I’m writing a new novel and blogging through the process so that you can learn along with me.
Due to some unforseen circumstances, I’ve decided to limit access to the planning materials in the Google Folder after this week. You can still head over there to check out the updates today, but in the future, if you want access to my planning and drafting materials, you’ll need to sign up for my email list.
If you missed the last post about using cheat sheets to quickly access and organize your notes, you can check it out here.
This week I want to talk about coping with unsupportive loved ones. I see questions about this come up a lot in writer’s groups, especially from new writers who are struggling to balance commitment to their loved ones with the desire to write.
I wrote my first novel when I was 12, and I have been writing with the intent to publish since I was 16. I’m 41 now, and in all that time, my loved ones have rarely been supportive or encouraging.
I can use my fingers to count the occasions that a loved one followed through on reading one of my stories when they promised to. My father and uncles actively disparage my interest in writing and use it as a kind of weapon when they want to embarrass me. My ex-husband was threatened by my writing and did everything he could to sabotage my writing time.
So, I know all about unsupportive loved ones.
Most people’s experiences with this are less extreme. I see a lot of writers who are frustrated because their friends and family don’t understand how important their writing is.
Other folks feel guilty for taking time to write when that means their loved ones might have to do without them for a couple of hours.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, but there are a few things I’ve learned that may help you cope with this kind of frustration, guilt, and disappointment.
- What you’re experiencing is quite common. We live in a culture that doesn’t place high value on the arts, especially writing, and it’s difficult for non-writers to understand why this creative outlet is so important to you. Know that you’re not unique or unusual and neither are your family members.
- It’s okay to set boundaries and ask for your writing time to be respected. If you’re dealing with family members who interrupt you when you’re trying to write, be frank with them about how important your writing time is to you. You can try making a compromise, like if they will give you an hour of uninterrupted writing time, you promised to give them your undivided attention for an hour later in the day. (Note, that’s just an example, and the specifics might change depending on your circumstances.) It can take practice to set and maintain boundaries for your writing, but boundaries for your creative pursuits are perfectly legitimate and healthy.
- Change your expectations. This is going to be a hard one for folks to swallow, but you can’t make your loved ones feel differently about you or what you do with your time. If you have a loved one who doesn’t support your writing, there’s not much you can do to change the person’s mind. What you can change is your expectations. Practice accepting that this person doesn’t understand your writing, and try not to take it personally. As creators, we put a lot of ourselves and our emotions into our work. We identify with it, so when someone we love is unsupportive, it can feel like a personal attack. In most cases, it’s more about the other person than it is about you. When you let go of the expectation that this person is going to support your work, you free up a lot of emotional energy.
- Spend some time cultivating friendships with other writers and people who are interested in creative activities. These people are more likely to “get” your writing and white matter so much to you. It’s okay to go outside of your family and main friend group to get support as a writer. Think of it as something similar to your day job. You might share some of the details about your day job with your spouse or friends, but your coworkers “get” what you do at work a lot better than anyone else, because your coworkers are there with you and work in the same environment.
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