In my Thanksgiving post, after encouraging everyone to show your gratitude to the people who support your writing lives, I promised I’d answer this question:
“That’s great, Ron, but what if I don’t have people like that in my life? What if I have people who are actually a hindrance to my writing life?”
National Novel Writing Month is hard enough when everything is going your way. What do you do when you’re surrounded by people who tell you that writing a book is too hard, that you’re never going to finish it? Or that you might be able to finish it, but you’ll never find anyone who’s willing to publish it? That nobody’s going to want to read it? That, because it’s this kind of story, or that kind of story, it isn’t even a “real book”?
You need to remove those people from your life as much as possible. It isn’t always possible to do that completely—especially when they’re related to you—but even if you have to spend time around them, even if you’re forced to listen to them, you can keep them from taking up space inside your head and holding you back.
Why do you want to be a writer? It’s not to impress people like that. It’s because you have something that you need to share with everyone. You know going into it, of course, that you’re not likely to reach everyone, but you keep at it, to reach the people you can reach, because what you have to share with them is that important. So you deal with the haters the same way you deal with anything else that comes between you and your writing: You endure the experience, you come out the other end, and you go back to your writing the next chance you get.
I’m not saying you need to surround yourself with fatuous cheerleaders. The writing life is profoundly difficult. Your friends and loved ones should acknowledge that it takes a great deal of effort to write a book, that it’s no easy thing to find a literary agent who will represent you, or a publisher who wants to put the book out, that good books get published all the time and then don’t connect with as many readers as everyone involved hoped they would. But there’s a difference between acknowledging all of that and encouraging you to fight the odds anyway and acknowledging it and offering it to you as an excuse to quit before you’ve even really tried.
That’s the question behind all their negativity, isn’t it: Why are you even bothering? And the more clearly you can answer that question for yourself, the easier it is to keep up the effort. You’ll notice I said “answer that question for yourself.” Sure, you could spend time trying to explain it to them—but they don’t really want an answer. They don’t see the work as important because they don’t see the purpose as important, and your explanations probably aren’t going to convince them otherwise. Maybe the writing will, if you can get it done… but the time you spend getting into it with them is time you aren’t spending writing.
So go through whatever social niceties you have to go through until you can get away from those people, and then leave them behind mentally as well as physically. Focus on the writing practice; clarify your purpose in writing; work towards that purpose. Be who you’re meant to become. I can’t guarantee that their noise will ever fade completely… but with consistent practice, you’ll be able to tune it out more easily, whatever happens with the stories you create through that practice.