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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Dealing with the doubters.

Author Topic: Dealing with the doubters.
Member # 9151

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I figured I'd share my night,

So I'm sitting with friends, and we're doing the go around - what are you up to lately - kind of discussion.

It gets to me, and I say very matter-of-fact, "I'm thinking about if the ending of my wotf story is good or not - or if I should change it before my deadline for critiquing tomorrow."

And it got the - "What?" and looks of what drunkenness is this.

I hesitated then explained about what wotf is, and my pursuit of writing.

This lead to a lot of comparisons to kids, friends, family members, and other people laughed at by them and society plus other foolish endeavors.

After a lot of "Really? Really?" with looks of sour on their faces, plus several sideways looks of he's lying/making this up.
I sighed and decided I had no more time for a constant bombardment of you will never succeed or do you really believe you could be a great writer - laugh, laugh.

It can be so disheartening when people you consider close to you give you that simple look of - 'What a joke.'

They've never even read anything I've written and they're so quick to decide that there is no way I could do it. Usually I don't say anything, or smile when they laugh and swallow my pride, but tonight I just didn't want to deal with it and left, and what is ironic is they think I was being rude by leaving.

The case they make is that I was being overly sensitive about it, and that I will need to have a thicker skin if I'm serious about it.

My point is: If all the information they are giving to you is 100% negative with nothing in the least positive they are a waist of time to try and convince you are serious.

It hurts me to say but sometimes you have to put a wall between you and those who would kill your dream just because they have no motivation themselves.

Anyways I welcome all advice and stories of those here who have had to deal with similar circumstances.


[This message has been edited by walexander (edited October 14, 2010).]

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They laughed at you. You had every reason to leave. If they were offended because you wouldn't take their abuse, I think you should get new 'friends'.

Some people are naturally born losers. If they see someone promising, they feel envy and the only thing they can do is try to beat you down on their own level so they feel good about themselves.

There is this joke story about my countrymen I would like to share with you. Dante (the one who wrote Divine Commedy) is led through hell by Lucifer, checking out the cirles of hell. In each of them, the torment is worse for the captives. In the deepest circle, Dante finds a huge pool of feces. In it stand some people and they are clearly not enjoying themselves. Dante notices something and talks to Lucifer. "But they are not tied or anything. Why don't they simply climb out and leave?" And Lucifer smiles to Dante "These people are Slovenians (my countrymen but you can input whoever you want). Whenever one of them tries to climb out of the dreck, others just pull him back in."

I hope you get it and keep writing because if you let the losers pull you back into the dreck pool, you are no better than they.

[This message has been edited by MartinV (edited October 14, 2010).]

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For three years, while pursuing my undergraduate degree, I was a volunteer crisis hotline counselor. One of our guiding principles is that no one can make you feel anything. You are in control of how someone elses words effect you; never let anyone have that power over you.

When they ask you 'do you really believe you could be a great writer?' Simply look them hard in the eye and say 'yes', as if there were no other conceivable answer to their question.

I had lunch with a friend about a month ago, when I told him I'd begun striving to launch a side-career as a writer. He kind of snickered and said 'really.' I proceeded to tell him about my story ideas as if nothing had happened. Most importantly, I imagined the look on his face when, sometime in the future, I tell him I sold my first novel and would he like a copy?

So, the real question is, do YOU believe you could be a great writer. I say the answer is yes, or else you would not be here. That is all that matters, nothing else.

No one can kill your dream but you.

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It hurts me to say but sometimes you have to put a wall between you and those who would kill your dream just because they have no motivation themselves.


You say these are your friends, but I'm not sure if they're really friends, or just acquaintances. If they're acquaintances, then don't worry about it. If they're your friends...

Friends give other friends s***. That's what friends are for. However, there has to be an underlying feeling of support in whatever you do, whether it's model trains, comic books, starting your own business, serial killing, whatever. So no matter how much s*** they give you, at the end of the day, they'll provide you with the alibi you need when the cops come by and ask where you were when the lady disappeared.

Writing is a lonely sport. It doesn't pay well and doesn't come with medical or dental. There are no guarantees that you can support others, let alone yourself, with writing. So a lot of times, your friends are well-meaning and well-intentioned. It's not a real job 'cause they don't know how to do it, and there's no office building to see where you can prove that you actually are working. You could go years without seeing a dime for your writing.

But if you approach it as a job, whether part-time or full-time, if you make the commitment to work at this job, maybe your friends will see that you are serious about this, and maybe they'll be a little more supportive in the future.

