Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Will the Real Writer of the Family Please Stand Up

Not everyone can write. I know that’s a contentious statement to make in writing circles, so let me backtrack and say that not everyone can write well.

I have a lot of people in my family who think they can write, and hey, if you’re good, I’m not knocking you, but let’s be serious here. The true writer of the family is me, and it has always been me. But I never get the recognition I feel I deserve. Yes, my mom reads my work, and she brags to her coworkers, and they get hooked on the stories I post on my fiction blog. I have a brother in jail who has loads of time now to read the stories I send him to keep his mind off his unfortunate circumstances. As for my extended family—they make me feel like, oh, anyone can do that, or, it’s amazing when someone else does it, but not so much when I do it.

Memorial Day weekend, my cousin came down from Nashville to visit, and she told me about this memoir she and her parents were writing. It’s basically a history of the family, crazy life experiences, etc. It had a great premise, I thought, on account that every family has at least three outlandish stories to tell that would make a great book. The title was also badass, but I probably shouldn’t share it since the eventual goal, according to my cousin, is to publish the book.

During the entire conversation, I was under the impression that I was invited to be a coauthor in this project. Hell, we were on our way to their house to have an all-day writing session. She’d even given me the link to the shared Google Doc the memoir was on. I was so excited to be included, because for the longest time, I felt that this part of my family didn’t care about my writing, didn’t acknowledge it, or simply didn’t think it was that big a deal.

Unfortunately, when I arrived with laptop charged and ready, my aunt politely told me no, this project was for their family only, meaning mom, dad, sister, sister, no cousins, no nieces, no previously published fiction writers allowed. So while everyone else sat at the dinning room table, typing away in their assigned chapters, I tended to my blog and pretended not to be totally irked, by the fact that I was the only true writer at the table not writing in the memoir. The family memoir.

But I had many other projects on my plate. For one, the Short Story a Day challenge was nearing completion; I had three more stories to go. I was also gearing up to write a novella in July for CampNaNoWriMo in preparation for writing my novel in November for NaNoWriMo, which I spent all April planning.

Of course when I told them this, my aunt’s response was, “Do you get a prize or something for writing every day?”

“It’s more of a personal achievement,” I answered.

Then my cousin asked me to explain NaNoWriMo, and I was excited to tell her all about it since I will participating this year, and this is the first year I actually feel fully prepared and confident that I can start and finish the challenge.

Then my non-writing uncle chimed in. Allow me to roll my eyes for three minutes.

Let me pause to tell you a little bit about my uncle. First, he loves to talk about himself, but then I guess all writers do. Hell, that’s what I’m doing. I would take him more seriously if he was actually a good writer, but the man can’t even put two words together to form a complete sentence that makes sense when he talks, which is why it’s so mind-boggling to me that he was a preacher for 25 years. Preaching to whom? What congregation? Who could understand him?

When I was around 17 or 18, on my way to college, I told him about my aspirations to become a published author, and he basically told me to get a day job, I was wasting my time, no way in hell, it’s a one in a million chance that I will ever get published, might as well just give up now, major in something that will get me a job. After that, he showed me his scrapbook of all the articles he published in magazines back in the ’80s on activism and what not, and all I could think was, “Really? After you’ve just killed my dreams, you’re seriously gonna shove all your ‘success’ in my face?” Obviously, I’ve never gotten over it (even though I probably should).

And he still does that shit, to this day! Whenever I tell him, “Hey, I got a new story published,” he immediately goes to his office and grabs that stupid notebook to show off his writing from thirty years ago. Can I get one moment of glory, please, without you always trying to steal my thunder, Uncle?

And he writes just as “well” as he speaks—jumbled up rambling that spins the reader in circles. I’ve tried to read his published articles before, and each time I’ve found myself wanting to edit them.

So getting back to the story, my uncle adds his two cents. “50,000 words in a month? That’s extremely hard to do!”

Me: “It’s around 2,000 words a day.”

Uncle: “That’s a lot!”

Thinking to myself: Not really, that’s like three pages single-spaced in a word doc. Saying aloud: “Well, you have to plan ahead; you can’t fall behind, or it’ll be harder to catch up.”

Uncle after jumbling a few words: “You have to be a real writer!”

Me to myself: The fuck? I am a real writer! (in Eddie Murphy’s Mushu voice from Disney’s Mulan)

Auntie: “Well, she’s a writer too, honey.”

Me to myself: Oh, you remember now?

Uncle: “Well . . . ” *fumble jumble tumble bumble*  “. . . no.”

Me to myself: What?

Uncle: “I’m talking about a real writer. Yea, ’cause, ’cause, I know of this guy, you know, who writes like 10,000 words a day, a day! OK?”

Me to myself: He obviously doesn’t have a day job. Whatever, man. I’m done with this conversation.

So after we fell into an awkward silence, I decided to go to the link my cousin sent me and read what they had written so far. I could tell from the opening lines that this memoir was her idea. She’d written some great sections, hilarious, not too wordy, clever headings and titles (I should enlist her help with titling some of my stories, because sometimes I struggle). Then I came upon a section written by my uncle, and once I got through all the mumbo jumbo, it was again all about him, all about the great ministry work he’d done, a bunch of self-righteous shit jumbled together in run-on sentences. I was over it.

