Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When The People You Love Don’t Support Your Writing Career


Previously published last year on and then removed from Persona Paper.

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know I could make a living by writing, because I was guided down a different path, but from the moment I could hold a pencil in my hand, the urge to write was overwhelming. And when I got a typewriter for Christmas one year (some of you are probably asking, “What’s a typewriter?”) I was elated. But Mom and Dad didn’t encourage me, because, according to my mom, writing wasn’t a secure profession. Secretarial work, on the other hand, was a worthwhile profession, so though she told me I could be anything I wanted to be, even president, she pushed me toward secretarial work, because it was more secure. 

I hated being a secretary.

Eventually I worked as a designer at a newspaper and I was given an opportunity to write my own column, but I still longed for some kind of acknowledgment from my mother. Dad never read anything I wrote. I never even thought to ask him to read my work, but my mom didn’t like anything I wrote. She preferred fiction and I wrote nonfiction. She always told me I should write children’s stories because of my vivid imagination. I should have been J.K. Rowling, I suppose, but I doubt she would have read those types of books, either.

Interestingly, she forwards nonfiction emails to all of her friends and family members; however, when I asked her to send my blogs to her friends, she refused, because she didn’t want to “bother” them. My fiction, however, didn’t work for her either.

My screenplays were fictional, so in the 1980s when I had written what I thought was a humorous screenplay, I let my mother and two of my friends read it. My friends laughed out loud in certain parts. My mother, on the oner hand, found not one sentence funny. She even said out loud, “I didn’t find it funny at all.” I found her comment weird considering that when I worked for several hours on my 4th grade homework assignment, after my mom read it, and while she was reading it, she laughed so hard she cried.

When I read that same assignment years later – 5 chapters of words scrunched into 5 paragraphs – I could see why. I was a child who took everything literally (I still do), so when my teacher instructed me to write one paragraph using every single word in the spelling chapter, and she had taught me that a paragraph was one central thought, I forced a relationship between words that were so different, I called upon every creative faculty in my brain to force them to connect. The results were hilarious, but not intentionally so. I found out later that the teacher meant to say “paragraphs” – plural.

Having no emotional support forced me to rely upon myself. But how can anyone accurately assess themselves by themselves? Friends would tell me I was creative and talented, but I found it hard to believe them. So I attended college in my late 30s – not to get a degree, though I got one – but to find out if anybody there though I had any writing talent. 

When I received glowing comments on all of my assignments, I felt that maybe I really had some talent, and when my assignments were chosen by the instructors as examples for how the class should write them, I beamed. When I became a tutor in the English lab, I felt that maybe I was worthy of calling myself a writer after all.

But I still didn’t have the admiration of my mother. My sisters were more supportive. I don’t think my father ever knew I wrote anything, and unless I wrote encyclopedias, which were the only books I ever saw him read, he wouldn’t have been interested anyway, but I wanted, and never got, the support and encouragement I needed from my mother. I vowed that when I had my own kids I would encourage them to become whatever they wanted to be and I would help them in any way I could. 

So when I asked my oldest daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up, I was surprised when she responded, “A mom.” She got her wish – she had five children. My next oldest daughter wanted to be a fashion designer. She works for an engineering firm, but she still has her eyes set on fashion. My son had no idea what he wanted to be, so in March, 2001, he joined the Marines. My youngest daughter decided to open an upscale consignment boutique and is doing very well. I still think kids flourish when they get support and encouragement from the people who matter most to them. 

I’ll be 63 in 3 days (remember this was written last year). I have written hundreds of blogs and have received thousands of views. I’ve received numerous compliments on my writing ability, too. And I have received awards, so why is getting some encouragement from my mother so important? Why can’t I just let it go? 

I’ll tell you why. Because no matter how old we get, we still long for acceptance, specifically from our parents or maybe from a mentor. If you write and you don’t get the support and encouragement you need from the people who love you, where can you find motivation to continue writing?

For me personally, my need to write surpasses my need for acceptance, so I’ll continue to write and will probably die wishing I still had my mother’s support.


Afterword: Over the past year, on a couple of my blogs, my mother has commented. Above all other comments I receive, I value hers the most.

2 comments:

  1. How strange that I happen upon this today. I am not even sure how I did (I can't explain that, it would take too long, lol). But it was meant for me to read and so here I am. Theresa, I feel you. And I am lost without my mother's approval. I never got it. She is up there now and she died before I knew (from her lips - or fingers) that I was good enough...frankly, I never believed I was because of how she raised me. Another reason I vowed to raise mine the way you raised yours. I have a birth mother too, who doesn't get the importance of this support, either. To the point that if I have to explain it, what's the point... So I pretend it doesn't matter. Reading this today, I know that it still does. Dammit. OH, I'll be alright. And I'm breaking the cycle. Something I promised to do when Mags was but a pea size in my belly...oh goodness, I've gotta go wipe the tears. Thanks again for this. I do love the way you pen your prose <3

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    Replies
    1. We can be each other's support system! I love the way you write, too. Maybe we won't get the encouragement we need from the people who love us, but we can certainly support each other. And anyway, we already do!

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