When Friends and Family Don’t Read Your Work

Today I’m not thinking about anyone specifically, but I’ve had this subject on my mind for a very long time. It hurts when other don’t acknowledge our success because it might not be an obvious success. For instance, when I self-published there were some people who never said a word about it or seemed to care. I’ve wondered a thousand times that if that book had come out from a large New York publisher if those people would have cared then. Now that I’m with a small publisher, my mind goes in the same direction. If there are some people close to me that don’t seem to care, would they care if I had a larger publisher, if I made the New York Times Bestseller list? If I did things a more conventional way?

More than likely, these people I care about will never truly care about these successes of mine. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that this doesn’t mean they don’t care about me.

Much of this might have to do with content. Your grandma might not wish to read the violence or love scenes you put in your book. Much of it might have to do with hobbies. Maybe your cousin simply doesn’t like to read, and even though you did everything together as children, he’d rather pat you on the back for making a hole-in-one at the golf course than finishing that novel and getting an agent. He simply “doesn’t get it.” Then again, maybe you don’t get something that means a lot to him. Imagine that.

So what do you do at this point? Do you zip your mouth shut around friends and family members who obviously don’t care about what you do? Do you talk about your hobbies – your job – anyway? What if it’s your spouse? I have one friend who writes. It’s her passion, but her husband has never read any of her work. That depresses me. I need the support of my husband, but I figure I’d keep writing anyway if he didn’t care. After all, I think it’s best if we don’t write for the approval of specific people. I’ve done that before, and it’s no fun when it collapses at your feet.

Maybe this is all because we know that if we were to reach these people who don’t care, that would be the ultimate success. Maybe.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

44 comments

Thanks for this post. I thought I was the only one. I recently had a writing success and sure I told my husband and kids but they weren't as excited as me. It was like, okay, sure, whatever. I don't write for them, I write for me. And sometimes that helps too. But the sting is there. I shrug and keep moving forward, thinking that when I publish, I am so going to take a vacation without them. LOL.

Michelle, this is a post which resonated so with me. My Mom (bless her heart) reads every single word I write (and tells me I'm better than Shakespeare!:), but there are other close family members who show everything from zero interest to a mild interest and, at times, it does hurt. My husband is hugely supportive of my writing but never reads fiction. I used to nag him into reading my work but was left feeling so dissatisfied that now I just let him be. We're both happier. I've also come to the conclusion that whether I self-publish, small or large publish one day, the various reactions won't change. In a way it's a good thing – it's forced me to write for MY approval and not my family's!Judy(South Africa)

Timothy Fish

I was thinking along these lines when I was looking at my sales figures last night. But my problem isn't that my friends and family won't read my books as much as it is that they won't buy my books. I won't pretend that doesn't matter, because it does. It's nice when someone comes up to me and says, how much they enjoyed one of my books, but it is so much better when someone not only buys my books but buys more than one copy so they can give them to friends

Derico Photography

I think it's just natural for us to want those we care about to care about what we are doing. Maybe they're not ignoring it as much as just not being as excited as you'd like? Either way you can't make everyone happy all the time, so just make you happy and the rest will fall into place 🙂

I like this post. I feel like at some point in our lives we all feel this way because unfortunately there will always be someone who, like you said "Doesn't get it."That's ok. Your doing a fantastic job, and even if I and some other friends you have don't show it a lot, I care tremendously that you are finding so much success, and I am so damn happy for you! :)I remember when you said "This isn't going to happen for like, 20 years, but I'm going for it anyways." and look! It's only a fraction of that and here you are. I love you Michelle!GREAT JOB!!!

Rather than hoot and holler and proclaim the worthiness of this post, I'm just going to quote a bit from Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird:"I remember one year my friend Carpenter and I had books out on the same day. We talked about it all summer. We each pretended to have modest expectations. I had modest expectation for his book; he had modest expectations for mine. The week before, we talked almost every morning about how excited we were and what a long time we had waited, and how it was just like being a little kid waiting for Christmas Eve. Finally the big day arrived and I woke up happy, embarrassed in advance by all the praise and attention that would be forthcoming. I made coffee and practiced digging my toe in the dirt, and called Pammy and a few friends to let them congratulate me. Then I waited for the phone to ring. The phone did not know its part. It sat there silent as death with a head cold. By noon the noise of it not ringing began to wear badly on my nerves. Luckily, though, by noon it was time for the first beer of the day. I sat by the phone like a loyal dog, waiting for it to ring. Finally, finally it rang at four. I picked up the phone and heard Carpenter laughing hysterically, like some serial killer, and then I became hysterical, and eventually we both had to be sedated."

