Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Support me. Be my ALLY in all I do, my ADVOCATE for this career, my MAINSTAY and COMFORTER through the rough patches, my FRIEND and HELPER when I ask it, my PILLAR to lean on, DEFENDER and CHAMPION against critics, my SPONSOR, SUPPORTER, SUBSCRIBER and FAN , my COHORT and PATRON through it all...SUPPORT me.

According to Thesaurus.com, these are all synonyms for SUPPORT.

Since returning to my everyday routine, I've been thinking more and more about a writer's support structure and I've been wondering about the challenges each writer faces. I can speak to my own issues with consistency and drive, my seemingly (but improving) lack of support from friends and family and what I do to combat those issues. And I will speak to them.

To my fellow bloggers and our small and growing readership, I ask for advice or for you to commiserate with me on this topic. What kind of support structure do you have when it comes to writing? How does it affect your writing or your drive to write?

For the past week, I've been waging a battle with my husband. He wants me to succeed as a writer, but (I don't think) doesn't understand what I need from him. I want to be clear; I'm not using him as an excuse for not getting my pages completed--that is entirely on me. I would, however, appreciate a little understanding that life cannot go on as it has the last four years. Since graduating I have not completed a single work of fiction. Not one. I have not written a short story, I have not finished a novel, I haven't written a single sentence that has contributed to a story arc that has come to any sort of conclusion. This is my opportunity to change it. I am recharged with purpose--a purpose that is slowly being siphoned away from me every day.

I've considered support structure as both an excuse and a reason. Do I use his lack of enthusiasm for my “calling” as an excuse to let it slide away? I have a social life, a full-time job, a pet, a husband, a family—I have demands on my life. When it is easier to not write than to write, is it fair to say that all or none of these are more important than this dream of mine? Shouldn’t I be making every effort to make this dream come true even if it is at the expense of all things listed above? If I am struggling with understanding the balance, is it fair for me to expect my husband to know where the line has been drawn?

So what is support structure? I guess it depends on the person you’re looking at to shoulder your writing burden. For my husband, I would hope he’d take a look around and think, “What can I do to enable my wife to write?” This burden is large, I do admit. My expectations for him range from helping me clean the house so I don’t look at it and think, “I need to clean the toilet, we have guests coming over” or “ I can’t think much less write when I have dog hair tumbleweeds rolling across my living room floor”. And I’m not even mentioning the dishes or laundry. I know he wishes for my success but doesn’t see his role in all this.

Are they excuses? Without a doubt. My specific needs require these excuses to be taken away and I’ve been asking for help. Asking and asking with no results. Even a regularly loaded Caribou card and a push out the door would be beneficial. But then, I can’t even get him to read a simple page long blog post. Can you hear the violins swelling in sympathy?

What about the secondary support—friends and other family members? They should be your biggest fans, right? Hmmm. I spend my free time, mostly, with a certain “type” of individual. What these people are or are not is not as important as the fact that they are not readers. I don’t think someone needs to be a writer to understand writing, however, I believe a person needs to at least be a reader to “get it”. Though my family reads, they aren’t readers—with exception of my sister and maybe my mom when she has time. And most of my friends don’t read. They know HOW to read, but they don’t do it.

Impressions are everything, are they not? I have always been under the impression that my parents and sister view my writing as something new I’m just trying out because I’m bored—as a hobby (I hate that word). Actually, they regard the visual arts I produce with more respect. Whenever I talk about writing around them, they seem bored and I feel like a two year old who just did something precious and received a pat on the head for my efforts. They mean well, they mean to be supportive and maybe it's a lack on my part. I'm not getting what I need and I don't know how to communicate that to them.

I have experienced similar reactions from friends. I guess I’m more forgiving of their bored attitude because they aren’t my family. They choose to spend time in my company and while they should care about what makes you tick and what you’re passionate about…sometimes they only want to hang out with someone they kind of like. And I understand that. Of course I’m speaking of the majority. I do of course have friends who read often and discuss books and writing with me. I do have friends who write—okay, one friend—and it has helped.

Will my expensive writing education will only be rationalized when I become a published author? Will the general disinterest in my writing from those around me make me less inclined to share my success with them? Well, yes. It already has. Is this a problem from a marketing standpoint? Absolutely. If I don't share, how can I get those guaranteed sales when I do get published? Why should I only be allowed to share the wins but not the struggle or the losses? Is this a greater example of American competitiveness as a whole or simply my personal experience?

One last paragraph rife with questions to wrap up this rant of mine. What is the solution to creating a support structure? If telling isn’t enough—and it never is in any context—how do you show would-be supporters what you need from them? Or how do you find the motivation despite them? What keeps the keyboard clicking? How DO you keep going without your own personal cheer squad in your corner?

I don’t know the answers.

In the end, I know there is only one person responsible for getting it done. That’s me. This year is my year to prove to myself I can do it and to hell with everyone who pats me on the head. But I do long for something better than this.

