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Weekend Writing Inspiration: Can You Release Familial Fears Getting In The Way of Your Writing?

January 25, 2019
4 min read time
"How can I rid myself of the fears around writing and being an artist that my family project onto me?"
As many myths and misconceptions about art and writing abound as real challenges facing the artist, it’s easy to get fearful — parents and family members especially — around our ability to “succeed” as writers. Because our families play such a powerful role in forming our psyches when we’re young, when they project their fears onto us, we tend to internalize those fears and doubts, making them our own.


In addition, the natural and unconscious loyalty we tend to feel for our families can lock us into living in alignment with these internalized fears, causing us to self-sabotage the closer we move to being the writers we want to be.

Let’s take a look at two of the most common familial fears we might internalize, and their antidotes: the fear of not making “enough” money, and how that artists and writers are “crazy.”

The fear of not making enough money

When I was in the sixth grade, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I told my parents about that dream over dinner one evening. They looked stricken, saying something like, “Well… [insert long awkward pause here]… you can’t really make enough money as a writer.”

Oh! I didn’t know that. Quick as lightning, and wanting their approval, I dismissed my precious dream and asked what I could do that would make enough money. This small moment caused me to venture off on an entirely different career track, and it took many years for me to circle back to my original dream and reclaim it as my own. I hear similar stories all the time.

The reality is, making a full-time living from writing can be challenging. Many professional writers round out their income with other work. I run a coaching business in addition to my pursuit of writing. My ultimate goal is that the higher percentage of my income will eventually come from my writing — but I’m not necessarily expecting it.

I’ve always appreciated Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on this; which is essentially not to put the burden of earning her income on her writing. She sees writing as something she’s responsible for supporting, along with supporting herself, by working as a waitress and in many other jobs along the way. Right now, her books generate enough income and she fully appreciates that her writing is supporting her, while also being mindful that it may not always be that way. (For more on this, read Gilbert’s book Big Magic or listen to her “Magic Lessons” podcast.)

So, the key antidote to the “fear of not making enough money” is to accept responsibility — and be clear with yourself on the how — by creating a lifestyle that financially supports you and your writing, regardless of what your family thinks, says, or does. Having a “day job”, ideally on the easier end of the spectrum, is a good way to meet your base financial needs and commitments, while creating space and support for your writing.

You’ll also want to give some thought to what “enough money” and “success” actually mean to you, so you can disaggregate yourself from our collective consciousness and set goals that are meaningful to you.

The fear of being “crazy”

Many people think artists are “crazy” — or will become that way. There are enough stories about artists and writers struggling with isolation, mental illness, drugs, and alcohol that it’s not impossible to see where this fear stems from.

I believe there’s also something deeper going on.

Artists are visionaries. We see truth in what’s happening around us in the world, and we feel compelled to share that vision. Whether we’re writing documentaries about the problems we see, writing action or humor to support people through dark times, or designing futuristic worlds to wake people up to what could happen, in some way, we’re speaking the truth. Not everyone likes that. It’s uncomfortable.

Our culture tends to avoid the discomfort of facing the truth, taking responsibility, or worse — avoid change by shaming, bullying, and scaring those who speak up. Just think, it’s only recently that #metoo victims have been able to come forward and be believed, without being shamed and attacked.

Shaming and scaring artists and writers, making us feel less-than or like our actions are dangerous, is a way of keeping the unknown boxed-in, and everyone else “safe.” This helps maintain the status quo and protects us collectively from being exposed to truths and new ways of seeing the world. But wait! As writers, isn’t it our job to share what we see?

The antidote: 1) Remember we are visionaries and truth tellers that the world (and yes, ever our own families) may feel uncomfortable with — and that’s okay. 2) Self-care by surrounding ourselves with a community of writers who support each other to keep on, even when everyone else is wondering what the heck we’re doing, or even actively trying to dissuade us.

Create change through your daily choices

Here’s the thing. Fears and doubts are insidious and often difficult to rid ourselves of entirely. They find new ways to creep into our psyche, internally and externally. We can’t control what other people think, say, feel, or do; just as much as they can’t control us.

What we can do instead is make constant daily choices to write regularly, remind ourselves that others are not in charge of our lives, make sure we choose a supportive community, and keep tuning into what’s actually real. We are in charge of how much money we earn. We are in charge of taking care of ourselves. We are in charge of fulfilling our call to write.

Make daily choices to not live in alignment with the fears and doubts of others, and instead be true to ourselves; that’s how we create true change in our lives.

Your weekend writer’s assignment

Spend some time with your journal this weekend. What fears and doubts have you internalized from your parents (or teachers or our culture) around being an artist? Do you think you might be self-sabotaging in order to “live down” to those fears? What can you start doing instead to reclaim your power?

Stay tuned for next week’s article, where I’ll share more about how to antidote the negative inner dialogue that gets in your way.

Got questions you want answered?

After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write Founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself more as writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to finaldraft@calledtowrite.com or via Jenna’s online form at  https://calledtowrite.com/final-draft and she may choose your question to answer anonymously in a future article. 

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