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Weekend Writing Inspiration: When Your Family Doesn't Support (Or Understand) Your Writing Career

December 14, 2018
5 min read time
“With the holiday season looming, do you have any suggestions on how to deal with my family who doesn’t “get" my writing?”

The holidays are coming up and chances are you’ll be spending time with your family of origin — and experiencing all the blessings and challenges that brings.

It could be a difficult time, particularly if your family members don’t support or “get” your vocation as a writer. If you’re lucky enough to have their support and enthusiasm, enjoy it! If not, read on.

Whether you’re getting the dreaded, ‘why don’t you just get a real job?’ or ‘are you still working on that screenplay?’ questions, or simply sensing disapproval when your sibling’s lucrative career is being lauded in your presence, it can be disheartening and discouraging — just at a time when you’re gearing up for a new year of writing. 

Below are some thoughts to hold close as you navigate doubts or disapproval that may come up in your family (or friend) gatherings.

Remember who you are

No matter what anyone thinks, you and I know this: You are a writer. Period. Others may not get it, but what matters is that you do. You’re called to write, you must write, you know you’re miserable when you don’t write. Therefore, not writing isn’t even an option. You are a writer.

Knowing this and holding it close to your heart can help you stay strong inside, even as you weather an external storm.

Shore up your vision

When you’re facing doubts (your own or those of others), it helps to tune into your vision for your writing career. Remind yourself what you’re striving to achieve; why you’re doing it, what’s important to you about it, and the steps to help you get there.

It’s easy to stay on track when you deeply know what you’re aiming to do (look for a future article with more on this subject coming soon).

Remember that most non-writers really don’t get it

Most non-writers think the way to write is to sit down and type something out until it’s done. They don’t understand or even comprehend the enormity of plotting and designing an entire story and world from scratch, nor the countless revisions and collaboration necessary to screenwriting.

So when they ask you questions that feel inane; imply you ‘should be done by now,’ or don’t acknowledge that this isn’t a matter of writing one screenplay and being done (but is in fact a long-term career choice, which means you’ll be writing many, many screenplays), remember that they’re not (necessarily) intending to insult you. They simply don’t understand. In this case, you can kindly explain how the industry works, or even just say, ‘yep, still writing!’ and move on.

Know that some people will never get it

No matter how much you explain, some family members (or friends) will never understand your call to write. And while your calling doesn’t give you a free pass for not earning an income while you’re breaking into the industry, it does give you permission to ignore the people who make rude comments about getting “real" jobs, telling you to give up on what they see as fruitless efforts, or suggesting that you might be wasting your time.

You can say something like, ‘I’m making the choices that work for me’ or even, ‘let’s agree to talk about something else,' and leave it at that.

When the doubts creep in

All of us — because we’re human — have doubts about our choices that crop up from time to time. It doesn’t make them right or true; but they tend to show up when we run into challenges with things like getting traction in the industry, wrestling with knotty writing problems, or even just being tired or worn out. At times like this, it’s easy to believe the doubts. And when you’re around other people who might not support you, it’s easy to pick up on their doubts and let them take over.

If this happens, go back to the beginning. Remember who you are — a writer — and then remind yourself that every time you seriously contemplate giving up, you always come back to it. You can decide to reconsider when you’re in a better place; but right now, it’s off the table.

Use the experience in your writing

When you’re dealing with difficult personalities, you can choose to see the experience as a resource for writing. Think of it this way: You’re getting an up-close, visceral and personal experience of what it’s like to be unsupported by the people you love. Now you can bring that depth to your characters in a powerful way; you know it from the inside out. This is where “write what you know” pays off.

Be the hero of your own story

And while you’re at it; think of this, too: Every hero faces challenges on their journey — both internal and external — and their ultimate success is driven by their inner determination, courage and drive to succeed in the face of those obstacles.

Recognize that dealing with difficult family members is part of your story — and don’t let it stop you.

Your weekend writer’s assignment

If you know you’re likely to face doubts or challenges from your family over the holidays, start by reminding yourself of your vision and intentions for your writing career and how you intend to get there. Then, take a few minutes to write down what’s likely to come up from your family members (or friends), and how you might choose to address them. Being armed with a few kind-but-firm phrases in your back pocket — whether it’s something you say to reassure and comfort yourself, like ‘I'm a writer, no matter what,’ or something you say to them like, ‘yep, still writing!’ — will make it easier to face them, regardless of what they say.

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 as a writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your most pressing questions to finaldraft@calledtowrite.com or via Jenna’s online form and she may choose your question to answer in a future article. 

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