Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Don’t Get No Respect!

This seems to be a common refrain I hear from writers, especially those at the beginning of their career. 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?

First, 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 eleven 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.

  1. Make certain you’re setting the example you want followed. By that I mean keep regular hours. Notice I said regular hours—not to be confused with normal ones. For years I wrote with young children in the house. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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!
  5. Share your victories. Let those who love 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 just for fun and not work. Expect that, anticipate it even. Knowing it happens to everyone takes away a little bit of the sting. Most of all, don't let it stand in your way!


  1. I didn't start getting respect for my writing until I published and got paid. Then, suddenly, I'm really a writer!
    It's just like a conversation I had with an elder at a church when I told him that I used to be a director of children's ministries at my former church. He said, "Did you get paid?" As if it wouldn't have been worthy of respect if I didn't receive a monthly paycheck!
    Another man (it's usually a man) assumed my writing was all about daily journaling of my "feelings."
    Most people assume you're wasting a lot of time when you could be "out there" doing something actually productive.
    I have a card pasted just below my computer screen. It says: "My writing is an act of worship." That's my greatest affirmation. Just like Noah, God has called me to do something which sometimes baffles or amuses others. But God does not explain to others what He's called ME to do!

  2. I am SO fortunate to have a supportive family and church. A pastor who recognizes writing as my ministry. A son who brags about me to everyone he meets. A mother who tolerated the hours I spent writing during the years we lived together.

    I recognize that I am blessed.

  3. I also have a supportive husband. I have no excuses.

  4. Great points, Edie! And even after many years of writing, we can still let things slide. And before we know it, we can fall out of the habit of a work day. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Wonderful post, Edie. My husband is very supportive, though he gets (understably) annoyed at times. A friend of mine has announced she's leaving her husband and it's apparently in large part because he could never give her creative space. :(

  6. Dena, I love the sign you keep on your desk, it really keeps what we do in perspective! Darlene and Sharon, I know what you mean, my family supports me as well. Thanks Vonda! Victoria, I'm glad your husband is as supportive as mine. It is a tragedy when a loved one refuses to acknowledge an important part of who we are. I'll be praying for your friend.
    Thank you all for your comments!