I didn’t even bother to read what my aunt had written. She’s not a writer. Period. She and my cousin spent ten minutes arguing over why she couldn’t randomly rename characters Pookie and Ray-Ray just because that was the title of the chapter (another clever title by my cousin, which I probably shouldn’t have named, but oh well). Pookie and Ray-Ray are caricatures of the ghetto. Every “hood” has at least one Pookie and one Ray-Ray. Obviously my cousin intended for that chapter to be about the types of people you meet in the hood, but if you’re going to name a character Pookie or Ray-Ray, that character has to fit the profile: Pookie, the ghetto fabulous, over-sexual hood rat, and Ray-Ray, the fast talking hustler, always trying to sell you some knockoff purse or pair of shoes, smooth talking a girl right out of her panties. These are just a few definitions, but there are many. The point is you can’t just name anyone Pookie or Ray-Ray, and the fact that my aunt could not understand that is proof (proof, I tell you!) that she is not a writer, at least not a creative one.

I’m the writer of the family, dammit! My cousin, I’ll say she’s good, from what I’ve read so far (and she’s pretty supportive of me, even from Nashville), but this is my livelihood, and it sucks that my family doesn’t respect it.

Maybe I’m a little selfish. Maybe my feelings are just hurt because I don’t get to participate in the family memoir. Since graduating from college, I struggle to find like minds who enjoy writing as much as I do. It’s why I immerse myself in blogging. I have a family of writers here online. But to have a writing session where the whole family sits together at the table to write and discus writing—oh my goodness, that is a writer’s wet dream! Unfortunately, I don’t get to be a part of it. Not with this family.

Even though I am family.

But I guess working with a real writer would be a little intimidating for them, especially since I can be an asshole of an editor too. Just ask my countless unfinished novels collecting megabyte dust on my hard drive.

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15 thoughts on “Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Will the Real Writer of the Family Please Stand Up

  1. I’m detecting a little anger in your post… ;-P

    Your family is obviously not super supportive. Everyone has people like that around them who just doesn’t get it. Then again, they do things that we probably don’t get, either. That’s why it’s helpful to hang out with other writers, so we can bitch and moan together and we all get it. 🙂

    But yeah, your uncle sounds like a real piece of work.

    IWSG June

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t say anger, more like frustration, and annoyance . . . and maybe a bit of anger, haha!

      But I’m grateful to have more family and friends who are supportive, and this particular clan can be supportive at times.

      But yes, I live for writers groups online so I can bitch and moan with others who understand . . . and to also boast, because it’s not always doom and gloom. 😉

      I also have to mentally prepare for a conversation with my uncle, because I never know what cockamamie statement will come out of his mouth next.

      Like

  2. I don’t know what it is with families. Mine just doesn’t get this writing stuff. I’m pretty sure they still want me to go back to school and become a lawyer or something sensible.

    But the absolute worst is when they try to give me writing advice. They’ve told me I should write like James Patterson. He’s a real writer, apparently. They’ve also told me I should write more about life (whatever that means).

    I have to admit, though, that my family has started to ease up on me a bit. I think my stubbornness is starting to wear them down. So keep writing, stay stubborn about it, and hopefully they’ll start coming around!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know the feeling! My granddad tells me I need to be a sports writer because I watch so much football and tennis. I tried– not for me. Lol. But that’s fantastic advice– keep writing, stay stubborn. I’ll have to remember that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my Jesus. I’d stick with my writing family online, were I you. We may be mean beta readers here but at least we’ll pat you on the back for having the balls to jump into NaNoWriMo! Good luck with camp and the writing in November.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is my first time here. I’ll try to follow your blog and connect with you online. You are so brave! It’s tough when even your family don’t believe in you. Bravo to you for writing stories and joining the NaNo mode. You can do this!
    All the best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m so excited to start my NaNoWriMo projects. I’ll definitely be posting updates (mainly to hold myself accountable and to keep on track). This is my first post with IWSG. I’m so glad to have a circle of writers to share goals, accomplishments, setbacks, etc.! Looking forward to reading everyone’s posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Nortina! Welcome to the IWSG! I’ve been a member almost three years now, and it keeps me going and not giving up on my writing. I’ve made some great writing and blogging buddies through the IWSG. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I read your post, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of when my siblings and I got together in a local coffee shop to write our mother’s obituary. We all exited with bruised and wounded egos, and it cost a lot of money to publish the obituary because it was so long! None of the five of us wanted our important parts omitted or shortened. Personally, I think it’s best NOT to write with family members! I’ve published over 400 hundred blog posts, and my husband glances at the photos. He’ll bring me food and coffee when I’m writing. He’s wonderfully supportive, but don’t ever ask him to actually read what I’m slaving over! LOL Good luck with your writing!!! Believe in yourself, push those negative family voices away, and follow your writing dreams!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve learned to laugh at it now; a few years ago, it would’ve really bothered me, but I thank God for my mother, because she’s really been supportive in everything that I do, even though she doesn’t understand at times. It’s interesting that you mention the obituary, because this aunt wrote my other aunt’s obituary when she passed, and she asked me to edit it. So I did. And the face she made when I told her to make this and that correction will forever be priceless! Needless to say she didn’t like being told she was wrong, especially since she so often brags about graduating from Princeton. But that’s so much for your encouragement. I’m so excited to be part of IWSG!

      Like

  6. Sounds like you need to avoid your extended family like the plague. You know what people like that really are? Jealous. Envious. Crabs that will pull you down from succeeding so they have an excuse as to why they aren’t succeeding.
    Just keep writing. Prove them wrong.
    And welcome to the IWSG! You are definitely in the right place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! The plague is right! I don’t need that kind of discouragement in my life, only encouragement . . . and maybe coffee, haha! 😀
      Thanks for the welcome. I’m so excited to join IWSG!

      Like

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