Thank you for reading my rant.
~ D


  1. Wow -- this moved me. It hits close to home. I have a good friend who would make fun of me (seriously make fun of me) every time she heard that I was going to read or going to write. After years of this, I've had to pull away from this friend. Now, I'm not suggesting you do that, but it's the path I had to take with this one friend. She just didn't get how it was important to me. It still really bothers me. I mean, come on, who makes fun of someone for liking to read?!?!

    I'm lucky because my husband's a writer (in fact, that goody two shoes is writing as we speak).

    I think we should set schedules for ourselves. Would that help us?

    Make New Hampshire the state that gets your writing groove back.

  2. My grove is already coming back, you know. It is frustrating and disheartening but I think in the end, you, me, or whoever is struggling with this needs to take a step back and say, "Hey, this is important to me and you need to get on the bus or I'm running you over."

    And honestly, the poeple I can't share this aspect of my life with are people who really don't know me that well anyway. Despite knowing me for YEARS. The friends I've madde since living in MN on my own are friends who understand. I guess that's all that matters.

    As for a schedule....do you really think that will work? It never has in the past.

  3. We are your support group... if you ever feel like you need an affirmation, write to us. People believe writing is a magic thing and it is, but they can't believe that anyone they know is capable of it. Don't let them bring you down. You will publish and then they'll get it.

  4. My support structure is pretty weak, actually.

    There comes a point when you have to review where you are in your life and make little sacrifices where you can to get those pages written. Maybe it's not getting together with friends on a particular night, making sure everyone (husband, family, and friends) understands this is your writing time and sitting yourself down and writing. Even if it's crap, it's something.

    As far as husband goes, it might be necessary to spell it out for him. "Tonight, you do the dishes, because I need to write." Yes, need to.

    Friends and family can only be supportive to a point. They may not understand this drive you've got. Honestly, very few people outside of writers, musicians, and other creative minded folk understand how we tick. They have a perception of "Writer" and how a "Writer" lives and how they write, but they don't understand how we, as writers think.

    I've had to realize that, though my friends support me in a "that's cool you want to write, but you need money to live" kind of way, they can't offer the words of encouragement that other writers can. I've come to believe that only writers (and a few amazingly special people) understand other writers, how they think, what they need, how they need to be spoken to, etc.

    The solution? You come to a moment when you realize that your best support structure are your writer friends. Us. Sometimes you have to back away from the friends and family who don't understand, and lean heavily on those of us who know, who've been there. There's no shame in that. There's nothing wrong with keeping quiet to friends and family about your dreams and talking about writing only to your writer friends. We understand. We know. We're living it right along with you.

    So if you need words of kind support, or a swift kick in the backside to get motivated, or someone you trust to read a first draft, let us know. We're here for each other.

    Happy Writin's!
    Gary . . .

  5. Yes, yes, you guys are awesome. I KNOW this of course! Just don't fade out after a couple of months like usual, okay? I need you to keep me grinding away!

  6. It's funny, I have ranted about how I would just wish family memebers would leave me alone when I write. They mean well and try to to help me out when I can, but like Gary said, they don't get how we think. I have a constant line I tell my mother, "I just need a few hours to myself." She agrees, and not an hour later i get a call or a knock on the door asking if I need anything. Which just causes frustration and then makes it even harder to work.

    I think what a lot of people don't get is that while a majority of writers are introverts, writing isn't introverted. If they had a friend who meditated for 5 hours everyday, they would make sure not to disturb them if they didn't have to. But tell them you are writing, they think you can do that anytime and that you should come out with them for a while.

    It's mind boogling, and probably why I become more and more a recluse each day. And I think that at somepoint point those that are intergral in your lie will figure it out (despite how many times you have to beat it into them) or they just won't and have to find a way around that fact so they don't hamper your ability to create. Those that aren't, well, if you had to suddenly move to Batswana, both you and the pother people would have to deal with the change. Think of it just like that, just instead of a physical move, its a metaphysical one.

  7. I would give the advice that people aren't likely to take something more serious than you take yourself. If the efforts are consistently just words, the support is likely going to be the same. I hope that doesn't come across as demeaning (non-writer guy here), but as you mentioned in your post you haven't written one sentence in four years that has contributed to a story arc.

    If a web designer hasn't made a website in four years, would people still consider him a professional? If a baseball player hasn't had a hit in four years, what would people think of his desire to really get better?

    At some point, you have to start the process yourself. Instead of waiting for a Caribou card, go to a lake and write at a table (or bring a chair.) Instead of going to a coffee shop, hang out in a mall food court. Take your laptop to a library and find a comfy corner. You don't even have to leave the house to avoid being in eyesight of cleaning - the rarely used "family room" downstairs is fully furnished.

    Once people see that you are taking your own efforts seriously, they are likely to work harder at supporting you to greater heights.

  8. Wow, Scott. I'd chastise you for calling me out on my post but I brought up the subject. Honestly, I never thought you'd read it since you're reluctant to read anything I do write.

    You make valid points. I can argue why none of them work for me. I also make valid points, which wouldn't hurt you to acknowledge instead of attack. But since I started it, I guess that's okay.

    Just do me one small thing even if you don't see the reason of anything I said in my post. When I send you something, read it. Then I won't get pissed and write a 2 page ranting blog post about you.