It's important to find common ground in a friendship. I have some friends that share a passion for cooking. I have friends that are football fanatics, when I don't care for any game other than OSU. With my cooking friends, I talk about recipes, equipment, and techniques. With my football friends, we talk about something else (movies, TV, kids, etc.).Family is a different story (no pun intended). It's important to have the support of a spouse/partner because that's healthy for the relationship. It's also important that family can give you a reality check. I tend to dream big about everything I work on, and my wife is there to help me stay on track with the real world. Sometimes it can be off-putting when my enthusiasm echoes alone, but I try to ask myself if I am always that appreciative (and honestly appreciative, not just playing to common courtesy) for the things my friends and family bring to my attention.

I wouldn't expect everyone I love to want to read my work. I write YA for girls. I don't expect my brothers (men in their 40s and 50s) to be that interested in reading my books. If they did, I'd be pleasantly surprised and hope they, at least, saw the value in what I do. Some of their daughters have read and enjoyed my first WIP and that's great. They're my target audience.It's not like I read one of my brother's briefs or watch another brother operating on patients. Even my husband's work is fairly distant from me. I don't read over his proposals or scan his spreadsheets. (I'd be lost and blurry eyed if I tried.) It doesn't mean I don't love them dearly. I'm happy for their successes, but I don't know about the cases my brother has won or lost or the patients that my brother has saved. I'm more interested in them personally–what they did on a recent trip or how they liked a show or their health. Writing is different than other jobs. It is something that we can share more easily with our family and friends, but we can't expect every one of them to be interested in everything we produce or even anything we produce even if they love us deeply. Everyone is not a big reader. Everyone is not interested in every genre.

My husband doesn't read my books because he's afraid of not-liking it due to genre. I'm okay with that. 🙂 My mom doesn't like sex in books. so she won't read either. My sis probably would, I just haven't seen her lately, and my few "in-person" friends aren't readers. So no one in my immediate circle reads my work. I suspect a few will have more interest in the suspense/thriller I'm embarking on next year. ;-)None of that bothers me as much as my online acquaintances who were friendly when I was planning to submit traditionally, and then just ignored my book when I decided to self-pub instead (in some cases, they ignore me personally now too). That one hurts, because it says to me that they don't *really* want what's best *for me*, they just want me to tow the same line as everyone else. Not true friendship, IMO. As for what I do…I mostly shrug it off. It's not worth wasting much time and emotion on. People who won't support my work because it's self-published (when I know it for a fact…not those who just don't like the genre or whatever) don't get support from me for their books…I have little enough time as is, I want to spend it supporting other authors who are classy enough to rise above the publisher name on the spine. But that's as far as my annoyance goes. I have more books to write, and a career to build…both of which are vastly more important to me than what other writers think.

Domey Malasarn

Most of my friends don't like to read. At all. So, I'm not too surprised when they don't take much interest in my writing. Sometimes they'll say they're happy for me if I announce some award I've won or something, but many of them have never read my writing, nor do they want to. With those friends, I just tend to shut writing out of our relationship. It's kind of sad to me, but then you can't force someone to like things they don't normally like. It does mean, though, that I tend to drift away from them and toward more writerly friends!

creativebarbwire

Most of my friends know that I write, but never asked to read anything. My family is just the same. And now that I write in English I even narrowed the possible readers! ;-)But I must admit I write first and foremost for myself. I write the stories that I want to read. I got lost when I tried to please all the beta-readers. So now I'm back to my old path: I WILL give my writing to a bunch of beta-readers, just to make sure I'm clear enough, then out I go, daring to be bad, and self-publish. Hopefully I'll find like-minded readers out there and won't have to bother with well-intended critiques. I know I'll also find haters of my writing (especially if I *gasp* become famous), but for me it will be success when I get my first fan letter. Writing for someone else never worked for me (tried it in high school, never wrote fan fiction for that reason)! ;-)Happy writingBarb

I have both extremes. My mom is extremely supportive and reads everything. My dad is a writer himself and is very encouraging. My husband and my brother don't read anything I write. It used to hurt me, but I learned to accept that's who they are. They don't read a lot of fiction.There are a few members of my family, further out, who not only don't read what I write, but make snide comments about I waste my time. The year I wrote full time and published two books and earned money at writing for the first time, one person made a comment I've never forgotten about how I was lazy and unemployed and when would I get a real job.

