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Friday, May 04, 2012

Get Taken Seriously as a Writer by Your Family and Friends

"Nobody takes me seriously or respects my time."
This seems to be a common refrain I hear from newer writers. They’ve finally worked up the courage to get serious about writing regularly and some of their closest family and friends won’t respect their time. They get calls during the times they’re writing and attitude if they don’t stop to talk. They hear comments that undermine their newfound confidence.
“You can do that, after all you stay home all day.”
“Oh come on, you’ve got nothing better to do.”
And my favorite. “It’s not like you have a real job.”
So what’s a writer to do?
To begin with, take a deep breath and realize this problem isn’t unique to writers. It happens to everyone who works from home—I should know—my husband and I have shared a home office for the past thirteen years. For some people an office isn’t an office if it isn’t off site. Not logical—but an all too common misconception.
I’ve fought this battle—sometimes more successfully than others—and these are the strategies I’ve come up with. 
  • First, make certain you’re setting the example you want followed. By that I mean keep regular hours. Notice I said regular hours—not normal ones. For years I wrote with young children. That meant writing in the afternoons and after they were in bed. Just because you’re working odd hours doesn’t mean you can’t have a schedule.
  • Second, treat what you’re doing like you’re serious. If you blow off writing for shopping and lunch several times a week your friends and family won’t understand if you don’t stop for them.
  • Third, be consistent. If you’re not accepting calls from your mother-in-law because you’re working, don’t spend the afternoon on the phone with your best friend. Stay focused on your writing. This is even more critical if your time is at a premium.
  • Fourth, recruit a support team. Instead of adversaries, enlist your friends and family to help you reach your writing goals. Communicate those goals, clearly and frequently. Ask for their help to reach them. After all, what mother doesn’t want to help her baby succeed!
  • Fifth, share your victories. Let those that help you share in the joy of goals accomplished and milestones reached.

These five things have helped me immeasurably over the years. But they’re not a cure all. There will still be those who think what you do is fun and not work. Expect that, anticipate it even. Knowing it happens to everyone takes away a little bit of the sting.
So what have you found to help when you struggle with sabotaging friends and family?

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog,The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She currently has two books available, the best selling eBook, Social Media Marketing for Writersand her latest project, a devotional for those with family members in the military, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle.Married 30 years to her high school sweetheart, Kirk, they have raised three sons.


Ane Mulligan said...

Mine take me seriously enough ... they want to see the money that goes with it, though. They have the idea a writer should be rich. ROFLOL!!!!!!

Michael John Sullivan said...

Ane makes a wonderful point. If you can make a living doing it, people will take you seriously. It's not unlike any profession one undertakes.

Matt Patterson said...

amen, Ane .... aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamen!

janicejohnson said...

Edie, your suggestions are all really great. I had found my way into a few of them already, and plan to recruit a support group ASAP. That's brilliant.

Meanwhile, I would just add that there are seasons when life dumps extra responsibility into my lap and my writing legitimately takes a back seat. Deaths in the family, helping an aging out-of-town parent... it's frustrating, but it IS only a season.

Even now, I can implement #1, "regular" office hours, even if "regular" sometimes only means "what I can do today."


Sally Bradley said...

Edie, I'm planning on sitting down with my 12 and 10-year-old the last day of school and sharing my writing goals with them for the summer. I'm going to show them when I plan to write and ask them to help me stick to that schedule. (We're homeschooling right now which is why summer will give me more time!)

I think this will help them take me seriously and give them a time frame for when Mom will be free to bug. And I hope they might even offer to help out just a bit around the house. We'll see. :)

April said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
April McGowan said...

You get the same reaction when you're a homeschooling as a writer AND a homeschooling parent, I get a double dose. "You're home all day, why don't you do this or that for me--it's not like you're doing anything." "I'd like to stay home all day and do nothing, too! But I have to work." Yeah...thick skin folks, thick skin! You have to want it even if no one else wants it for you! (Although, my closest friends and immediate family are very supportive--so I have a blessing there).

Edie Melson said...

Ane, you called it! If only...

Edie Melson said...

Michael, you're so right. Unfortunately many can't start out making a living as a writer and that transition period can be tough.

Edie Melson said...

Janice, I agree. We have to know what season of life we're in to be effective. Thanks for dropping by!

Edie Melson said...

Sally, that's a great idea. I bet you'll find a TON of support from your kids. Mine 3 boys have always been some of my biggest cheerleaders.

Edie Melson said...

April, I homeschooled our 3 boys for a couple of years and it's a massive job. I can't imagine doing that and writing. We definitely have to develop thick skin.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I tend to be rather close-lipped about my writing w/my kids, since I generally write after they're asleep, and I write women's fiction, which I can't really explain to them. But they know when Momma has a deadline to make, and they follow their Daddy's (sweet!) example and try to help me out. I still marvel when my kids refer to me as a "writer." Even though I am!

Edie Melson said...

Heather, that's awesome! Thanks for dropping by.

Christina Suzann Nelson said...

Summers are brutal for writing time. This year I need to be more firm about my need to write. A timer helps. My two homeschooled kiddos know when the timer is set, Mom is working. With all four kids home there seems to always be a need to meet.

Elizabeth M Thompson said...

Great post, Edie. I'd love to have you submit a guest post to If you're interested, email me at

sally apokedak said...

Great post. It is the money thing that makes people think we're not working. In this world we live in, money means success and a lack of money should get a real job.

Anonymous said...

Edie...I enjoyed that post a lot and took away some good tips from it. I've had to suffer continuous jibes too over the years even from those closet to me. You know, the 'what do you DO all day?' comments. Even my best friend actually asked me, when my youngest started school, 'Now, what are you going to do? Get a job?' I was struck dumb, let me tell you! But I replied simply, 'I'm going to do what I've always done, write!'
Yvette Carol

Laurie Evans said...

I agree with keeping regular hours, even if they seem a little abnormal. My writing hours are 12-3 or 1-4, then again from 9-11 pm. It took over 2 years (!!!) for my husband to stop talking to me during my afternoon hours on days he's home from work.

Also get a little tired of people asking when I'm going to be rich. Har har.