Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lack of Support For Your Creative Work (aaahh the Indie Life)

Because going indie doesn't have to mean going it alone.
Wow, Indie Life fits perfectly for my post today!
(see below for more Indie Lifers)

Many creative workers (writers, artists, musicians) are blessed with people who enthusiastically support them in their creative life.

Some have spouses, parents, and other well-meaning people who either give tepid non-support to their writing (or other art) - through lack of interest or understanding - or actively undermine, disparage, or attack their work.

When writers thank those who have supported them, they mean every word - because the opposite can be devastating.

Writing As Secret Lover
Sometimes lack of support is really a jealous reaction to the time, energy, passion, heart, and soul you pour into your art. At some level, this jealous reaction is a reasonable response to the time you spend locked away in the fevered grip of your manuscript. The solution can be lots of dialogue about your art, its importance to your well-being, as well as making sure to lavish attention on the jealous lover as well. This kind of reaction will most often come from someone who is not an artist themselves, because...

Writing As Obsession
...artists understand the obsession. Non-artists do not. I will posit that creative work is fundamentally different than non-creative work. Having done both - and having been a certified work-a-holic my entire life - there is nothing quite as obsession-inducing as creative work. It can be all consuming, and history is rife with people who have been consumed by it. When was the last time you heard of an engineer so taken with his work that it drove him mad or sent him into a great depression or brought on thoughts of suicide? (Tesla's the only obsessive engineer I can think of, and I think his madness was quite separate from his love of electricity.) Creative work is a kind of madness, a living outside of reality that we pursue with equal parts terror and delight. Someone who hasn't experienced it can't understand it... unless they actually do, and then...

Writing As Fulfillment
... they become mean. The person who attacks your work, who tells you to get a real job, who tears you down as a lazy dreamer that will never amount to anything... that person knows exactly what your art is: a fulfillment of your potential as a unique, creative person. It's your reason to be on the planet. You were created to create. The angry, mean person who is attacking you is almost certainly someone who feels the harsh sting of jealousy as you fulfill your creative potential (for more on this, see The War of Art). To be fair, they may not consciously be aware of this jealousy, or that they desire a creative life of their own. Most likely, it's a nameless ache inside, a hole that remains unfilled, and that pain gets funneled into anger when they see someone else who is... whole. The response to this is: 1) to see the attack for what it is, which can drain the attacker's slings and arrows of their wounding power, and 2) invite and encourage this unfulfilled person to seek their own creative expression. I have tremendous belief in the power of creative work to transform people. Indeed, it is almost impossible not to be transformed during the act of creation. So gently encourage this detractor to find their own creative work - or simply be the example of a creative life that will continually call to them. Trust me, your existence is hurting them much more than their words can ever hurt you.

(Alternatively, 3) if possible, find someone new to hang out with.)

In the end, know that the only support you truly need is your own - having the support of others helps, but no one can stop you from doing your creative work, and you alone are responsible for seeing through the full expression of it.

Other places I am today:
*Stephen Tremp's blog with a post on "Striking Gold With Your Stories."
*Indelibles blog with a post on "Author Brand in the Age of Indie"

More Indie Lifers...


  1. Wow, you've got three blog posts and I haven't even written my one yet. :)

    I think you forgot 'People who want to support you but don't understand that what they think is best for you is not necessarily what is actually best for you.' This is what I'm dealing with right now. I love my family, but I'm getting tired of hearing the get-a-real-job-because-writing-will-never-pay-the-bills speech.

    1. I understand the temptation of others (especially parents, given that I am one) to lecture about how you should live your life with well-meaning advice about getting a real job to pay the bills. And there's some truth underlying it - we DO have to eat after all. But the level of support you need may not be what they want to see for you, i.e. you may be willing to live on very little to pursue your dream (until your dream can provide a living for you). That's your choice, not theirs. I think this comes under the Writing As Fulfillment category, with an insidious (rather than blatantly mean) attack on the worth of pursuing your work. The same solution applies, though - recognition that they have an unfulfilled life (you might be surprised if you ask what they gave up to do their "regular paying job") or they simply don't understand how important your art is to your life.

      Good luck! And hang in there! :)

  2. I might argue that even Tesla was creative in his own way. But that's not your point.

    I don't deal with a whole lot of jealousy for my creativity in my personal life, but there is plenty of apathy toward it, which I guess I'm okay with.

    1. Apathy is the least offensive, for sure. But as I tell my husband, "I'm interested in what you do, because I'm interested in you, not because I have an intrinsic interest in water softener design."

  3. I feel like I'm in the same boat as Matthew, apathy but not really jealousy. I think everyone is just busy. :)

    1. Other people will never get as excited about your work as you do - unless they're your mom. Or maybe it's just my mom. :) #biggestfan

  4. Love this post! I'm truly thankful to be surrounded by a supportive family, and supportive friends.
    I've had a few jealous comments come my way, and a few angry, negative attacks - but they just made me dig into my work more and trust my own instincts more. I truly think that most people who oppose creativity are hurting because they haven't fulfilled their own creative hearts.

  5. I see the unfulfilled potential of those who could-have-been but chose not to follow their art. And yes, it hurts them even if they don't realize it. Many are depressed. In others it comes out as anger against those who didn't lost what they were. The saddest group are those who gently, carefully try to undermine.


    1. I think the depression is the most insidious thing, because it's so hard to see why you're depressed when you're in it. And the intentional underminers... *shakes head*

  6. Interesting post, Susan. In my family, my writing is a pass-time, something to keep her busy (nudge, nudge) because I can't work. It does irritate me, because it is demeaning and devaluing. But they don't mean it that way. They nothing of the industry, especially the difference between vanity press and indie publishing. That conversation is so old it has been retired for my lips! :)

    Shah X

    1. There's definitely a time to be prudent and hold back from discussions that go nowhere, especially about the industry! And I know what you mean about the "pastime" devaluing of the work - I'm a stay at home mom and some would prefer that's all I do. Then I ask them, "Um, do you remember who I am? The crazy ambitious one? Yeah, this isn't just 'a hobby'." Having people not take your work seriously is a wound that I empathize with tremendously!


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