The theme that popped up most on my social media this week was writers looking for family members to read their stories and be proud. The fact is, I’m not convinced that most of our family members “get” us and the fact that we writers have so much going on in our heads.
When I was growing up, I was the family “bookworm.” Neither my siblings nor my parents “got” my addiction to books and imaginary things. More often than not, I would be found in a semi-reclined position on my bed, a book propped in my lap. My family would tease me about being more interested in the world of whatever book I happened to be reading at the time instead of watching TV with everyone else. Even if I were out in the living room with the fam, I still had a book in my lap. I learned how to follow the storyline in a book and a TV show simultaneously by the time I was ten. Not that I didn’t get out and do stuff with my family, mind you, but if we weren’t actively out and about, I was probably reading something.
My dad would retreat to the “Library” (which I eventually learned was a euphemism for the bathroom), and Mom kept a pile of unread newspapers and magazines by her chair, but I don’t think I ever saw either of my parents pick up a real book, let alone a novel. I don’t remember my siblings reading as voraciously as I did, but occasionally they’d read something for school and complain about how boring it was. To say I was (am?) the odd duck in my family is somewhat of an understatement.
I am the only one of my parent’s kids to have attended university, too, although my siblings did follow in my footsteps and attend some sort of trade school or community college to enhance their respective careers. I remember when I graduated from high school, I thought I was done with school and just didn’t want to attend any more classes until I was good and ready—if ever. I didn’t look to further my education until after I divorced and joined the military. Then, I took whatever class was offered on board the ship, thinking I would chip away at my associate’s degree and, maybe someday, transfer those credits if I ever pursued university. I didn’t get to transfer as many credits as I would have liked, but I did manage to shave a semester off the time it took for me to get my bachelor’s degree.
My family didn’t “get” that move, either. I was getting close to the big four-oh when I started my Freshman year at university. By that time of my life, I was ready to quit sticking my hands in live equipment while I placed probes looking for the broken part. (I don’t care how few microamps flow through a circuit, it freaking hurts when you get zapped with fifty thousand volts.) I was done and finding that I much preferred creating documents for the stuff I used to troubleshoot. The problem was, no one would hire me as a Technical Writer, because I was a Technician. They looked at my resume and would offer me a technician’s position—just what I was looking to move away from.
So, I took the logical step, and with the help of First Reader, dropped my social life for four years to pursue my degree in Technical Communication. The only family member to attend my graduation was my brother—and he lived nearby at the time. I’m sure my folks were proud of my achievement, but sometimes I think they half expected it and nothing I did surprised them, so they never made a big fuss over my successes.
I like to think my parents were proud of all my accomplishments, but they never said so. And I’ve had to find my peace with that because they’re gone now.
The bottom line is that we all want acknowledgment and accolades from our loved ones the most, everyone else that loves our writing is icing on the cake.
At some point in life, we realize that as much as we love our families, and they support whatever we do, getting them to invest in our writing careers as much as we do is a rare gift. I’m fortunate. Even though First Reader doesn’t particularly care for my genre of writing, she’s willing to run an eye over whatever I print out and offer for feedback. Sometimes that feedback is just, “this is good, JJ.” Other times, she’ll point out a spelling or syntax error, and on a few occasions, she’s caught inconsistencies from something I handed her a week or two before. Even better, my kids read the same genre in which I write, so I get story feedback from them.
I haven’t found a local writing group yet. Right now, I have enough to keep me busy juggling my Visible Means of SupportTM, building this platform, and maintaining a healthy relationship. At some point, the pressure will ease, and I’ll (theoretically) have more time to find a like-minded group with whom to test ideas. In the meantime, I’ll bounce concepts off the Friday Night Gamers and let those in my immediate circle read the unedited stories.
While not precisely the strokes I’d love to get, they—and you, my faithful readers—are enough to keep propelling me forward.