One night when I was tucking my six year old son into bed he asked, “Mom, when are you going to be done with your writing?”
I wrinkled my brow. “What do you mean, honey?”
“Will you be finished once you’re done writing this book?”
I brushed my hand over his stubbly hair. “Nope. I have to write another after this one.”
“Oh.” His big brown eyes peered up at me and melted my heart. “I liked it better when you didn’t have to sit at the computer so much.”
How could I possibly explain to a six year old the honor of getting a three book deal with a major publishing company? How could his little mind comprehend the magnitude of my lifetime dream coming true? How could he ever conceive how hard I’d worked to get to this point?
To him, my writing is an inconvenience, something he’d like to go away, much like an annoying cold. And sometimes I get the feeling others in my life think the same thing as my six year old, only they have the tact not to say it those exact words.
The fact is that family and friends won’t always understand the scope of the writing life and the dreams we have. Usually they express that misunderstanding in subtle ways.
Sometimes we get a blank, disinterested look when we start talking about our writing. Other times we get the feeling they think we’re obsessed with it. Even worse is when a friend knows how excited we are about writing, but doesn’t ask us about it—as if it’s a taboo topic.
Friends and family may not "get" our love of writing on a personal level. And quite frequently they don't know much about the publishing industry, period. We’ve all heard statements like these:
“Oh you’re a writer? Where can I buy your book?” Uh, the book isn’t out yet.
“I’ve got lots of story ideas too. If only I had more time. . .” As if we write because we have SO much more free time on our hands.
“You’re getting a book published? Wow, you’re going to be rich and famous like so-and-so author!” Yep. And I’m lucky I could actually use my advance to cover the cost of my printer ink this year.
Let’s face it, most people just don’t understand what it takes to get published. There are even writers who haven’t immersed themselves into the current publishing industry and who are naïve about the process of publication. I was ignorant before I made an effort to read agent and editor blogs.
The misunderstandings come from within our close circles and without. Sometimes they sting. Other times they downright stab. So how do we deal with them?
I couldn’t expect my 6 year old to comprehend the depths of my writing passion or the ins and outs of my writing career. And I really can’t expect others too either. I didn’t try to explain to my son the details of my contract and how many years I’ve been writing. Maybe I need to take the same approach with others:
• Tell myself they probably won’t “get it.” But if they do, then I’ll make them my newest best friend for life. Seriously, is it really worth the effort to try to educate every person we talk to? Or is better just to point them in right direction with an agent blog or two?
• Keep my complaints and irritation under wraps. Yes, it's easy to want to blog about the frustrations of dealing with all the mistakes and myths people have about writing and publishing. But I have to remember humiliating people isn't the answer. So I usually commiserate and vent with a few close writing friends who can truly understand.
• Realize that I will probably misunderstand others at some point too. I won’t “get” things that are important to them. But hopefully I can use my own frustrations at being misunderstood to spur me to be more sensitive to the interests of others.
What about you? Have you experienced the frustration of having people misunderstand you and your writing? How do you deal with it?