I am an aspiring writer. I’ve been at it for several years with moderate success. My question is about what to do when people ask me about my work. For example, my husband and I were at dinner with some friends last week. One of them asked me about my latest project, and when I told him, his response was, “There aren’t very many people making money at that.” My feelings were really hurt. I’ve thought about that conversation over and over, and each time I replay it I have a snappy comeback. But, really, at the time I was so stunned I muttered something about “giving it a try anyway” and then changed the subject.
What do you suggest in these situations? This isn’t the first time someone has shot down an idea. I’m getting tired of being bruised when I should be among supportive friends or family. What would you do?
Dear Sir or Madam, Will You Read my Book?
Oh, Dear Dear,
I wonder how qualified your friend was to offer a take on the potential revenue to be realized from your project? There seems to be an epidemic of people who offer opinions about topics they know nothing about these days. Big sigh.
I’m sorry your feelings were hurt by your friend’s response. Artists—and you are an artist—are subjected to this kind of comment all the time. It’s hard for people to imagine making money at what they judge to not be a “real job.” You describe your status as a writer as a “moderate success,” so I take it that your pursuit of this vocation has earned some income, but hasn’t resulted in a financial windfall. That’s been my experience, too. There are writers making good money doing what they love. So, my question is: Why can’t it be you? Or me?
That same question would be my response to your friend. Like you, though, I’m not sure I could have pulled it out in the moment. My suggestion to you in handling these situations is this: don’t let yourself get in these situations. Be very selective about the people with whom you share your ideas. Your inspirations are precious: treat them that way. Some people don’t get what a writer does, and when we try to explain, it’s just too hard to get their heads around. Walk into a bookstore, and you see the tangible results of the process. Talk about it while you’re in process, and they shake their heads, wondering, “How will you make money at that?”
The money question is one of the quickest ways ideas get shot down. Artists must balance necessary income and pursuing their craft. Ideally, the two are one and the same, or at least there’s overlap. If that’s not the case right now, it’s a worthy goal. As you have pursued your writing career, and had some success, you’ve met people who think your work is great, and get what you are doing. Hang with those people, and with people who are doing the work you aspire to do. Their energy will encourage you, especially when you’re feeling low, or have an idea that’s just emerging, and still in a vulnerable stage.
So, the next time someone asks about your work, tell them, “It’s great! I enjoy my projects, and the people I’m working with. How’s your work going?” Then, look at the person intently. If they probe further about your work, go back to a recent success and celebrate a fait accompli. Radiate the confidence you feel when you’re at your best in your work. My dad used to quote Dizzy Dean, the great Cardinals pitcher: “It ain’t bragging if ya done it.” (The quote has been edited for this meme, but I like the first one better. It sounds more like a man who’d say he “slud into second.”) Read on for some inspiration from Ol’ Blue Eyes. Good luck with your work!