When Friends & Family Poo Poo You
Is it human nature to discourage or disparage others when they try to better themselves or follow their dreams? Perhaps, sometimes. Still, to train or school at a profession for years to a decade is generally lauded, but to chase success in any of the arts might more often than not bring ridicule, or at least advice to the contrary. Though, reality does teach many ‘starving artists’ how few creative dreamers ‘make it big’, and why having a ‘fall back’ day job or a career to live on, is generally the necessity.
Too many people seem more inclined to boo you, than to cheer you on in arts. That can hurt when it’s just strangers or acquaintances, but when it’s your inner circle people you should be able to lean and count on, and especially to trust with your feelings and hopes, it hurts the most. If you’re being dismissed or discouraged by the very people who should be encouraging you, do not dismay. Simply realize that far too oft, those who should support you the most, may poo poo you instead. They have their reasons, rational or not.
When your community poo poos your aspirations, it makes those dreams feel all the more ‘against all odds’. ‘You against the world’. On your own, without support. You feel left painting, singing, playing or writing on a desert island, with no agent, publisher or anybody with the power to give you a life raft to the big ship. You wait for your ship to come in, and your SOS flag doesn’t seem seen by a single stranger, let alone a friend.
As to writers specifically, how many times have you been told or asked by those you know, things like, ‘Everybody and their dog is writing a book’, ‘Who do you think you are to be writing a book?’, ‘Why in heck do you think you are the authority on this subject?’, ‘With all the books out there, how could yours possibly get noticed?’, ‘Are you going to vanity publish, then?’ (with jeers/sneers), ‘Do you really think you’ll ever make any money writing?’ and ‘Don’t waste your time – why bother?’ because ‘Your book will never go anywhere.’ These ‘friends’ might as well just outright call you a complete loser. Right?
Initially surprisingly to me, above were a few of the types of comments/queries that I encountered from extended family, friends and neighbors, when I wrote my first book (and then when my query letters went out to publishers years ago). Actually, these unsupportive reactions shocked me at that time. It became somewhat more understandable from those who had long talked of writing a book but had never actually and finally done it (and therefore had their related inner bitterness or regrets), but the overall negativity seemed unexplainable from so many others that I knew. People I thought of as good friends: why were they dumping on me like that? I had thought they’d have cheered me on. Wrong.
Being more the type who cheers people on in their pursuits, creative or otherwise, I’ve never quite comprehended being unnecessarily critical, raining on somebody’s parade, dashing their hopes, taking the winds out of somebody’s sails, kicking somebody when they were down, and that sort of unsupportive thing. What’s the point in such unkindness?
While I was launching my writing canoe mostly solo back then, I forged on in spite of the general surrounding negativity, and I did get a deal from an old publisher, and then I did it again and again. That was my jump into writing non-fiction books. Did I finally get some respect from the people who hadn’t believed in me and my dream? I don’t know. I don’t really care. I learned not to worry so much about what other people thought. People will think what they will. I’ve got my own thoughts and pursuits to focus on.
When I finally started writing fiction a few years ago, it was the same old thing again. The same negative attitudes. The same poo pooing. The same, ‘Who do you think you are?’ or ‘What are you trying to prove?’ and then it was, ‘How dare you mention your book at my party!’ (or in ‘my house’ or even ‘my presence’), or, ‘If anybody should be writing a novel, it should be me, not you.’ and more than twice, even, ‘I’ve got a degree majoring in English literature: I’m going to write a novel one of these years, but you?, what’s your degree?, HOW DARE YOU presume to write novels.’
Yes, I’ve basically experienced this sort of thing even from supposedly nearest dearest. Former friends, you might say. I’ve come to wonder why it is that so many people don’t mind if I mention a painting I’m working on (or gardening, sewing projects etc.) but for me to even mention a hint of my latest novel work, even after someone has just asked me what I’m up to lately, is tres taboo. Strange.
Why is it that ‘other’ people sometimes react so negatively to any of us announcing that we are writing a book? If we, as writers, instead said we were jumping into a new job, launching towards most any other career aspiration, schooling efforts or practicing another craft, we more likely would meet with a, ‘good for you’. So why does trying to become an author initiate such negative reactions? I still don’t quite get it.
Yes, plenty of people have soundly poo pooed me, even after my getting a number of novels out there. Consequently, I have learned by sad experience to write my novels incognito, saying as little as I possibly can to anyone about what I’m working on lately. In my social circles, I’ve learned to keep myself to myself, and my novels under my hat.
So, if you are starting on your writing road, you might want to keep your book to yourself a while, because unless you are surrounded by walking angels who support your dreams, get ready to get sharply poo pooed. Some people just can’t help themselves.