Over the past couple weeks, I’ve encountered numerous stories about fellow writers who have faced resistance or outright disdain over their writing careers. It might be as simple as a parent who steers a child with an affinity toward the written word toward a safer career. (I was steered toward teaching, for instance.) Or a husband who hopes his wife will finish her novel and “get it out of her system”—as if a vocation were a phase, like that year she tried bangs or the summer she took up tai chi.
Maybe it was the critique partner who turned up her nose and insisted that she didn’t know how to critique “that kind of work” when we found our writing taking a new direction. Or perhaps it was a creative writing professor who, on the first day of class, announced that genre writing was off limits—even though the story of our hearts was one of science fiction or horror.
“When are you going to write a real book?” the children’s book author is asked. Never mind that children’s books nurture the next generation of bookworms or that almost all of us can wax nostalgic about a beloved childhood tale. Or perhaps a romance novelist is greeted by strange looks and words of caution, as though great storytellers haven’t been telling love stories since before the novel was even an art form.
These experiences can plant seeds of doubt.
Maybe we feel we should give up writing and become an accountant—they’re always in demand. Maybe we feel we should write in another genre—something more palatable to Great Aunt Mable, who just can’t figure out why you’re wasting your time writing “smut.”
Many of these aren’t attempts at sabotage. My mother’s encouragement to pursue a teaching career was based on her belief that “society will always need teachers.” She didn’t want me to face hardship and disappointment, and I can appreciate that. Our creative writing professors were probably trying to encourage us to broaden our horizons, not to dampen our spirits. And maybe, just maybe, our spouse wants us to finish our latest WIP so we’ll come out of our writing den and join him for an adventure in the real world—you know, the one that allegedly exists outside of our heads and imaginations but that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t contains actual dragons?
And then, yes, there are some people who mean real harm. They mean to bend us to their will and make us see the error of our ways. They make us feel like this…
Maybe they think artists are egomaniacs who spend their days contemplating their navels. Maybe they think the genre we write in is shameful and they mean to “enlighten us.” Maybe they have their own hang-ups and issues and we’re just getting sucked into their Vortex of Crazy. Those who mean well can be reasoned with. Those who mean us harm need firmer boundaries—maybe electrified fences in some cases.
Remember: We are not alone.
There’s good news. There are a lot of people in this world who will support your writing career, even if you’re a fledgling novelist with nothing more than a notebook or computer file of disjointed scenes, a battered copy of “Writing down the Bones,” and a dream. Because every writer, in addition to facing the forces of self-doubt, will face outside forces that feed that doubt. It might be as simple as the stereotypical image of the struggling artist, or a crit partner or reviewer who simply hates our work even when others chime in with honest support and legitimate praise.
There are writing communities on the Web and in person, writing challenges to immerse ourselves in, conferences full of freaks like us. And all of those people, from the bestseller to the newbie, has faced many of the same challenges that we do. Other writers can offer words of encouragement, constructive criticism, practical advice, or simply a sympathetic ear.
If you are faced with someone who truly doesn’t support your work, you can turn to us—to Kristen Lamb and the awesome people you can meet on the WANA Tribe website, to the folks participating in Kait Nolan’s A Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge, and to fellow writer-bloggers, writer-tweeters, and writer-Facebookers who walk their own writing roads.
As Kristen says, “We are not alone.” And I just want those of you who are facing Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers to know that.
What about you? Were there moments when you faced someone who didn’t support your writing career? How did that make you feel? How did you overcome that negativity?
Midweek ROW80 check-in
We got our first real snowfall of the winter. Even for Southwest Virginia, that’s late in the season. I think the official total was around 2 inches. I can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but it is nice to look out the window and see a bit of white—until I realize I have to clean that white stuff off the car and traipse around in it with the dog. 😉
WIP progress: Sent chapter two of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic” off to critique partners. Continued work on chapter three; wrote 838 words. That word count should be higher, but I took Monday off to spend with hubby, running errands and finishing painting our bedroom.
Reading to hone my craft: Finished reading Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel,” which I highly recommend. The book includes a lot of exercises for writers who have a tendency to get stuck during the drafting process, as well as ways to more effectively research, plan, and plot your novel (even if you’re NOT a plotter) to make the process go more smoothly.
Blog Wednesdays and Sundays: So far, so good.
How are your ROW80 goals coming along this week? Are you shoveling yourself out where you live?