It is sad when those we love don't get what matters, but I bet your right that maybe we don't get some things that matter to them. I remember sending a story to my best friend growing up (this was early on in my writing, so it probably wasn't that great of a story), and she said. "That was good. There were no grammatical mistakes at all." Oh. Wow. Thanks. I just had to laugh. I'm really okay if people don't share my interests. I have been lucky, though, to always have amazing support from my family.

The people I care most about are incredibly supportive and celebrate every miniscule achievement I manage. So, fortunately, I don't have this problem. But I know that I'm not able to please everyone with what I write. And that's okay. The ones meant to read what I write will read it. I have to trust my words will end up in the right hands.

Oh my, you nailed this one. I've had this problem ever since I began writing. It used to hurt but now I've found acceptance. My husband only reads the newspaper and ESPN. He hates reading period so he has no interest whatsoever in my writing. No one in my family really gets any of it and I'm now okay with that. I think that's why our blogging and networking friends are so important. We're not just followers, we're friends. We're the people who will buy your book, sing your praises, and follow you along throughout your career. I just call it my "secret society" and when I do have a book on some shelf in Barnes and Noble (hopefully) I'll tell them that our "secret society" is no longer accepting members so just scurry on along and watch re-runs on TV. So Sorry. Actually I'm too nice to do that. I'd forgive them and move on but it sounds nice;)

One thing I love about my husband is that although he doesn't read my work, he shows his support in other ways. He built me a desk so I would have a nice place to work, and also a special art desk where I paint. His favorite way to support me, since he knows computers, is to buy me new computers and specialized software. I forbid him to buy me a new computer this year, since we can't afford it, so he found Poser Pro (an art program) on a Black Friday sale, and gave it to me for Christmas.I think it's important to be aware of how people who are not necessarily writers or readers approach the matter of encouragement and support in their own way.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Chandara: You're definitely not the only one! There will always be stings in life, and this is one of them.Judy: I'm happy this resonated with you! That's so sweet of your mom! Wow! I can understand why you'd feel dissatisfied with your husband's reactions. I think the CLOSER we are to someone the MORE excitement we want from them. It's sad when we don't get that.Good for you for writing for yourself! It's a huge step.Timothy: Aww, yeah, it's frustrating when our friends and family expect free all the time. Unfortunately, most writers can't afford that, and most of my free copies are going to have to go out for reviews or marketing.Meghan: It is natural, yes. When I fight these kinds of emotions, I know it's got to be something others struggle with as well. I'm trying to learn to be supportive of others' work that I normally wouldn't care too much about. I don't want to be fake, but I want to at least be supportive. But yes, the 100% rule applies here. It's impossible to please 100% of the people 100% all of the time. Alyse: Yeah, it's not that people aren't supportive, really. It's that some of them just don't care at all, or even try. They don't see what I see. I really appreciate how much you care, Alyse. Thank you! Loren: Wow, thank you! That is a fantastic excerpt! That book is on my list to read.Rick: I think it's important for family to support each other, too. It just hurts if they're only supporting out of necessity. Still, that's better than nothing, and yes, it goes both ways. I've been on the other end, that's for sure.Lois: Haha, yes, there are things I write that wouldn't appeal to certain age groups. We have to keep these things in perspective, and you've done that really well. Good point that writing is different than other jobs. It's certainly something, like most art forms, that can be shared and appreciated by many. Jamie: Oh, how did I not know you're doing a suspense/thriller??? Did you tell me that before? I have a goldfish memory.Your second paragraph really hits home because I've seen that happen to many Indie authors. It's sad, and you're right that those people were never true friends to begin with. You have such a good attitude about publishing and your own work and career. You always inspire me!

