Monday, December 23, 2013

The Gift Every Writer Can Give to Their Friends and Family This Year

Being an independent publisher isn’t easy. Not only do we have to deal with the struggles and insecurities of writing (See The Writer’s Road), we also have to deal with marketing, sales and customer service in the form of social media.

Knowing an independent publisher might not be the easiest thing in the world either.  Some of us want free services to help them get our books out into the world. Some of us want our loved ones to take the time and effort to read our work and offer critical (but not too critical) feedback. Almost all of us want support, whether it comes from actual sales or a boost of confidence. In short, an independent publisher often expects their friends and family to be advocates, cheerleaders and fans.

But do any of these expectations make sense?

The Missing Pieces
I’ve found that many of the people who are close to me aren’t really interested in my novels. At first, I saw this as a personal rejection. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are several reasons why a person that cares about you might not want to read or support you work for reasons that have nothing to do with malicious intent or negative emotions:
  • Lack of interest: Just because someone loves you doesn’t mean that they love your writing style, the genre you write in or reading in general. If you ask someone who watches mainstream TV to read your experimental novel, you’re putting a burden on them. They may or may not do it for you, but they might not be happy about it.
  • Lack of time: The people in your life have their own financial, social, professional and recreational interests that have nothing to do with your book. While some of them could have several hours a week to read your work at your command, many of them don’t. This might be hard to believe, but your best friend might not be able to appreciate your magnum opus if she is trying to keep her job, pay her rent and go to the gym on a regular basis.
  • Lack of perspective: When you ask a loved one to read your book, you are exposing yourself on an emotional level. A sensitive and thoughtful person will understand this and approach the request with the attention it deserves. This creates a dilemma for the reader.  If they don’t like the story, they have to find a way to say that without hurting your feelings or lie to you. If they do like the book, then they have to find a way to say that without making it seem like they would like whatever you wrote because of their relationship to you. Many people have a hard time with this. It is often easier to avoid the situation altogether.
  • Lack of expertise: Some people think that they need a certain skill set or background to help a writer with their book. Others feel like they can’t absorb or evaluate certain stories because they are unfamiliar with the genre. You might simply want the input or opinion of an “average reader” but some people might not feel they are in a position to do that.
  • Lack of comfort: Your friends and family have a certain image of you. Exposure to your writing could threaten that image and create an imbalance that undermines your current relationship. This is obvious if you write in a genre like erotica (See Erotica as a Literary Pariah) but it could be just as disquieting if you are writing about sensitive subjects like violence, religion, politics, or other deeply personal issues. Some people would rather avoid that journey into your mind, even if they have known you all their lives.

The Writer’s Gift
So instead of giving your friends and family another copy of your 200,000 word short story (See Why Do We Count?) or regaling them with stories of your trials and tribulations with the craft over your fourth glass of egg nog (See How to Talk About Your Writing Over the Holidays) why not give them a break?
  • Go out of your way to talk about their creative endeavors instead of your own.
  • Support their personal interests.
  • Thank them for all the help they’ve given you in the past and apologize if you sacrificed time and attention from them to focus on your work.

Your friends and family might not need any of this, but they will probably appreciate it. You might still have an eager cadre of advocates, cheerleaders and fans around, you so make them a part of your inner circle. When you understand that people can care about you without caring about your work, you will appreciate the ones who embrace both that much more.

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