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It hurts me to say but sometimes you have to put a wall between you...

I hear you. When I got a call from Joni about being a finalist in WotF I was on cloud nine. And then I realised that among everyone I work with and know, there were probably none I could talk to about it outside of family.

In some ways (and this might get hard to explain) I write in spite of such attitudes - they strengthen my resolve and make me less dependent on other peoples' approval for my own self value. When it comes to writing I am, quite possibly, completely selfish: I write for me. I critique others' work for the same reason - as a learning activity, to test my own editing skills, or to get a critique of my own work out of the exchange - rather than altruism.

To me then the choice is black & white: the alternative to the above perspective is to care what others think, to be an egotist (look at me!) dependent on their interests instead of an egoist (I'll do what I believe in!) pursuing mine, and in consequence make myself eventually incapable of defining my own destiny in the field of writing.

Writing is sometimes lonely in more places than just behind the keyboard.

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Sometimes people have preconceived notions about what writers are like - mostly centered around the Lost Generation (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, among others). Maybe your friends had a picture in their minds of writers being the sort of people to lead a bohemian lifestyle, waxing poetic at Parisian cafes, and because they didn't picture you as the type their knee-jerk reaction was incredulity.

While your friends seem rather insensitive, I wouldn't take it too personally. People's reactions and attitudes often have a lot more to do with what's going on inside of them than with anything in particular about you.

[This message has been edited by redux (edited October 14, 2010).]

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Chris Northern
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Hemingway would have pnched the first one to laugh. Once, I would have to. Now, it's not an issue. People have paid for my work. Once that happens once, you are covered even if the given individual hates it.
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A month ago I tried to dye my hair blond, and it ended up orange. I tried to fix it, and it only got brighter and worse. The next day I had to go to church because I had a responsibility.

At church I have a lot of friends, at least before that Sunday I assumed I did. That day I learned who my friends really are. They are the people who sat by me, or told me my hair looked cute(Blatant lie). They are the ones who gave me a hug when I cried in the bathroom. They weren't the ones who gave me a weird look and then stayed away, or made a joke at my expense, or talked about my hair behind my back.

My hair quickly returned to a normal color, but my knowledge of who my true friends are didn't leave. I know who I can trust, and remarkably those same people who supported me when my hair was embarrassing, are the ones who can't wait to read my novel, or ask about my stories, or know what magazine I've submitted a story to.

Those that didn't,those I can't trust, I don't trust with my dreams.

It is less expensive to learn who your friends are now, than it will be later when you are published, and they want you to use your advance to solve some problem for them.

Learn from it, remember what you have learned, and move on.

And don't try to bleach your hair by yourself.

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I am lucky to have people who support me, even if they don't understand me.

Last Christmas, at the family dinner, news of my first published piece got about the same amount of airtime as my mom's self-tanning lotion. But they never say anything disparaging about my pursuits.

My boyfriend in completely supportive.

But, to people who are not, you just have to ignore them. Maybe even pity them a little that they can't believe in dreams and show them when you make it that you are the bigger person and would be happy to sign the copy of your book they're going to feel obligated to buy.

Sheena - I know you have a good sense of humor, so I presume that the people making jokes weren't laughing with you. If that happened to me my friends would be joking up a storm, but only if I were going along with them. Glad your hair is back to normal, and that you learned something.

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What I've discovered is that no one really cares whether I write or not. They don't write, they don't much read, many of them - not a criticism, it just is not who they are.

We're kind of an elite group. A) we are trying to relate our stories and B) we have stories to relate.

Just smile and endeavor to persevere. Be polite and remember not to use them as readers.

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I have had similar experiences, but I also have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, they were absolutely wrong by acting that way toward you - no question about. Even if they were good friends and were just "giving you a hard time", they should have stopped once they realized you were getting upset. On the other hand, there is some truth to the pitiful excuse they gave you. Yes, they were (are?) friends and probably haven't read anything you have written, but the profession of writing does require VERY thick skin.

In all honesty, my wife and most of my family do not understand my desire to write. They think I write well, but they really do not see it as something viable for my future. They mostly placate me, and put up with it, without believing I will ever be successful as a writer. Now, that sounds awful, but it really isn't in my mind.

I will compare it to art. For my entire life, everyone has told me what a great artist I am. I am a fairly good renderer with a pencil and paper (realism, comic art, and abstract alike). However, if I were to tell them that I planned to become a professional artist, they would most likely have considerable reservations. It has very little to do with whether I am talented enough to be a professional artist, but more to do with their perception of professional artsists. If my memory serves me right, walexander, you are a professional artist, and I would expect that you have experienced this first hand.