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Davin: Yes, I tend to drift toward writerly friends, too. If there's someone new in the neighborhood who writes, you can bet I gravitate more towards them than others. It's just natural. I love my non-writer friends, too, but we have other things in common besides writing – usually something that interests me almost as much.Barb: Oh, I wasn't sure if you were self-publishing or not. Congrats on that decision! You know you have my full support. Getting fan letters makes all of this go away, I think. 🙂Tara: My father-in-law writes, as well, and is a great reader. It's nice to sit with him and talk about all of that. It's the snide comments from your other family members that would upset me…I'm sorry you have to deal with that. Angie: Oh, *STAB*! I'm sorry she said that, haha. Didn't get it, obviously…Elle: You are so lucky to have that support! I have a ton of support from my family and friends, too. It's a wonderful thing. TC: Awww, I'm sorry you feel alone in the real world with the support. But yes, the network here online is so amazing. Hehe, I love the title "secret society!"Tara: Wow, Tara, that is awesome! It really shows he cares about YOU and what matters to you. That's what matters most.

Sometimes I prefer it when friends and family don't read my work. There are parts of myself that come out in my writing that I'm more comfortable sharing with strangers or friends who also write.

Susan Kaye Quinn

My husband is very supportive, but only occasionally reads my work. He's just not a reader. But he's a fantastic husband.And this is what the online community is for, no? To get the support from those who "get it"? This is why I am so excited for my friends that reach milestones – I know how hard it is! 🙂

C. N. Nevets

Most of my family has been very supportive and excited for me, even if they're not going to actually read what write — and I'm not sure I would want all of them to read some of the things I right, anyway. But they're excitement for me is there anyway, and I have felt very fortunate and blessed for that.Among my friends it's more of a mixed bag, and that's been hard. I thought I would be "smart" about it and really try and target the friends that I knew were readers, were into the kind of things I'm into, and were generally supportive of me and their other friends.A few of those, including some people who I considered among my very best friends in the world have shown zero interest.That has been miserable.And, fair or not, it's changed the way I feel about them as friends.I don't except everyone to read what I write. I don't except everyone who reads what I write to like it even a little bit. But to feel like the target of special and uncharacteristic apathy by people who will normally be very supportive of whatever crap people are doing… that's hard for me to take.There are plenty of ways I rationalize it to their benefit, but there's no way around it creating distance in our relationship. There aren't many things about me that are more core than my writing. If it's not something you're interested in hearing about (and I do *not* talk about it much, or in any technical detail) then I can only assume that your interest in me is more limited than I had previously thought.Which is fine. I don't hate you, but I will readjust my perception of our relationship.'Cause heaven knows I get plenty excited about plenty of things I don't ordinarily care about, only because they're exciting for someone that I do care about.

About 90% of my friends and family do NOT read my work. It hurts like hell. They don't even read my blog– ever.I don't really know why this is. But what I think they fail to realize, is that reading a writer's work is the best way to show you support them in their passion.

Judith Mercado

Here's the other thing about having friends/family read one's stuff. Unless they are fiction writers themselves, they might have a hard time understanding that what I write about is fictional. Inspired, perhaps, by some slice of real life, but that's it. Those in my family circle who have read at least portions of my work are convinced that everything in there is my version of actual events. I can get blue in the face explaining that I'm writing is FICTION. I can never seem to convince them. So, what do I do now? I don't share my fiction with family and friends who are not writers too. And I've also decided that if something I've written sounds real to them, they have paid me the ultimate compliment. If I made it seem real to them, I must have done a decent job of writing.

When I first told my mother I was writing a book, she laughed and said, "yeah, you and a million other people." When she later read an early version of my ms, she said, "it's nice." My wife never reads anything. I was flattered when she showed interest in my book. She read it and said, "It's nice."Now you know why I'm so excited an actual writer is reading it now!

