I came across an interesting discussion on Twitter the other day. A fellow author had posed a question to us in the writing community.
Why doesn’t my family or friends read my work?
I was shocked and amazed at how similar everyone’s answer was and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. It was as if the silent question that had reverberated through my mind for years had been exposed and I realized it wasn’t just me asking the question.
Now, before any of my family or friends gets uppity-I love that word. Uppity- this is not a bashing blog post. I know someone is bound to get their panties in a knot, but just chill out, okay?
I came to several conclusions as I read responses and I suppose I wanted to share those as I finally address the somewhat forbidden question.
Your family and friends see you differently.
Your family has known you all your life. They know the good and they have witnessed the bad. To them you are not an author who actually has fans that anticipate your upcoming books. You’re the person they saw on a daily basis for many years and to even contemplate the notion that there are some out there who find you clever, amusing, or interesting is not something they can wrap their head around.
They may have a tinge of pride, but to them, they have watched you grow up and have read your Facebook status, complete with spelling and grammar errors. To them you are a sister, a daughter, a cousin, or a mother.
Your friends have also been there for many aspects of your life and they have probably been privy to more than your family on some aspects of your character. They might support you and inquire every so often on what you have been up to, but are your friendships built on what you, or they do, for work or is it something deeper?
I know, for me personally, because I’m a writer, that if someone in my family or one of my friends wrote a book, I would read it. If someone wrote a book that I knew, I would advertise it and share the links because that’s just what you do out of respect.
But on the other hand, do I like every photo or blog post that they share? No. I don’t. Do I ask them all the time about their work? Nope, not really.
So, at the end of the day, am I just as guilty or is it because our work shouldn’t define our relationships with other people?
It’s an interesting question to pose because although our profession shouldn’t define us, it is still a big part of our lives. Perhaps we’re all guilty of discounting our family and friends’ work because we are more interested in other things that are going on with their lives.
They May Be Worried They Won’t Like Your Book
Let’s just get this out of the way before we move on. Guess what? Your family or friends may not like what you wrote and they don’t want to read it because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
I write fantasy/paranormal romance. I write stories with profanity and sometimes graphic sex scenes. Do I think my male cousins or religious friends are going to want to read that?
It’s cool. I get it. I think the issue with your family and friends not reading your stuff may also be because they don’t think they will be able to differentiate the main character and yourself. We all put something of ourselves into our writing and perhaps the images of you being the heroine may not be what they want to picture or read about.
Especially if there are sex scenes.
You may argue that’s not very mature and they should still support you, but let’s cut them some slack.
They Read Your Work and Hated It, But They Don’t Want to Hurt Your Feelings.
I’m going to put this out there right now. I read my first book and all I could see were errors. I have since had my first book edited heavily and I am now happy with it, but I can never go back to when it was first released.
After taking the time over the last few months to reformat my books, I can see a massive difference in my writing from when I started, but will your family and friends only remember the bad and that’s what’s holding them back from reading or supporting any more of your work?
Perhaps they have and they still don’t like any of your books. Maybe they just want to spare your feelings and are actually being kind. I can respect that, but do us self-published authors a favor. At the very least, share when we release a new book. Who knows? Maybe one of your friends will enjoy it more than you.
The Validation Question
Why do we write to begin with? Everyone may have a different philosophy. We may not want to admit this, but we do it for some kind of validation.
I can only tell you why I write and it’s not an easy admission for me to write down for everyone to see but here it is.
I write my stories because I want to read them. I do it for me and no one else. I started this journey because I was lost. I was a wife and a mother and for a long time those two things defined me. But I wanted more of an identity and I felt like my brain was bursting at the seams with stories.
I wanted to share them and I suppose, in a way, the more I wrote, the more I started to understand myself. It’s truly amazing. I found myself in my writing. That may sound corny, but it’s the truth. I felt more comfortable in my skin that I ever had before and it was empowering.
It still is actually.
I guess I have this need to share it with my family and friends because I want them to get me and get who I really am because I’m there in every line and every chapter that I write. I have shut myself off a bit since embracing the fact that, yes, I’m a writer, and I suppose this is my way of having a deep desire to give something of myself back to my loved ones since becoming distant.
What our family and friends need to realize that this is us. These words that we write are ourselves, open and bare for all to read. It’s deeply personal and as raw as it gets. You only have to look to realize this and that is why we want those closest to us to read our work.
We want them to know who we really are and we want to let them into our brain the only way we know how.
Perhaps we don’t express our feelings effectively, but everyone needs validation of their existence on some level and this is our way. You may not realize this and that’s okay. I don’ think we even admit this to ourselves very often.
Is it Really That Important for our Family and Friends To Read Our Work?
Yes and no.
It’s important for us to have our family and friends interested in our work. Just as it is equally important to be interested in theirs. We have to ask ourselves if we have also given our full support in their lives before we question their lack of enthusiasm.
After much research, I have come to the conclusion that to me, it’s not such a big deal as it used to be. I do not expect anyone I know to buy my books. I am happy doing my own thing and writing whatever I want without the worry that someone may not like it.
I know, I know, I always say it, but I can’t express this sentiment enough.
Write for yourself and no one else.
Don’t write for your family or friends. Don’t write a story that is more marketable or mainstream just because you want to be rich and famous.
Just write stories that mean something to you and only you.
Because when you’re all alone in front of your computer, it’s just you. There’s no one else and quite honestly, I kind of like that.
I put this poem in my first book, Isle of Skye. I used it because it had always spoke to me and I think it’s the perfect way to end this blog post.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley