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Why Many Writers Get Little Support From Friends and Family

I often ask writers if their family and friends are aware of their writing, and if they are supportive of it. Frequently, writers tell me that their friends and family are NOT supportive. So today, I want to discuss why this is, and share some really compelling quotes from writers I have spoken with.

Thanks.
-Dan

  • Nice thoughts. I’ve only just started sharing my writing side to friends and family, but even so it’s at arms length. 

    Not sure why really, but I guess it’s fear. Fear they won’t accept it or embrace. Scared of what they think. Like you say, it’s easier with strangers. If they think it’s stupid, then who cares. If it’s someone close to you who thinks this, well, that’s not good

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • Matt,
      Thanks. I suppose that with family and friends, you are connected on a variety of levels, and you will STAY connected with them. With strangers, you may connect ONLY on this level, so it is self-selecting. This is a fascinating topic to me, one that is very much about identity and potential.
      -Dan

      • it is interesting. It’s crazy how our mind works sometimes

        Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • This was so well said, Dan. Thank you. I truly believe others don’t mean to not be supportive- it truly is fear- fear of what they may want and fear of trying to accomplish it, but often not. It has taken me years to understand this- that it was not about me- it is about their un-lived dreams. Once I got that, it made my life easier. And I also truly believe if we can each find the courage to live our dream, no matter what anyone says or does not say, we are a beautiful example to give others permission to do the same.

    • Barbara,
      Thank you. I love the idea of “permission” in this context, that really all people need some kind of inspiration to get them started. Fear is such a funny thing, and rarely talked about very openly. You see very few Facebook status updates about fear… you would think that no one is ever afraid of anything! 🙂
      -Dan

    • Thank you for expressing this so clearly, Barbara. Often people can’t name their feelings or motivations because they don’t understand the source of those feelings (fear.)  Even if an epiphany hit, “Oh, I’m threatened by this, I’m afraid of this” that recognition would not likely be conveyed or openly admitted. 

      Most people dislike change, and resist it (this is my conclusion, as an observer.) Those of us who embrace change are seen as risk-takers. When a close friend or relative breaks free to take a path that separates them from their tribe’s routines and and rituals, the first thought that enters most minds is, “How will this impact me?” Next, fear of abandonment seems to kick in. That fear might be warranted, since writing is a solitary path, and many authors do isolate for long periods of time.  

  • Anonymous

    Great insights into relationships of writers. When I wrote my first book, my family and friends were happy for me, but also wondered what I was going to do with my life. With the economy so unsettled, many wondered what in the world I would do to earn a living. Now I get emails asking when my next book will be out (soon). I think fear is definitely a huge deterrent in the game of relationships. Many of my “friends” slipped away because I chose to spend time with the craft than shopping or partying. Time was limited and I certainly didn’t want to waste a lot of it on alcohol or buying something I didn’t need or couldn’t afford. Many of them couldn’t understand the intensity of the writing process. It was only when I branched out to other writers, that I got the full support I needed.

    • Donna,
      Great point about the intensity of writing and forging your own path. That too gives people something to react to, and because it can often be someone solitary, by it’s very nature, it can be off-putting to others. 

      Okay, less partying, more writing…

      Thanks!
      -Dan

  • Yes, an important topic that authors don’t openly discuss often, perhaps because it’s so deeply personal that our feelings about this lack of support remain buried. 

    Many of us have already experienced an element of feeling different from other members of our families of origin, and from the families we created, including the children we raised who may now be adults. 

    You’ve covered insightful salient, helpful points in this video, Dan!

    We try not to take acceptance or rejection personally but let’s face it, we’re human beings who are putting our hearts and guts on the line, along with years of working toward achieving goals that our relatives and friends rarely comprehend. 

    After my book was published, friends and family members who read it became much more supportive, even “proud” of what I had produced over the course of more than a decade. 

    Thanks very much for addressing this issue!

    • Marcia,
      Thanks for this reply. It seems that when friends and family can hold a physical book – a representation of what a writer hopes to achieve – they have a better understanding of it. When it is still just a goal, a process, a dream, perhaps they understand it less so.