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Taryn: Oh, very good point! That's a bright side for sure. 🙂Susan: This is what we're for, yes! It's certainly a very lonely business without a community and network.Nevets: Oh my goodness, I hear you there about how you feel with friends when they show no support. You don't want to be a jerk and let that change how you feel, but it happens anyway. I'm dealing with this right now in some relationships. It sucks.Anjali: It is the best way to show support, but it's not always possible. I don't want to make anyone support me. I'm sure none of us do. This is why it hurts!Judith: OH WOW. Yes. I don't know how others could think my spy thriller ISN'T fiction…that would be odd. Yes, I'm secretly a CIA officer on the side…haha. But, there are things in every book that we do draw from within ourselves, and I can see how others who aren't writers could pick up on that, especially if they know us well.Charlie: I promise you my only reaction won't be, "it's nice." 😀

My family has been amazingly supportive and curious about my writing, but I do understand the "they just don't get it" feeling. When I got an agent, no one (outside of my husband and mother) really got what a big deal that was. It was a lot of–oh, that's nice. But now that word is getting out that I'm going to be pubbed, everyone is telling me they want to read the book. I should be happy, but I write erotic romance, lol. I DO NOT WANT my in-laws or my brother-in-law's mother (who is a very nice, church type lady who patted my hand and said she couldn't wait to read it, that she loves romantic suspense) to read it. My own mother insisting on reading it is cringe-worthy enough, lol.I have a year before the book hits shelves, so I figure I have time to come up with a game plan on how to handle everyone reading it. I'm not embarrassed about the story, I'm proud of it. But having people that know you read it is a whole different animal. I'm just hoping the book I have on sub with Harlequin gets bought as well so I can just direct them to that one which is much milder in the bedroom department. 🙂

CharmedLassie

My other half is barely interested in reading of any sort. I've tried to get him to read stuff in the past and he's said that it's not plain enough and that he doesn't understand it. It's hardly high art or anything, he just likes people to speak plainly and he doesn't like prose. It took me a while to get over the disappointment that I couldn't share that part of my life with him and it has caused a bit of a division between us. But I've got other people around me who I can run to when something exciting happens. My father is quietly invested in my writing career and I have numerous friends I made through writing. It's not all bad.

Timothy Fish

My friends and family don't expect me to give them free books (at least most don't). My problem is that one person will buy a book and then there'll be ten people all lined up to read that one book.

You make a good point about friends and relatives simply not caring about books or writing. I remember when I worked in the film industry and thought I had a life everyone in the world wanted. It was a revelation when I found out that wasn't true . . . in the least.

Oh no, I still haven't read your book….. I feel suddenly very guilty. 🙂 It's just kind of how it is though, I don't expect any of you to understand my 3D work. As much as I wish I could talk to you all about nurbs surfaces, n-gons, radiosity maps, uv coordinates and G3 curves, I understand most people don't get it and don't care. However, that doesn't mean that they aren't proud of you and happy for your accomplishments. 🙂

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Roni: Oh, wow, in a way I know how you feel. Not that I write erotica, but I do live around a lot of very conservative people, and even CINDERS got a bit of flack. Just know that the writers here know what a huge deal it is that you go an agent and sold a book! Charmed: Awww, so sad! I hope you can find a good balance there. It does sound like you've got some great support elsewhere, and that is important!Timothy: Yes, oh yes, I can relate to that…MG: Oh my goodness, yes! It's the same thing in almost every artistic endeavor.Andy: Yes, this entire post was directed at YOU, Mr. Brother. Get to reading my book already, would you? And I know what you mean about the 3D stuff. And also photography stuff on many different levels. We won't go there at this time…

Most of my friends find my writing at least semi-interesting, but to be honest, very few people thought much of my work UNTIL I got paid.Then, as if by magic, my stories were worth reading. Now that my first book was just published, family members who never thought about my work are patting me on the back and are proud as can be. Please note, this does NOT mean they actually read my work.They're proud because they see writing as a source of income, not a craft, an art, or something that simply gives me joy.I can certainly relate to how you feel. However, I sometimes wish a few relatives took less of an interest. I have one sibling who's always my harshest critic and knows how to make exciting accomplishments suddenly feel like piles of vapid prose.

Jessie Oliveros

I don't really feel that my family is interested in reading my work. Supportive, but not interested reading it. That's why I have writer friends.

Tabitha Bird

Yep, I feel your pain. Much of my family could care less what I do. I talk about it anyway. It's apart of me. I just make sure I'm not talking about to get some positive feedback from them though- cause that just hurts when it isn't forthcoming.