I believe people see art (writing, music, drawing, acting, etc) as all being somewhat abstract. You don't go to the office, factory, etc. and punch a clock or get paid a specific amount for doing a specific job. It's not something that one can usually say, I got an offer for $40K a year and I will have off nights and weekends. Therefore, these people don't see it as real.

However, if you had gone to them and said, "Hey, I've been doing some writing and got a book offer for ten grand," they would probably be congratulating you and slapping you on the back, even though this would be relatively little money. Why? Because now it is something concrete to them - something real.

I put up with my family's lack of confidence in my writing, not because I feel they don't believe I can do it, but because I feel they don't see it as something real. Ultimately, it is up to me to prove that it is real and to determine my own success. Sometimes nothing is more satisfying then to be able to tell someone "I told you so".

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Sometimes nothing is more satisfying then to be able to tell someone "I told you so".

Too true but why do I feel bad afterwads for saying it?

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I started writing nearly two years ago at age 61. My family greets my efforts in a mildly dismissive way. My wife is barely tolerant.

A couple of my kids will read my novel drafts, but I give them none of my short stories because they won't understand how short stories work.

So I just don't bring it up too often and I seek reinforcement from the three online groups I belong to.

When success comes, perhaps their reactions might change, but I doubt it unless I became wildly rich. So I just endure their blank faces and shaking heads if I make the mistake of bringing up my writing.

If you believe in yourself, you need to seek out reinforcement, such as what you get from Hatrack. For those who don't understand? Don't involve them in your writing.

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Personally, I write for me.
But I recognize that the purpose of art is to elicit a response from an audience and, perhaps, offer an insight.
Thus, I, too, hesitently seek an audience for my work -- and testing on those close to me is the natural first step.

My wife will not read anything I write. Not a word.
She is not a reader, and she does not like the "weird" literature and films I enjoy. [I've decided to write a short story based on the street in Brooklyn and include her and the people she knew as a child just to see if I can get her to actually read it -- even if I add a golem. >smile< ].

However, my father and siblings and my friends from college (and even high school) who remember me when I used to write 30 years ago have been quite supportive -- even if they may not care for a particular story.

I suggest you tighten your stomach muscles and challenge any of your colleagues with the literary equivalent of "Punch me as hard as you can," and ask them to critique your work. Getting feedback from those who do not like it (or who are unsupportive), I believe, will be more helpful to you than those who do. Earn their awe at your writing skill. Then you will truly be ready to submit to agents and publishers.


[This message has been edited by History (edited October 14, 2010).]

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My wife will not read anything I write. Not a word.

And I thought I was the only one that had a disinterested spouse. Fortunately my teenage daughters don't feel that way. My oldest reads any script printed or one that is just lying around. She does so because she wants to, not because I pry for acceptance. Love that girl.

Excellent parable, Martin. Although I believe it was the Roman Poet Virgil that led dante through hell, not Lucifer.

It is quite clear from Wax's post that we can all relate. This is what it says about the people that are close us, and human nature in general.

Writing, for me at least, is a hobby. I do it because it makes me happy. Would Wax's friends teased him if his dilemna was about golf, bowling, or model making? Maybe, but I'm betting one or two would have shown some interest.

The reason why they made fun is because they don't understand it. Making fun of a concept that is alien (for lack of a better word) to them is human nature. Why would anyone attempt to show interest in something they never even considered a possibilty? That sounds like it requires effort. Far easier to dismiss it instead.

If you want them to feel your pain just show the same contempt next time they display any passion at all for that certain special hobby of theirs. Personally, I'd rather keep to myself from now on. Thanks to the internet, you won't have any problems finding people to share your passions. And when you get your big award, you'll know who's worthy of sharing in your joy. Just make sure you take the time to laugh at them when you accept it.

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I remember telling people I wanted to write stories--people smiled and nodded. They clearly thought it wouldn't come to anything.

I wasn't offended--I am certain they have heard of loads of people (over time) say they want to be a photographer, artist, model, singer etc. Most people give it a little try and give up.

Those same people raised their eyebrows when I announced my first acceptance, patted me on the back when I was nominated in the long-list for BSFA award and became animated and excited for me when I won WOTF.

I think doubting is human. As an aspiring writer your job is simply to show them their assumptions about you were wrong. Perhaps next time they will be more supportive.

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And I thought I was the only one that had a disinterested spouse.

Far from.

