I received a heart-breaking Facebook message from a 15-year-old young man who asked me how to get his writing accepted. When I explained about polishing his words, agents, publishers, indie and the like, he replied: “For me, I come from an unsupportive family that doesn’t take writing as a talent or a valuable art. How can I practice in such conditions?”
My husband supports me unconditionally, often following me to my appearances. One son out of town reads my work and gives honest feedback. My sister-in-law in Iowa reads every book within days of release. Other than that, nobody else in my family has read my novels much, and definitely haven’t read any articles, blogs or other items I’ve published. While I thank my lucky stars for the three people I have, I know how that stings when family doesn’t care.
I told the young man this:
“At your age, it’s a matter of being well-read first and foremost, then attempting to write stories from what you’ve absorbed via those good authors. They are your family right now. You are young. You will be an adult in good time and be able to do what you wish, when you like, but in the meantime, read with a writer’s eye, seeing what makes for a grand story, great character, and snappy dialogue. Write as you can. And know that successful authors everywhere are in your corner.”
When family doesn’t believe in your writing, you do the following:
1) Join a writer’s group. Use it like a support group.
2) Read with a writer’s eye. Nobody puts down reading.
3) Write when you can: lunches, night, early mornings, outside, riding in the car, or while everyone else is watching TV.
4) Relate your interest in writing to your family member’s interest in something else. I once used my teenagers’ interest in playing hockey. Ask them how much time and money they “invest” in their sports, hunting, cars, video games, etc.
5) Carve out time and call it yours. It doesn’t have to be called writing time, but you use it as such. Just make sure you capitalize on it and write instead of doing other non-productive things.
6) Refuse to feel guilty about a beloved hobby/profession.
7) Display how much writing makes you whole . . . and happier. If you act grumpy, you accentuate their opinion.
8) Ask them when they’ll give up reading, watching television, going to movies, listening to music, playing online games, because a writer allowed all of those entertainment opportunities to happen.
9) When someone asks when you’ll do something other than “that writing stuff,” tell them you adore what you do. Eighty percent of the world hates their job, and you aren’t one of them.