Let me start by saying something controversial: People mean well.
In my worldview, they really do. They’re just sometimes extremely confused about how to be supportive.
Writers by necessity live in a somewhat insular world. We spend hours and hours alone with words and with the people in our heads. We get excited over things like point of view and the denouement and world building. We spend our hard-earned money to go to conferences, take classes, and enter contests. We collect rejection letters.
Regular people often do not get us.
They don’t understand that for some of us, writing is an engaging and enjoyable hobby, and just as if we were, say, snow-skiers, we’re spending our money on our hobby. Some of us are working toward the end goal of publishing, and like anyone else pursuing a goal, we’re getting training and coaching and mentoring from others who have gone before us. This is called planning for success.
But still, no matter how well we explain it, people sometimes don’t get us. What people don’t understand, they tend to judge. This is just human nature. I wish I could say that those who love us most and spend the most time with us aren’t naysayers, but the hard truth is that sometimes they are.
We might not want to cut these folks out of our lives, but we also don’t want to live with the negative energy they carry around.
So, what can we do?
First Things First
We start dealing with Naysayers by cultivating confidence in our own choices.
This is easier said than done, but I hope the tips in this little section will give you some ideas on how to build a stronger foundation to help you respect your own work.
Find your tribe
Never underestimate the supportive power of the group.
When we’re surrounded by people who don’t get us or what we’re doing, then also surrounding ourselves with like-minded people – especially creatives – can be hugely valuable. A once-a-month writing chapter meeting or a weekly critique group discussion is sometimes enough support so that we can start feeling good and keep feeling good about what we’re doing. They understand what our challenges are, and can provide great tools and tips from their own experience to help you stay motivated about your story.
If you’re in a situation where you can’t meet your tribe face-to-face, online groups are available. You may be able to use videoconferencing (or Apple’s FaceTime or Skype) to connect with other writers.
A supportive tribe embraces you (figuratively or literally), accepts your work, gives you honest feedback, laughs with you, cries with you, and leaves you feeling stronger than when you arrived.
Get serious (and vocal) about your writing schedule
A difficult truth is that we teach people how to treat us.
If we don’t take our writing time seriously and therefore tolerate random interruptions or allow ourselves to be enticed to play hooky, then others won’t take our writing time seriously, either.
On the other end of the commitment spectrum, there’ve been times when the Significant Other and I have butted heads over our respective schedules, and nine times out of ten, it’s because I haven’t said to him, “Hey, babe, I’m going to switch my writing hours to the afternoon instead of the morning.”
Sharing our own schedule while respecting those of our family members is an act of
connection. If I don’t say anything about what I’m doing or when, I’m basically creating a problem with those closest to me when suddenly I’m not around to help with the yard or the kids.
Other people’s feelings are not your responsibility (or your fault)
Ah, the misunderstandings here that result in terrible pain for all concerned! For some
reason, we think we have control over another person’s feelings. When you think about it, that’s sort of like believing we have control over another person’s digestive system.
If you’ve laid the groundwork for your writing time by letting the household and/or friends know you’ll be out of pocket for some number of hours on such-and-such days, then you’ve done your part: You’ve made your schedule public to the folks who need to know.
But naysayers can be sensitive creatures, and they may feel resentful, angry, abandoned, or sad if you don’t drop everything to pay attention to them when they demand you do so. If they give random pieces of uninformed advice, they might feel those emotions when they see you are making your own decisions despite their attempts to guide you.
Good news: You are not responsible for their disappointment or frustration. Their
For next time
The next post on Naysayers will outline some of the types of naysayers we can run into and provide some strategies for working with negativity.
Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.