I don't have the "my friends laughed at my dreams" problem. Possibly it's because when I said I'd be a major award winner (as a tattoo artist) I broke three consecutive records at the biggest show/contest around. I did that by fueling my fires with any doubts or times I felt cheated. Now, I have 175 awards, and they're always growing. I've never seen anyone who would think being a writer wasn't possible. More often than not I see a bunch of people who think writing is easy and that anyone could do it. Then I get to laugh at them.

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Anyways I welcome all advice and stories of those here who have had to deal with similar circumstances.

I have the opposite problem; my longstanding friends all expected I'd be Stephen King as of last Thursday. They've read someone's bad story and thought, "Hey, a monkey could do better than that. How hard can it be?" Clearly I'm not eating enough bananas or typing fast enough, otherwise I'd be chatting with Oprah and inviting the lads over to bask on my mega-yacht by now.

This is back-loaded doubt; the "he showed so much promise" version that never goes away, a groundless judgment with a countdown timer that is every bit as unnerving as the begrudger's "he'll never do it".

I've decided there's only one way to know the truth; do the work and see what happens.

[This message has been edited by posulliv (edited October 15, 2010).]

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Even though I don't have that problem, I know you are not alone. I have read stories about writers with exactly the same problem. Some of those writers are pros today.

I also know that you were not the rude one as someone else said.

I said I don't have that problem but in a way I can relate since do have two other smaller problems. My In-Laws don't like the type of stories I do so I didn't tell them when I had a Star Trek story published in Strange New worlds. I didn't want to be lectured.

Also it doesn't happened much but I get people asking me about published stories and I have to say only one three years ago. And/or they ask why not more?

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I hope you've seen from the replies that you're not alone! Writing is such a solitary effort, it's easy to feel alone and like you're the only person who cares about your writing.

The cold, hard truth? At this point, pre-success (that I think is out there in some form for *all* of us) - you ARE the only one who cares about your writing, so best give it your all.

Learn everything you can about the craft, write a lot, learn about the business of writing, be yourself, believe in yourself.

As I heard in one of the (very incredible, very awesome) "It Gets Better" videos that have been flooding youtube (in response to the kids who have taken their own lives when outed as gay in their teens) - "Living well is the best revenge."

I have found that I have to seek validation, support, and encouragement for my writing from certain sources. My mother believes herself a good critic. Sigh. She doesn't read my genre, or really any fiction these days. I avoid sending things to her because I don't have the bandwidth for all her "suggestions" and her ideas, which are always phrased in a, "what you need to do here is..." kind of directive way. Painful. Love her dearly, she supports me as a writer, but I find I have to avoid sending her my works until they're published and let them stand on their published merits at that point.

My husband thinks my writing is a cute little hobby. I teased him a while ago that when I get around to dedicating my first book, it won't be a sappy "To my darling husband who supported me all those years of toil..." because it'd be a lie! I mean, he supports me, but he doesn't really believe anything will come of my writing. Ah, well, that's okay. He has a lot of other redeeming qualities and I can overlook this. And truthfully, when it does come together, he'll be 100% behind me, that's all I need to know. He doesn't read what I write (er, well, he has read some and mocked me so I don't ask him to anymore. I write girl-oriented YA science fiction. Not his thing, lol.)

One of my sisters is a huge cheerleader. She's also a big reader, she reads tons, in my genre, and gets what I'm trying to do. She's one of my best first readers, as she's excited about what I write, likes my style, and can point out problems to me so I can fix them and get my work out there in the world.

I have a local writer's group that's a "writer's support group." They're awesome, they believe in me, and have infinite patience for me talking about where I'm at with things, what I'm working on, what is troubling me. Because they're all writers, they're willing to help me by critiquing my work, but truthfully there's only one or two who I seek input from at this point because they read my genre/age category and know the conventions. The others I appreciate their support and encouragement and don't actively seek input from them on my writing.

As you can see, I've had to be selective in how I seek support for my aspirations as a writer. Other writers get it (though I've been warned about "see how things change once you're successful.") Certain friends and close family get it (they're the ones who read a lot, and read the kinds of things I write.) Everyone else merely tolerates it. Hey, it's fine, at this point pre-success it's still a hobby. That will change one day, but for now I seek support where it is, not where it isn't.