Beth Overmyer

Hi, Michelle!Is it weird that *names removed for spared feelings* are excited about my writing but won't read it? I mean, they read the occasional short, and when they do, all I usually get is "Oh, that's nice." (Or no comment at all.) Makes me really doubt if I have any skillz. Yes, with a "z."*doubles back* There is an aunt who wants to read what I write. I'm afraid it'll offend her! :/Yep.

I'm actually the odd one in my family when it comes to reading. Other than myself, I can think of maybe 3 people (and I have a LARGE family) who enjoy reading. Out of those only 1 would probably enjoy my fantasy story. My mother would probably try to read it to be supportive and totally not get it at all. But none of that matters to me because my husband is the one perfect reader I have in mind when I write. We are lucky enough to share an almost obsessive love of books and have similar taste, though he is more inclusive than I am. I share everything with him and know he appreciates it and that's all I ever need.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Dan: Isn't it crazy how money plays into it? And getting on the bestseller list means you're making a ton of money…(hahahaha, yeah right)…so then it's a huge deal, I suppose! A critical sibling would be interesting to deal with. 🙂Jessie: Isn't it great to have that network? I love it!Tabitha: Yes, I talk about my writing all the time. I'm afraid it annoys people, and there are times the writing is all I can think about. I often feel very cut off when I'm in that mode because everyone else could care less.Beth: If I were you I'd just warn the aunt, and if she's still interested, go for it. Can't hurt to have one family member excited about your talents!subcreator: That is so wonderful about your hubby! It's pretty great to be that close to someone and have them appreciate your work 100%. Those who don't have that at least have their writing support here online or in writing groups, and that's a great thing, too. Isn't it amazing how many people don't read? I can't even imagine not reading…

I think I understand what you're saying, at least to a smaller degree. I started writing a blog because I really, really wanted my family to read, maybe even participate, to get to know me in a way that I can't otherwise communicate. The fact is that most of them would rather interact in a hundred other ways instead of a blog. They don't dislike blogs, it just doesn't catch their fancy. Makes writing a blog more a chore instead of a treat.You know what, cut out the rest of the rant you've heard it before already. It boils down to: The times people are the most interested in me is when I am talking about them.Now go back and re-read the comments above, especially Alyse's who said things 100x better than I could.

My husband does read what I write but slowly and has to be reminded to do so…he's supportive, but he has a friend who has read every word adn then passed it on to his girlfriend who also made encouraging noises about it. My grandma, fyi, would read anything short of possibly stephen king :PI know it's hard–books are not IT for some people which is nearly unfathomable to me. But it's not personal for them, it's only personal for us.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Alicia: Okay, yep, when you're talking about someone you have their attention 100%. SO TRUE. Hahaha. Also, I love how you skip the rant. I think we've both heard each other say it before. 🙂Lora: She made all kinds of noises about it, haha. That's funny, but awesome your husband has other friends who can help you out, as well.

Nice post, Michelle! Your conclusion is spot on. I don't want to read steamy romances and I'm really not into sci-fi much, but I love the people who write in those genres and I appreciate the hard work they've put into them. I love fantasy. A lot of people just don't get that, but they still love me. Of course, it's the same when you leave the writing world. It takes all kinds. The sporty type, the writer, the musician, the teacher, the doctor etc… The key is to love the people, not to necessarily love what they do. So I love religion and see this as a religious truth across the board. Love the people, not what they do. We don't all need to have the same likes and talents. Truth in point, we absolutely shouldn't! Not to say that it isn't nice to take an interest in other people's interests just because we love them. I don't like sports much, but my little brother played baseball and football. I didn't have to go to his games, but I did because I love him. I guess the point of this ramble is just to love more while realizing we don't all show love the same way.

Cynthia “Original Cyn”

Nice post. I know how you feel. Some of my friends are supportive of what I do but hardly any of them have ever actually bothered to read my work. And the only one in my family who ever read my stuff was my mom and she passed away a few years back.
I try not to dwell on it and instead focus on the people who will read it. That’s why I love getting reader feedback. Because if a book is born into the world and no one reads it does it make a sound?

Michelle D. Argyle

Cynthia, thanks for reading. It’s one thing to be supportive, yeah, but when a loved one actually reads your work, I think that really shows how much they care. I’m really sorry to hear about your mom. 🙁