Does writing make you the black sheep of your family? The one who the others look at and mutter something about ‘always daydreaming’ with a shake of their heads? Yeah, me too.
When I was a child, I dreamt of having the sort of family who sat around reading books, sharing favourite passages and discussing the ideas the stories contained. Of having siblings I could hand my stories to and have them fall in love with the characters the way I had.
Do families like this exist? Maybe you were born into one. (If so, please tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear what it was like.)
My family are all sports mad. My mum read the occasional Mills & Boon, my dad would sometimes pick up a war history book. My brother barely read the newspaper – he was either outside doing something active or watching soap operas with my mum.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It was just that I had my nose in a book even before I could read – I would pretend to read – and I was hungry for someone to share the worlds I inhabited through reading and writing. And when I wasn’t reading, I was living in my imagination. My family, who live very much in the physical world, just don’t relate.
Now I’m an adult, when it comes to my writing, my family sits somewhere between proud and perplexed. That is, they like the fact that I write as long as I don’t try to talk to them about it.
I’m fine with that. I have a network of very supportive writerly friends – my writing family. They give me everything I dreamt of as a child, from honest feedback and helpful advice to support and inspiration. Plus we can talk about books for hours.
If you feel like being a writer makes you the black sheep, don’t allow that to be a bad thing. Embrace it. Being a writer means that not everyone in your life will understand the joy and heartbreak you go through, how easy it is to lose yourself in a world inside your head or how much work it takes to write something good enough to show other people (and how terrifying it is when you hand it over for the first time).
Seek out those who do get it and nurture those relationships. Create your own writing family, even if it’s only online. Join a book or writers’ group or start your own. Take a workshop and stay in touch with the people you meet there. Put a call out on social media for book loving or writing friends.
It can be hard when the people you love don’t get what you do and aren’t inclined to try. It can make you feel like they’re cancelling out an important part of who you are. Chances are they’re just not able to relate to it and don’t know how to join in the conversation, and are maybe too scared to try for fear of looking stupid.
Maybe they’re even envious and don’t know how to handle it, or never got to pursue their own dreams and don’t know how to encourage yours. Maybe the story they tell themselves is ‘you never get what you want’ so show their love by trying to protect you from aiming too high. Whatever the case, it’s really about them, not you.
If you can accept it’s not you they’re rejecting but a world they can’t inhabit or that it’s a reflection of their own fears, then it ceases to matter. It’s really just one thing they can’t share with you, so love them for things you can share and let it go.
If I had grown up in a family that was as enthusiastic about books and writing as I am, perhaps I would have never reached out to the people who now make up my writing family. And my life would be so much poorer for it.
Can you guess which one is me? At just 7 years old, I chose a graduation
costume rather than a pussy cat outfit for my dance recital.
How does your family react to your writing? Are they supportive? Were they into books and writing too or did they think you were crazy? I’d love to hear about it.