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Friends and Family

I was speaking to a writer friend the other day and she asked me this question –

How do you get friends and family to recognize your writing?

For a few moments I was stuck for an answer and then I realized why – I have been asking myself that same question for years.

It does seem strange, but the people you most expect to accept and support you as a writer, your friends and your family, are the ones least likely to do so. I have heard this from writers of my acquaintance and have logged into online discussion topics covering the question, which seems to pop up quite frequently. Everyone wants to know why those closest to them don’t want to talk about what they do.

Why is this?

Who knows – other occupations like doctors, lawyers, teachers, shop keepers, seamstresses, labourers, factory workers, dentists, chefs, artists, actors, singers, don’t seem to have this problem.

For instance, when was the last time you met someone and offered your congratulations on their son gaining a role on the latest TV sensation, or their daughter passing her Bar exam – and the person changed the subject?
Wouldn’t happen, would it? Pride would emanate from them and you would be treated to a blow by blow account of their child’s journey to that particular point. You would probably have a job changing the subject yourself.

It’s rather inexplicable, really. Maybe they are frightened we might write about some past episode in which they were involved and would rather keep hidden – or worried we might use them as characters for our stories and reveal all their failings and funny habits.

Perhaps they think we are rising above ourselves by daring to think we can write something someone would want to read? After all, a great number of writers have no actual formal training as in university Degrees and Study Diplomas – it begins for so many simply as a compulsion to write, to record, to tell a story.

Of course, they could always pick up our latest book and have a read. But then that might mean that they would have to make comments, say nice things about it and, worse, what if they hated it? What would they say then? Far better to stay uninformed and far too busy to spend time reading our nice little, or horrid little, book.

I’m only hypothasizing here because I don’t actually know. But when I consider my own family, which is quite large, I have only five people who I feel comfortable talking to about my books and who read everything I write with a willingness that used to surprise, and still humbles, me. As for friends, it’s a much smaller number – one.

For these few dear ones’ support and belief in me I will always be grateful – and I suppose it doesn’t really matter what the others think. There is a huge world out there of people who don’t know me and who buy what I write and send me lovely emails. That’s what makes it all worthwhile and builds up my spirits, because it’s a lonely occupation and often (but not always, thankfully) for little reward.

I need to say here that I have a gloriously funny family of kind-hearted souls – they just don’t get it with my writing. But that’s okay – it appears to be a universal problem for writers.

Getting back to my friend, I asked her, “How strongly do you feel compelled to write?”
“Totally and utterly,” she replied and added, “I can’t think of anything else I have ever wanted to do as badly, and have dreamed about for as long.”

There it was – as simple and straightforward an answer as though I had asked Einstein the same question about physics.

I then told her (and myself) to put her worries aside and just get on with the job of doing what she loved.

If you have a similar concern, do the same as my friend – try putting it aside and start focusing more deeply on your writing. You would probably have to win the Booker or the Nobel prize for Literature for them to start taking you seriously anyway, so why waste time fretting, it can only distract you from what you want to and should be doing.

Besides, if they have never taken the time to read anything you have written, they can’t really claim to have a valid opinion – so just drop it. If you believe you are here to write then that is what you must do and, who knows, maybe one day it will be you taking that call from Booker or Nobel – well, it could happen – and when you appear on the Oprah show as the next BIG thing in literature, I think you can feel safely assured that everyone is going to take notice.

Dreams are free – use them liberally.




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