Dear Indie Annie,
My family thinks I’m wasting my time writing. They interrupt me frequently and expect me to drop what I’m doing since they don’t think I’m doing anything important. How can I convince them I want this to be a career, not a hobby?
Frustrated with Family in Flagstaff
Oh my lovely, I feel your pain as will most of your fellow writers reading about your plight.
Many of us will have faced similar challenges. Personally, I found my boss at my old day job most unsupportive of my writing while on company time. She would constantly ask me to do the tasks I was being paid to do and was most impolite.
I mean, seriously, one would think she paid me out of her own pocket.
But I digress. You, my dear, are not talking about stealing a few minutes away from your unenlightened employer. You are talking about your family: loved ones whose approval is important and whose support you naturally crave. As a result, their rejection of your dreams and ambitions can bite much deeper. They can also be clingy, needy time-sucks that drain every molecule of energy from your being. Or perhaps, that’s only my children.
My boss may berate me, but my children’s disapproval wounds my soul. Don’t they realize I’m doing this for them? This is not like Jim-Bob’s stamp collection or Aunt Mabel’s quilt of the best serial killers from Criminal Minds season eight. This is work—really hard work. Amazing, fulfilling, creative work but also an actual professional occupation I want to carve a career in.
Why don’t they understand?
Because society, media, books, and films have conditioned us to believe that writers are a gifted elite who retreat to log cabins, working in isolation to meet the demands of a pushy publishing house or literary agent. These mythical beasts receive enormous advances they then need to honor. They have obligations to the big man, and therefore, we must respect their “do not disturb” signs. They are also loners, outcasts who live like hermits away from the daily expectations of family and friends, emerging only to go on glamorous book tours and appear on Oprah.
If you are desperately snatching opportunities to write during your normal day in between your job and other responsibilities, then they think you aren’t a real writer. At least not like the ones on TV, right? Therefore, your cute pastime is merely a hobby. Perhaps you make some money from your sweet little endeavors, but then Aunt Mabel sold a few quilts on Etsy. How is your hobby any different?
My advice to you is two-fold: Build bridges or build walls. Let’s start with bridges, as they’re much easier. Take some time to show your family and friends what you want to achieve. Explain to them how indie publishing works; maybe even leave a few print copies of this fair publication on the coffee table or in the throne room.
Explain to them how other writers can give up the day job; perhaps even introduce them to those authors, particularly in your genre or, better yet, someone they have read themselves who is making a living through indie publishing. If you aren’t sure, simply check out some of the six- or seven-figure authors we feature here every month.
If that fails or if they respond in disbelief with “Well, that’s all very nice for them, dear, but … ” then you need to put up some boundaries or walls. Did I mention my children were “clingy, needy time-sucks?” I didn’t mean it, of course. I love them deeply and would do anything to make them happy. But I must also attend to my own needs. As a writer, one of those specific needs is time to write.
Now, many authors are skilled at grabbing productive writing sprints wherever they find themselves alone or underoccupied. (I mentioned sneaking in some words during the day job.) And such creativity can work wonders for your productivity. Most, though, need dedicated, uninterrupted time to put their head down and focus.
If this is you and you are still disrupted, even after explaining why you want to be left alone, get tough and build that wall. Anticipate others’ needs in advance and prepack their lunches or snacks; arrange for someone else to carpool; and hire a babysitter, dog sitter, or even a husband sitter if required. Go somewhere else to work, such as a cafe or park. Then turn off all outside interference, just as if you were in an important meeting with the President, Her Majesty The Queen, or Beyoncé.
This time is sacred. Treat it as such.
Put that meeting in your diary/calendar or in the family organizer in the kitchen, and then throw up an impenetrable force field. You don’t go out, and you let nothing in.
When you are a successful author, those around will finally understand you have a deadline to meet for your pushy publisher, which in this case is you.