      Have a great weekend.
      -Dan

  • Africainside

    This is such a timely subject for me. I literally just hung up the phone from talking to my sister and was aware of feeling sad because I don’t feel supported by her in my new endeavor to blog and write.
     I am so excited about my new blog and wanting my family to subscribe. Yet, I dance around the ‘ask’ (ie please subscribe), and on the other hand I expect that my family would want to support me in any way they can.
     I also have to remember that none of them blog, or read blogs, so they this is unfamiliar territory. And I remind myself that writing is really a solo gig and maybe its how I support or don’t support MYSELF that is really important. When I fully embrace and support my blogging writing self, then I think others will find it easier to support me as well.

    • Thanks. I think we sometimes forget how many steps others have to take in order to support us. So if friends and family don’t read blogs, don’t blog, don’t understand blogs, it is very hard for them to know how to follow one, what it means, etc. There are steps in the process – technical steps – they don’t get. Then of course, there are the psychological steps we hope they take, but they may not. 

      The “ask” is hard. It is hard to get people to take action. This is why so many businesses fail. It is hard. But persistence pays off!
      Thanks.
      -Dan

  • Speaking to a topic close to my pain at this point. I’ve come out of the closet for about three years now about my writing, but I’ve yet to get any real support from my family, mostly the spouse. I have seen and know that exactly what you said is at the heart of it. He feel threatened. He’s voiced it before that he feels as if he has wasted his life and  never having achieved his dreams. My spouse is far from wasting his life, he has served our country for over twenty years, we have a house, children, motorcycles and other toys, but he still feels as if he’s unfulfilled and at present, mid forties, hates his job. This posts solidifies what I’ve thought for a long while. He’s threatened by me stepping out, toward fictional characters, but all the same. Well said Dan. 

    • Lori,
      So interesting to consider being a writer “in the closet” – that the act of writing may be something that one hides from their friends and family. Thank you for sharing this. I think it is a particularly interesting challenge to those in their 40s, a time when many reassess what their life is vs what they hoped their life could be. Nice that you are making a proactive decision to create the life you want as a writer! 
      -Dan

    • Lori, when I started writing full time, I experienced blatant hostility and resentment from my spouse. I read somewhere that whenever change is introduced by one partner in a long-term marriage, the other partner feels abandoned and/or threatened. That makes sense, when you ponder it awhile. Healthy marriages endure only through adaptation. Wishing you the best with this. 

  • GeovannaJardine

    Dan your thoughts are spot on and I completely agree with you 100%  I am so grateful that you chose to speak on this topic because it is a topic that needs to be addressed. You have encouraged me and I thank you!  Be Blessed

  • Anand Teke

    This couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I am nowhere close to any art but still could relate very much to your thoughts. At this point, I have just started to talk about and taking small steps off the beaten path and the the reactions of my family and friends are very much you writers seem to experience. I think this issue is relevant not only to artists but to a larger set of people who try to follow their dreams and go away from beaten path. 

    • Great point. And yes, I think many are quietly encouraged to STAY ON THE BEATEN PATH – to not stray. That’s a shame really, and a big compliment to those who worked through such challenges to establish a life filled with creativity.
      -Dan

  • this is really interesting.  i remember when i first started writing, over 10yrs ago, i was really cagey about it because i felt that people would think it’s weird and be unsupportive.  now, everyone around me has pretty much gotten used to the idea, so it’s just a normal part of their lives and they’re very supportive.  it’s probably, like you said, the change that people find hard to adjust to.

    it’s also culture.  i’m american, but i’ve been living in england for 7yrs now, and their attitude towards the arts is completely different.  being a writer or artist is very glamorized and every other person is trying to write a novel.  on this side of the pond, when people hear that you’re a writer (no matter how few or nonexistent your publications), the usual reaction is praise, excitement, and adulation. =)

    • So interesting to hear that! I do get the feeling in America that when someone says “I am a writer,” the listener is super curious to know if you are a famous writer or a writer who has earned lots of money via writing. EG: did you write a book that was turned into a movie, etc.

      It can also depend on the community one lives in, as you point out. There are some towns that are FULL of creative people that are very supportive. Other towns can be full of others who value specific skills, jobs and lifestyles.

      Thanks.
      -Dan