The writing life is hard: carving out the time, developing ideas, overcoming your own blocks and associated fears, rooting out the bad writing from the good. We’d like to believe that the moment you declare your intention to write a book, everyone in your inner circle rejoices in your new ambition. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. So here we’ll examine this common but less-discussed obstacle: how to deal with the early critics who live with you.
Sometimes, family and friends can, believing that they are acting in your best interest, attempt to discourage you from pursuing the writing path. The reasons can sound like this:
“Why are you wasting your time with this? Do you know how hard it is to be published?”
“I feel like you never spend time with me anymore.”
“But you didn’t study writing in school. How will you get any good at this?”
“It’s such a nice day/night and everyone will be there…”
“Books are dying. No one reads anymore.” (My personal favorite.)
“(Fill in the blank of what you hear most often.)”
Experts in change management often state that the moment we take action toward a new goal there will be an opposite force pushing to keep us in the same place. That force is resistance. If you have overcome this resistance personally, it can be surprising to encounter it outside of yourself. Resistance is a close cousin of fear.
So how should you best address this resistance in others? I recommend being kind to those who try to discourage you from pursuing your writing practice. Remember not to take it as a personal attack on your new goal. Objectors are afraid of you changing. They are doing what comes naturally, which is to discourage that change to maintain the status quo. This is most often subconscious, and hard to pinpoint. When hearing that someone is doing something they may have wanted to do, it can trigger feelings of vulnerability, jealousy, a sense of failure, and a host of other negative emotions. If confronted directly, the objectors will say that they are just trying to protect you, to save you from disappointment—or worse.
It can be very frustrating to look to those closest to you for support, and be dismissed. Perhaps they didn’t read your draft from two months ago because they are “too busy”. The more likely explanation? They felt uncomfortable about not knowing how to give you feedback. Here is where writing groups, critique partners, and beta readers will become an important source of support for you and your work.
Recognize those who support and encourage you in your circle, who are least resistant to new initiatives. Perhaps someone else who is involved in writing, or any other artistic activity. Sometimes pursuing a dream threatens people, makes them feel inadequate, and creativity is a skill that many of us lose touch with, in varying degrees. If the critics are in your home, kindly but deliberately, refuse the obstacle: close the door, and write. The objections will fade with time.
We are here to help devise a formula to cement your writing practice, or provide professional coaching. Get writing!