For every dream you want to achieve, there are people in your life who support you, and those who do not. Non-support comes in many forms, from a lack of interest in what you’re working on to a full-blown attack on the path you’ve chosen. These forms of non-support may come from family, which makes it all the more difficult to let their opinions drift over you instead of hitting their mark.
As writers, we know the courage it takes to put pen to page, to keep working on that draft when you aren’t sure what the outcome will be. To stick with a story for years. Writing is like jumping over a series of hurdles, some higher and some lower, but when you add in unsupportive people, it’s like trying to jump those hurdles while an audience throws baseballs at your head. With this type of obstacle, even the most determined writers may throw their hands up and say, “I can’t do this.”
As I talked about in a post earlier this month, writing is a tough business, so getting into the mindset of a professional is critical to success. Part of this mindset is to sit down and commit to your craft, no matter what. Instead of saying “I can’t do this” in the midst of criticism, a professional will convert that statement to, “I can’t do this in a negative environment.” Of course, this doesn’t mean you should pack your bags and move to a remote treehouse in the Amazon rainforest. What it means is that you respect yourself and your dream enough to protect it from the harsh, judging attitudes of others. How, you ask?
1. Make a List. Take a moment to make a list, either mental or written, of the people in your life. In one column, add the names of people who support you and your endeavors, and in the other, the unsupportive people—which might include the drama queen who likes to call and text you when you’re working, the jealous types, the woe-is-me wet blankets, and the practical Pete’s who want an inventory of your success every time you see them. Now that you have a list, beware of these people—they will make you doubt yourself and raise a fence between you and your writing if you let them. Instead of defending yourself or arguing with their logic…
2. Shield Yourself. From my experience, I’ve found it’s best to hold back on the details of your writing life with people who aren’t writers, artists, or other creative souls. It may feel strange, or even make you feel as if you’re lying about yourself, but being vague with people you’ve just met, or the friend or family member who always gives you flak, you can protect the creativity that means so much to you. Save those important details for your critique group or the people who have already proven they’re rooting for you. And when it feels like the scales are tipped toward unsupportive people…
3. Be Your Own Best Friend. We will all come up against negative people at some point or another, so when someone tears you down, swiftly remind yourself that you’ve chosen a different path and that’s okay. It doesn’t take much for doubt to root itself inside you, but if you replace negativity with compassion and the belief that you’re doing the best thing for yourself, those doubts will lose their strength. We all need love and support from others, but being able to validate your choice is part of being a self-motivated artist. As you practice self-kindness, you’ll cultivate the discipline to get back to work regardless of the negativity around you. The work is the most important thing. Focus on your art, and the rest falls away.
What advice do you have for writers and artists struggling with unsupportive family or friends?