very good, Karen! I’m so lucky my husband likes and supports all my efforts but I agree that so many others just don’t understand. Some folks like my mom try to be helpful and supportive but they just don’t “get it”. I recently showed her my new first chapter and her response was, “Well, at least your chapters are getting longer.” LOL She definitely has a math brain and doesn’t understand tone, character development, setting the scene, etc. But I do give her credit for trying. 🙂

  9. the writ and the wrote

    Yep, exactly. Nobody in my family has once asked about my writing. My friends ask, when they remember, but that’s rare.

  10. I think that I’ve been lucky in that my husband and my best friends are visual artists and/or writers, so I’ve had a lot of support for my work. My family and many of my friends, however, just don’t get what being a writer is about. I’m going to hope that’s it, anyway, and not that they simply don’t care.

    Thanks for yet another great post, Karen.

  11. Ouch. It’s a tough road sometimes. I guess that’s why I have writer friends, so I don’t have to worry whether anyone else cares or not. (Hubby has heard more than his fair share of publishing, writing, etc. stories. Bless him.)

  12. I have become connected with hundreds of writers and this situation seems to be one of the biggest complaints. I don’t think family members don’t care, it’s just that they do not get it – as some of you have mentioned. But it would be nice for a brother or son or such to say, “hey great blog Karen/Mom” once in a while. I’m grateful for all my writer friends who give me the boost I need – consistently. If you do have family and friends that support you – thank them! Thank you for all your comments.

  13. I feel blessed that my husband, parents, and family are so supportive. They even look for conferences for me and both my mother and husband like to send me writing links they think would interest me. Perhaps it comes from being part of a creative family. I’m the only writer, but we were raised in the arts. Painter, dancer, musicians, all different disciplines, but the thread of creativity binds us together. I know a lot of writers aren’t so lucky. Even though I am well supported, as non-writers, they still don’t fully ‘get it’. That’s why I need you guys! Without you, the world would be a lonely place. Who else truly understands the mind of a writer except another writer?

  14. You are blessed, Heather! Take Vaughn’s lead and give them all a big hug!

  15. Jessica

    Wonderful Karen! Just spot on. Thank you for being the talented writer you are (and to all my WU friends too!) You are amazing.

  16. Thank you, Jessica! I’ve been hearing and reading about this invasive problem for writers (and gathering notes) for months, and it just hit me the other night HOW it should be written. Wonder if any of my family will see it … they are not subscribed. 😦

  17. It’s a lot easier when what we do is recognized and supported–not quite being in the salt mines, but at the very least we’re staggering around at the end of the day because we have been to distant lands all day–and man, that’s tiring.

  18. Ah yes, the eternal plight of writers 😦 I have a very supportive immediate family but the wider family, not so much. That’s okay, I just console myself with the fact that they won’t get any acknowledgements once it gets published 🙂 And it gives me liberty to write about them on my blog….mwahahaha
    Wonderful post, Karen. You hit the nail on the head perfectly (as usual!).

  19. The great part about being ignored by family – you can write about them to your heart’s content!

  20. Wow, you’ve hit some raw nerves for me here too, Karen. It definitely hurts.

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