I think you did the right thing by removing yourself from an unsupportive environment. It's depressing to realize this whole category of friends isn't there for you in this way, but then again - they're presumably enjoyable to you in other ways, maybe they're funny, maybe they help you forget about daily troubles, maybe they've known you for years and know you for where you've come from, maybe they're just good drinking buddies or poker friends or whatever. Now you know you can't seek support from them for your writing career, just accept those limits and move on. If anyone presses you on your leaving, I'd suggest you just let them know you were disappointed to not get more support, but you know that writing is an unusual pastime and they don't get it. That's okay, but you just needed to avoid the negativity last night. Water under the bridge. Some days we're more sensitive than others.

Best wishes to you. Keep writing, keep believing in yourself!

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Thanks for all the great replies everyone! I really enjoyed reading what you all had to say.

Here's the update:

So after reading some of the first replies I decided maybe I was being overly sensitive and should just except people for who they are.

So I invited one of my best friends from the group over for dinner last night. I figured it would be better if I pleaded my case with one person first before tackling the group.

I wish I could say it went better: As I'm sure many of you can understand from things I read - I didn't take words like 'Hobby', 'Waist of time', 'What's the big deal', 'What does it really matter', 'There's no reason to get upset over something so stupid', 'I am supportive but I think you should just work with what you're good at', and my all time favorite - 'What do you really know about writing that makes you think you can write?' needless to say a few fire to gasoline moments.

another great one was - 'Don't you think it would be better to focus on your career as a professional artist?'

My response was - 'Don't you think that if nothing else having a better grasp of language and grammar could only help my career?'

She didn't see the relevance.

I gave up and finally had to except the conversation was going nowhere and switched the subject to something about her life for which everything calmed down and went back to normal.

It's not that I can't understand about doubt - or even them thinking I'm an artist so why should I be a writer also - It's the fact that every time one of them have come up with a new thought or pursuit I've always been the one saying. 'Go for it! Life is short! What do you have to lose!' and pointed at my life as an artist that you can make your way up if you just believe in it. I guess I got upset that it was not reciprocated.

It's not like I recently decided - oh, I'm a successful artist, now I think I will be a writer. I've always wanted to write, I just had to many other obligations to pursue it till now. It's very demanding on time, learning, and research as everyone here knows and words like 'Hobby' send an agonizing pain into my body like a dentists drill without Novocaine - I go through this internal struggle like I'm in a dentist chair and I'm wreathing all about trying desperately to find a way out from where I'm sitting.

I can take criticism - art is a very critical field. What I can't take is being told like a young kid that I could be president one day with the pat on the shoulder and whimsical look of 'Not a chance' in their eyes.

----Deep inhale----Slow exhale----Long sigh---

It's not easy realizing you may have to pursue a dream with only yourself to rely on, but as many here have stated and I concur, there is only one person who can stop you from reaching that dream, and that is of course yourself.

So thanks everyone for sharing. I really do appreciate you taking time to reply. I'll take all your advice to heart--

including don't dye my hair orange.

Thank you,


[This message has been edited by walexander (edited October 15, 2010).]

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I've heard it said, numerous times, that you should value your non-writer friends. I think there is a lot of merit in this. If you're anything like me, writing consumes you--it won't let you have a day off--and you're always thinking about it in some form.
Those who have other loves and aspirations will distract you once in a while, and that can be absolutely necessary.

There are so many advantages to having friends that aren't interested in writing:

  • They won't tell you how to write.
  • They will try to get you to do stuff that weighs upon you less.
  • They can show you something through another set of eyes/opinions.
  • They can provide excellent material for characters.

However, a friend should always back you--in words at least.

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Ugh, I have my hackles up on your behalf! I don't get why anyone would doubt that a professional artist (of any kind) could have a reasonable chance of succeeding in another artform. Creative people often branch out in more than one direction, and it takes a determined and capable person to succeed in any ceative endeavor. Obviously you've got what it takes.

At least all of us here at Hatrack understand and respect the desire to write. We support you.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited October 15, 2010).]

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I think it's hard to go it alone. I don't think I could have begun writing without my husband's encouragement and belief, but maybe I just have a weaker will than others.

Still, I don't need anyone else's approval and now that I believe in myself I think I could continue without even my husband's support.

I've told others of my family and they're supportive but I know they don't really expect me to ever be published.

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Sorry to hear about the lack of support Walexander.

This is why I am in the closet about writing. Only four people in my real life know that I write, and they are all supportive and helpful (because I carefully chose them). I don't want to deal with the naysayers or the clueless "why aren't you published yet," crowd.

But you aren't alone. That is why I love this site. Even those who are supportive don't really get how hard this is, but people here do. And I have not seen anything but support and encouragement on this site. So don't forget that you've got us.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited October 15, 2010).]

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