When I was in high school I used to show my best friend all my silly little short stories I wrote passionately on a typewriter my parents bought me after my 9th grade junior high graduation. She used to tell me that my spelling was awful (I had the hardest time with words like ‘clothes’ and ‘deodorant’).
For Christmas one year I put together a small cookbook of family favorite recipes my mom and grandmother used to make and gave it to both my brother’s and their family, one to my parents, and one to that best friend I mentioned above. Inside the cookbook I thought it would be fun to add a few Christmas related short stories. Since no one (I mean NO ONE) said a thing about the stories I decided to put my Writer Hat on and bravely ask my friend what she thought of my short stories. I wanted to know if she liked the twist at the end of one of them. Her response? “I figured it out halfway through.”
I know. I need to pull up my big girl pants. Writing is a tough business for us sensitive types.
Then, on another Christmas my sister-in-law picked up my 10-years-worth holiday scrapbook that I brought out to share with my family since we have been spending every Christmas Eve together from the beginning of time – or the mid-1970s, whatever. Anyway, she read something in there she didn’t like.
In a nutshell: I journaled about one Christmas Eve that took place at her house (and my brother) and I said that the highlight of that holiday was after we left their house and went to my uncle’s house where my grandmother and extended family gathered. (In our large Italian family Christmas was spent together for two straight days of talking, eating, cooking, and repeating.) It was one of my grandmother’s last Christmas but of course I didn’t know that then. Well, she got offended with what I wrote and stormed out.
Yes, in the dramatic flair of a high school drama student with a sparkly crown on her head. All that was missing was the sash around her chest.
And chaos ensued.
My brother went after her followed by my other brother and other sister-in-law, all in an attempt to calm her down and bring her back to the house so the holidays could (awkwardly) continue. Meanwhile, my parents were pissed AT ME. “Why did you write that?” “Why do you have to write stuff like that?”
When my sister-in-law did return to the house she started yelling at both me and my mother asking my mother “How can you allow her to write this stuff?”
Mind you I was thirty-five years old.
Needless to say I never (and I mean NEVER) allowed ANYONE to read any of my scrapbooks again. In fact, I now hide them whenever I have company coming over.
But that event was the turning point for opening my eyes at a challenge I think I’ve had my entire life and one that these days I have to constantly – as in EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. – tell myself that I can move past and not be defined by what others think. So what if they don’t like my writing? Who cares if they don’t support me in the job that I feel was a true calling of mine? What difference does it make that they snicker at the silliness of it all behind my back? Big deal if they read something and only point out a few typos and that’s it?
Every day I have to work at being a Big Writer Girl who isn’t so sensitive and who has to move past the need to be accepted as a writer by her family/friends.
Believe me, it’s fucking hard.
Enter blogging and social media.
Oh Me Gawd, someone hold me. If I had known back when I started it all (blogging and social media) that it would have caused as many problems as it has, I might have been less public about it from the beginning.
When I first began blogging I was over at Typepad, which meant all my friends and family knew where and how to find me. That was actually one of the big reasons for putting my Typepad blog to rest and beginning anew over here in Wordsmitheryland.
That best friend I mentioned in the beginning of this post? She is the one that read my blog and felt I was talking directly about her. The post was about people who are so busy with life and how I choose not to live my life that way. (It was longer, I believe, but that’s the gist.) She felt I wrote that in direct response to her (she never did understand that all that I write about on my blog(s) is about ME and that “too busy with life” post was about every single person I know). Our friendship began to suffer around mid-2008 when I did the blog post and around the time of personal and huge life changes in my own life.
To this day we are still considered “friends” but we are not really talking or involved in any sort of relationship even though she is godmother to my firstborn and I am godmother to her firstborn and we’ve known each other since we were tweens.
Since that incident on my blog there has been nine hundred other posts that have stepped in and caused the same problems.
In another words, my words have gotten me in trouble since I began writing those little books in the third grade on tablets of paper my dad gave me.
And then there is social media.
I can’t even count how many times someone (my extended family) will comment about what I write about on Facebook. (Give me a break, seriously, it’s Facebook, not the United Nations.)
I complain too much. I shouldn’t have said this. I said that in a bad way. I hurt someone’s feeling talking about the other thing. I shouldn’t talk about that. Why does she have to say this or that? I showed someone what you wrote because I was like, she is saying that on Facebook? My mom will call me and tell me that so-and-so said they couldn’t believe what I posted. I will have family members tell me how they roll their eyes at what I write about on Facebook. A week doesn’t go by that someone won’t negatively comment to me about something I have posted on Facebook.
I’ve heard it ALL.
And every time I (literally) scratch my head. What? Really? WHY DO YOU CARE? It’s Facebook! It’s a fluffy place to talk about fluffy things. And I somehow made you mad or offended or pissed off? Seriously?
That is my life. It never stops.
Which is now why I have a blog without a name so I can’t be as easily found. And no one in my family has asked for my new blog. And for awhile I got away with blocking people on Facebook until I was called out on it and was like, “oops.”
And to this day not one person in my extended family ever asks me about my writing, my books, or my projects. But, I will say I am kind of used to that by now, but sometimes when I think about it the lack of care hurts me. Sometimes my mom will say, “When are you going to ever be done with that book? You’re going to be fifty before you get it published.” Or she will write on my Writer’s Digest magazines, under headings of “How to get published in whatever-year” “WHEN??? HA HA HA.”
Maybe people don’t know what to say to writers – kind of like how people don’t know what to say to someone who just lost a loved one. I don’t know. And believe me, I don’t let this hold me back – but I do have to work on keeping that weight on my shoulders from hurting and crushing me. I have to constantly keep my head above water and remind myself regularly that I was meant to be doing this – despite not having any support – because I have loved writing since the third grade when I wrote about doughnut sisters (yes, actual doughnuts, complete with sprinkles).
And for the record, the book my mother was referring to IS finished – along with almost ten other novels and non-fiction books AND a children’s book – I am only rewriting and editing now.