How to Survive Having a Writer in Your Family
So, your daughter, or nephew, or cousin has decided to come out of the closet. Perhaps, they were outed by their English teacher, or a not-so-well-hidden journal under their pillow. Maybe you even figured it out on your own, what with the sides of their hands constantly stained with pencil graphite and the rapid clickity-clack of a computer keyboard at midnight. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, you’re being bombarded with words and concepts like Antagonist, Try-Fail Cycle, and possibly even that dreaded phrase: Self-Publishing. You have absolutely no idea what is going on in your family member’s mind, and, frankly, with their head constantly in the clouds, you’re pretty worried about them. So, what are you supposed to do?
This article is designed especially for you non-writers out there, struggling with this concept of living with a writer in your family. Now, pay attention closely. We’re not only going to dispel some myths that might be keeping you up at night for fear of your loved one being hauled off to the CIA headquarters due to the content of their search history (don’t worry – they won’t… usually), but we’ll explain how you can turn your awkward attempts at throwing some humor into the mix of their ever so serious book discussion into something more constructive.
Are you ready? Here we go.
The first thing you need to understand is that your family member is not broken. They are not mentally deranged, or speaking in tongues. While it might be very strange for you to think of a situation that is entirely impossible – say someone blasting a ball of fire out of their hands – it is entirely normal to them. A writer’s mind never stops. Have you noticed that perhaps they are always tired, or they don’t sleep well at night? This is because it is very difficult for their minds to shut off. Remember that the next time they look visibly sick at the thought of the mountain of laundry piling up. They aren’t lazy. It’s that all of their energy is being put into new ideas. And you know what? They really can’t help it very much.
However, I do understand where this can get frustrating. After all, we can’t live in these made up fantasy lands all the time. Steampunk pirate tales can’t take the dog for a walk, or pick up the kids from day care.
So what can you do?
The best thing to do is negotiate a specific time every day that your writer can dedicate to their work without interruption. Sometimes, because their minds are so focused on figuring out how their character is going to escape from the villain’s dungeon, they completely forget to take the recycling to the curb. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your writer’s habits won’t be broken so easily either. But respecting that your writer needs time to dedicate to their art, while effectively and respectfully reminding them that the real world is still important to, can go a long way in ensure that the kitchen floor gets mopped every week – at least most of the time.
But you barely understand what they’re talking about! How can you begin to effectively communicate when they’re spewing off ideas about the concepts of warp drive and the average speed of a red-tailed hawk if it was overcast with a slight tail wind? Don’t worry. Your writer had no idea what a lot of these things were when they first began studying the art of writing either. Acronyms such as MC and WIP were just as foreign to them a while back as they are to you now. Trust me when I say it’s okay to ask them. You will probably see your writer light up in a way you haven’t seen in a very long time when you do.
The truth is, it has probably taken a very long time for your writer to get comfortable with talking to you about their writing at all. There is nothing in this world that they would love more than for you to show some interest in what they are doing. And a great first step in being able to have an interest in what they do is to understand their lingo. And who better to ask than your writer!
Still not buying into this whole writing thing? Think it’s a waste of time, energy and money? Well, the truth is, you’re not alone in thinking that. But, so are a lot of other hobbies. Unfortunately, writers and other creative artists are at the top of the list when it comes to mockery in regards to ‘useless’ hobbies. And it’s usually just because they are different. But when was the last time you remember telling your kids that it was okay to make fun of someone at school because they were different? It might be really hard at first, because you don’t understand it, and you really have no desire to – it’s not your thing. But no one deserves to be mocked and made fun of simply because they don’t fit into everyone else’s little box. Some amazing discoveries were made and beautiful works of art were created by people who didn’t fit into their society’s box. It might be hard at first, but learning to respect your writer for their differences will go a long way toward bridging a gap between you that you perhaps didn’t even know was there. It’s a great way to encourage someone without actually encouraging them – because no one wants to look like an idiot trying to cheer someone on in something they don’t understand.
“Yay green team! Good job making that tackle!”
“Dad, this is soccer. There is no tackling. Someone tripped, and that guy is really hurt.”
“Oh, yeah… um… great job, taking it like a man! Way to go!”
Yeah, that wasn’t awkward at all.
You overheard your writer talking about this thing called self-publishing, and now you’re worried you’ll not only go bankrupt, but become the laughing stock of the entire town!
Don’t worry. The face of self-publishing is slowly changing. Yes, just about anyone with a computer can get self-published these days. But companies around the world are making it easier for regular people to have access to things like affordable editors, cover design artists, and step-by-step instructions for formatting and laying out of their book. You can really help your writer by assisting in this research to learn which of many routes is best for them. It will also help you gain a better understanding of the industry, and perhaps make it not so scary.
The bottom line here is that writers are people too. And just because their hobby isn’t mainstream, or they think differently than a lot of people doesn’t mean they don’t deserve your respect. The average 50,000 word novel has well over 500 hours of time put into it. Between brainstorming, outlining, discovery writing, researching, and edits upon edits upon edits. Their art is a labor of love, no different than a chef’s labor of love is their prize stuffed chicken breast, or a software engineer’s labor of love is a phone app that helps find the closest gas station. Maybe your labor of love is a perfectly trimmed athlete’s body, or a partially restored 1976 Indian motorcycle sitting in your garage.
We were all put on this earth to do different things. How dull the world would be if we all thought the same and looked the same. How dreary our lives would be if we never thought of anything new because such things were not encouraged. I promise you will survive having a writer in your family. The real question is, can your writer survive having YOU in their life?