In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,
Writing courses and seminars do offer at least one undeniable benefit: in them, the desire to write fiction or poetry is taken seriously. For aspiring writers who have been looked upon with pitying condescension by their friends and relatives, this is a wonderful thing.
Writing is hard enough. Being looked at with condescension from others makes it even harder.
Being is a writer is a hard life, there’s no doubt about it. There’s no financial stability. There’s lots of rejection, so much rejection. You stare at blank pages every day in the hopes that you’ll be able to fill it up with something great. There are many, many days when the writing doesn’t go well and you feel like a total failure.
And what makes all this even harder? When you have people in your life, particularly friends and family, who look at what you do and what you love with pitying condescension. Who look at you with sorrow as soon as you’re asked what you do and you say that you’re a writer.
I still struggle saying I’m a writer when strangers ask what I do for a living. Until I started making some decent income on Medium these last two months, I never made any money at all as a writer, so I would tell strangers I was a teacher, because at least that part of my working life put some income in my bank account.
I very much believe you should call yourself a writer, and the more you say it aloud, the more you’ll actually feel like a writer. Even in the face of friends and family who think what we do is a dumb hobby that won’t lead anywhere.
Some of us are luckier than others.
I’ve been lucky to surround myself with people who for the most part support me in my writing endeavors. My best friends are all writers. My parents have been 100% supportive since I started writing short stories in elementary school, and they’ve still got my back even as I reach ten years of seriously writing fiction and having no traditionally published novels in the world yet.
My partner has always been the least supportive person in my world when it comes to my fiction writing, but he at least understands my love for it, and he gives me the space to pursue this dream. That’s sometimes the best you can hope for when it comes to people who don’t quite understand that inherent desire to be creative.
So what Stephen King says in the above quote is exactly right: one amazing thing about creative writing workshops and seminars is that you surround yourself with other people who love writing as much as you do.
It’s almost like speaking an alternate language when I meet up with writer friends at conferences. We all get it. We all understand the struggle and the fight and the passion and the endurance.
So do your best to surround yourself with people who take your writing seriously.
Sometimes you have no control over this part, especially if, say, you’re still living with your parents, and they want you to do anything but write. I know it’s hard. I know you might question if they’re right, if you should pursue something else that has a better chance at financial stability.
The truth of the matter is this: if you believe in your writing, if you know deep down writing makes you happy, you need to do everything you can to push against that negativity and try to surround yourself with more people who support you.
Creative writing workshops are helpful for this. Seminars, too. Sometimes all it takes is one amazing writer friend to open up your whole world and give yourself the permission to write to your heart’s desire.
So find that person. Find all your people. Do it however you want.
And no matter what, keep writing!