Writing isn’t considered a real job. Well, not if we’re talking about the standards of … erm … non-creatives. It’s one of those occupations taken with a grain of salt. Unless, of course, you’re someone like J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin. Then, you’re someone reputable; someone they readily acknowledge and want to know.
Having said that, I’m certain I know a few stray family members who would continue to pull me apart and ridicule me despite success. Even if I was fortunate enough to reach the high status of the above-mentioned authors.
It’s pretty screwed up. On so many levels.
When I started out and was ready to release my first book, I was self-conscious and nervous enough without the added worry about what my family and friends were going to think. It didn’t take long to have them all pegged. People tend to have a way of revealing themselves when you dare to follow your dream and put yourself out there. I’ve figured out that when people learn you’re a writer, they seem to fall into one of three categories. Personally, I only offer the information when asked, mostly because I’m not an avid conversationalist (with strangers) and I’m a private kind of person. Tom, Dick and Harry don’t need to know the ins and outs of my life thank-you-very-much.
Honestly, most people don’t give a rat’s ass what you do. I can tell someone I’m a writer who fixes lattes for a living and they’re unaffected regardless. The reaction is usually a smile accompanied by a “that’s awesome” comment which is quickly followed with a curl of steam and the scent of brewing coffee. Heaven. No more conversation needed.
Unless, Tyler – my local coffee shop chef – has whipped up a fresh batch of chocolate chip scones. I swear that guy is attempting to kill me slowly with his baked delights. Some mornings, he saunters toward the counter to slide a warm batch on the benchtop in front of me with his greeting.
“Good morning, Kim.”
Warm, doughy scone aroma drifts in my face as I eye the toasty little treats.
“What flavor are they?”
Grin the size of Everest flashes my way.
“Raspberry and white chocolate.”
Groan. Eye roll.
“You’re killing me.”
The other staff members find this dilemma highly amusing. In fact, Tyler has timed his scone delivery perfectly with my daily appearance. Asses. But they’re lovely asses and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They don’t care that I write books. Actually, they think it sounds romantic.
Should I tell them the truth?
Speaking of romance, let’s look at some real love in the form of your Real Supporters. These are the gems in your life. They are easy to figure out because their enthusiasm is genuine, their interest in what you’re doing is absolute. These are the folks that want to know what you’re working on and look forward to reading what you’ve got to say. They really care about you too and might offer advice or be there to bounce your crazy story ideas off. Sometimes, they’re happy just to listen to you blow off steam about the all-too-often cliquey publishing world. I can count my Real Supporters on one hand. Is that sad?
I know not everyone is a reader. Not everyone is into books. Wait, whaaa? I know, it’s totally mad, right? But I’m going to go ahead and state right here and now that if someone special in my life wrote words for a living, I’d be into scouring the depths of their soul through their written work – book lover or not. As far as I’m concerned, there is no other method as significant as writing to gather insight into someone you love. This is where the magic is; their deepest parts spill onto the page for devouring. Beautiful. When I love, I lurve, baby.
Perhaps the coffee shop staff are onto something after all.
I’m not actually dissing anyone, here. I can’t, wouldn’t and couldn’t because my husband has absolutely zero interest in my words and I know he loves me. He won’t even steady his eyes over a 1500 article I wrote about our family for KidSpot magazine much less read one of my books. Record a YouTube video and he’s all over it with his mouth agape and his eyes bulging. At least, for the first few videos.
Then the question:
“Why don’t you talk to me like that?”
“Like all happy and nice-like.”
“I don’t know … maybe because you’re not interested in books.”
Case closed. The interest waned fast after that, but he doesn’t mind showing the videos off to his mates at the pub every now and then.
All good. He happens to fall into what I call the One-Step-Removed-Supporter category. These are the people in your life that support what you’re doing minus the deep interest. They respect your writing, maybe even share in the vision of where you want to go, and most importantly, lend you the time to get in your words – well, somewhat. Mothers and wives don’t always get this luxury, even if the sign is etched black, bold, ominous and shooting all kinds of skyrockets into the hall on the other side of the office door.
Uh-uh. Truth be told, if you’re a mother and/or wife and an author, there is no sign, advanced agreement or boundary-exercise erecting enough to keep the dogs out when you’re writing. Those puppies spill in when they want, no matter how many times you explain the situation.
Men don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard our male counterpart authors speak about slapping a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their office door, stipulate an agreement with said wife and voila, they’re granted uninterrupted writing time. Boundaries is what they call it.
Paradise is how I see it. That’s what that is. There may also be some double standards circling around on the home front, but that’s another story. I can tell you right now that in the course of creating this article so far, my kids have slid open my office door at least three times, called out to me from other parts of the house four times and texted me five times. I shit you not. Granted, it is currently school holidays, but still … anyone got a rubber mallet I can use to pound against my head?
Now we’re getting somewhere. Add a sharp edge to that mallet and I really might need it. Especially when considering the final category of supporters: the I-Hope-You-Fail-Miserably Supporters. Sounds a bit like a paradox, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.
We all know them. They’re usually dwelling in the extended family circles and the friends-that-aren’t-really-friends crew. These are the folks that smile when asking about your writing life and pretend to be interested, throwing in a few offbeat or sly remarks in for good measure that you almost miss. All the while, during the discussion, you’re trying to figure out why you’re suffocating beneath a thick haze of negative energy that seems to emanate from their crown.
Some of them don’t even bother with the pretexts. At least that’s something I can respect. I have one cousin that I used to be close to who for no apparent reason has completely ignored me from the moment I published my first book. She won’t utter a word nor acknowledge my progress or successes. She’s not alone either, but her behavior is the most obvious.
I stopped trying to figure out why people react the way they do a long time ago. It used to bother me. Maybe even upset me. But I’ve realized it’s their issue and not mine and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
As creatives, it’s important to surround ourselves with the right kind of people. They don’t necessarily have to read your work or even be interested in your writing, but they do need to have a positive impact on your life. It is difficult enough to keep the flames of belief flaring in ourselves at times, much less deal with negativity from those who see fit to judge or ridicule our life’s work.
I think it’s impossible for any creative to avoid them altogether but it is possible to not allow those people to affect you when facing their toxic vibes and fixed mindsets.
How do you handle this aspect of being a creative? Do you tell people you’re a writer?