A Disappointing Writer
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
It has been a heavy week, and all it took was a few harsh comments from a family member.
Writing is hard. All writer's know this. We labor over our work for months or years, we perfect it as much as we can, we love it, and then we send it out into the world with the knowledge that some people won't like it. That some people will be cruel in their disapproval. Still, writers seem to be the only people who know that these things we create are a tiny piece of our soul.
Writers seem to be the only people who realize it isn't just sitting down and writing. There is a lot of work involved in learning the craft and no one is making us do it. We are going out of our way to learn this. We are pushing ourselves to always be better than we were the day before. We are facing our fears head on every time we sit down to write. I think that's beautiful but apparently I'm the minority.
Two comments a family member made brought all this on. I was trying to share my excitement and talk about what I am working on... and I was shut down. The disappointment and mocking tone were clear.
1. Do you think you'll actually make money writing?
2. You're spending your time on this when you should be caring for your son. He won't be five forever and you're missing it.
What the fuck, right?
Or maybe not. Maybe those seem like valid questions to you. They did to me at first and that's why they made such an impact. But they aren't valid and I've spent enough time rolling them over in my head to be pissed that for one second I thought they were.
Do I think I'll make money writing?
Who cares! I can understand how this question might become valid for people who quit their job to pursue writing. Obviously, for most of them the goal is to replace that lost income. But still, who cares? For those people there is a formula: If I don't make X amount in X time, I'll go back to work. But what is that X amount? Only they can decide that and some might consider that number "not enough."
For me personally, that number is insanely low. For this first series I just want to make back what I put in. Most people can't manage my numbers, but I can. I already have no income, so nothing will really change. To me, anything over that is making money. However, I know that if I do reach that point it will likely take years. And for many that is just too long to wait. Too long to work for nothing. But writing is insanely personal and we all have to determine what we want out of it for ourselves.
I view this project as a job and I treat all this like a business. But it is sooo much more. I'm going to write no matter what. Call it a hobby if you want, but it sure as hell feels like more than that. I can't help it. I have to write for my own sanity. I like myself more when I'm writing. Something negative in me is released. Something that otherwise would weigh me down. Why the hell shouldn't I try to turn that into a career?
Flat out, this isn't about the money.
For the average writer, it would be safe to call this a hobby. They have jobs. They are productive members of society. They do shit. So why is it okay to question an artistic hobby but not a different one. It is perfectly fine to spend money on athletic clothing and a gym membership, but god forbid someone try to make money off their writing. Physical health is important but mental health... meh. My brain can't sort out the logic of this thinking. Why the hell wouldn't you want your hobby to make you money? Who doesn't want some form of recognition for putting in time and effort? Does the pursuit of that dream equate to a waste of time?
I sure as hell don't think so.
Am I missing out on my son's life?
This one is a little crazy for me to wrap my head around. I am a stay at home mom who homeschools... In what world am I not present? Back to the gym. If I spent an hour or two at the gym and threw my son in daycare that would be seen as a positive thing. Why is spending that time in the same room as my son but on the computer seen as missing out on his life?
And then there is another major issue I have with that statement. Since when did having children mean that I alone have to abandon my dreams and hobbies? My husband likes to golf. No one has an issue with him investing time and money in that, but I can't do the same. Why am I the only one held to that standard? It's the vagina, isn't it? Or is it back to the arts not qualifying as a worthy endeavor? Both, I think.
And yet another issue. Do I really want my son to see me with no life of my own? Do I want him to grow up thinking the world revolves around him? Is it healthy for him to grow up seeing a woman who gave up, not only her career, but her passions too, to stay home and raise children?
Not even a little bit.
What is wrong with someone taking time out of their day to pursue their goals? Even if they work, balance is not some mystical thing. Somehow my husband manages to work 12+ hours, play and spend quality time with our son, give me time to myself, and play guitar all in a single day. He's amazing, and so are plenty of other parents. There's also the little thing called bedtime. No one asked if I write after my son goes to bed. For the record, I don't, but there are loads of people who do. Or they wake up early for their writing time. I prefer that method, but again, no one asked me.
So there you have it, my rant of the week. I've been coming to some harsh truths because of this conversation.
1. Some people are never going to see value in this craft.
2. I really don't think publishing, especially self publishing, is going to change a thing.
3. Fuck 'em.
My husband and I have talked and talked about this and he's insanely supportive. Anyone else can kick rocks. It is a personal decision. One that requires taking a look at what success looks like to you. I'm pretty thankful that my standards are relatively low. Would I like to earn $100k in a year? Hell yes! Will my soul shrivel and die if I make $2k? Nah. But that is me. Everyone is different and their image of how they want their writing career to go is different. And that's wonderful! If everyone wanted the same things this would be a pretty bland world.
Ultimately, no one has the right to crush your dreams. Sure, ask these hard questions and learn the answers, but learn them for you! My version of success is vastly different than yours. My answers to these questions are different than yours. In the end, we're always going to disappoint someone. There will always be someone who sees no value in what we do. So I'm going to embrace that shit. I've decided I'm going to disappoint the hell out of them.
You do you.