month, author Shirley Jump (Return to Riverbend series) asked her
writer pals to comment on the subject of “writing in the absence of
family support” for an article she was writing.
Whoa, thought I, what a topic!
Examples stacked up in my brain to the point that I felt a little
lopsided. But before I list them, let me first say that I love my
family like crazy, and I know that they love me, too. We’ve “been
there” for one another during crises and emergencies, but delivering
casseroles, pinch-hit babysitting, and emergency trips to the ER are a
whole different type of support.
Now, I’m the first to admit that
The Ways Writers Are Unique and Different (and, some would say, weird)
List is long and unwieldy. Somewhere at the top of that list is the
earn isn’t predictable, like the salaries of family members with Real
Jobs. Instead of getting into our cars and driving to work, we amble to
some dark corner of the house where we hunch over our keyboards. This
alone might leave nonwriters with the impression that what we do is
more “hobby” than “work.”
And that, I believe, is at the
root of this ugly thing called “lack of support.”
Something else I’ll readily
admit is that, if asked, family members genuinely believe they are
supportive of our writing. And why wouldn’t they? They say
all the right things, after all: “Another contract? Bravo!” “Your book
is going into its third printing? Wahoo!” “Will you autograph a book
for my boss’s wife’s best friend’s mother-in-law’s cousin?” I hate to
pull “dictionary” on ’em, but—lovely as those things are to hear—such
commentary is positive reinforcement, not support.
Support is staying out of my
office when you hear the click-clack of computer keys.
Support is realizing that saying
“Is this a bad time to interrupt?” is an
interruption. (When folks in most other lines of work are interrupted,
the information they are working on will still be there, in the same
order, in crisp black-and-white, when they return to their desks—unlike
the perfect phrasing I was just about to type when
you said “Is this a bad time to interrupt?”)
is taking me at my word when I say that plot development (and all its
intricacies) isn’t anything like bookkeeping or lawyering or doctoring.
Support isn’t scheduling events
that involve my participation without first checking to see if I have a
book signing, radio or TV interview, or deadline that conflicts with
isn’t getting elbow-deep into a household project, then
realizing it’s a two-man job. (i.e “Uh, can you hold the end of this
board for just a minute, please?”)
Support isn’t carrying the Visa
bill into my office to find out “Is this a writer-type deduction?”
Support isn’t asking me to
babysit—“It’ll only be for a few hours”—so that you
can go to work.
Support isn’t following “Cool, a
three-book series” with “I wish I was lucky enough
to have a hobby that brings in a little money now and then” or “So,
when are you gonna write a real book?”
It isn’t saying “What do you
mean, you can’t make brownies for the church bake sale? It isn’t like
you have a job or anything.”
Supporting the writer in your
life isn’t difficult. All that’s required of you, really, is to live by
The Golden Rule. Well that, and remembering that your writer supports
you in your career.
And if you can’t do that,
there’s absolutely, positively nothing wrong with