When People Love You and Not Your Book, Which is More Often Than You Might Think

I’ve run across an interesting thing that happens to artists. I’m married to an actor so I know this isn’t only related to writers, of course. He does a lot of Shakespeare, which I’ll admit, I used to dislike until I met him. I didn’t understand Shakespeare and I thought he was overrated. Wow, was I wrong. Once I learned to appreciate him a whole new world of beauty opened up to me – including understanding an important part of my husband.

What I began to see, however, was that some of our family and many of our friends are in the same boat as I was before I learned to appreciate Shakespeare. They love Adam. They love me. They want to support both of us when I send out an email or call them up on the phone or tell them face-to-face that he’s in a new play and that it’s Shakespeare. Sometimes their face falls and they come up with an excuse on the spot not to attend. Trust me, I can tell every single time when someone doesn’t want to force themselves to sit through a “bone-dry boring play” they don’t think they’ll enjoy. Other times, however, these loved friends and family will nod and say that sure, they’ll try to come even though I can tell it’s not something at the top of they’re exciting-things-to-do-list.

I love them for that. I love those gestures of caring despite enduring something not entirely pleasant.

This, of course, extends into my own career. I can’t count on my fingers and toes (because it’s much more than 20) how many people have purchased and read my books just to support me. It truly means the world to me that they do so. I have many emails from friends and family who have read Cinders, my novella from last year, and told me that it was different than they thought it would be – that they actually loved it and fully admit they didn’t think they would. This doesn’t always happen, though.

Awhile ago I wrote a post about friends and family who don’t read your work. I was surprised at how many people commented and said I wasn’t the only one who felt like my writing (one of the most important things in my life) was being ignored by some of the most loved people in my life. It hurts, honestly, because there are some people in my life who don’t give a crap about my writing. They don’t read this blog. They don’t ask me about my career. If I happen to mention it they kind of shove it aside like its something they don’t understand and its therefore not important. However, they do care about me as a person, so I ask myself, well, if they care me about as a person why don’t they care about this absolutely essential part of me? Then I stop and ask myself what I might not be understanding about them. They might care deeply about something I could care less about. Goes both ways.

I’ll admit I have high respect for those friends and family who really have no interest in what I do, but support me by trying to show an interest anyway. So thank you to anyone reading this who has read my work mostly because you want to support me more than you had an interest in the actual work. That says a lot about you as a person. I’ve tried to return that kindness with loved ones in my own life. In fact, the more I get into this career, the more I’m trying to open my eyes and see what I might be missing about the people around me.

I just want to make the point today that while there are many people in our lives who love us, they won’t always understand and love what we do. It’s much easier to relate to things we have in common with each other. The other day a friend of mine mentioned in chat that she was so, so sorry she hadn’t bought and read my book Cinders yet. She said she felt lame and awful for being such a bad friend. I told her (and I meant every single word from the bottom of my heart) that she did not have to read my books to be a good friend. I loved her anyway.

And it’s true. I hope other writers in my life understand if I don’t get to their work quickly. I know how personal it can feel when you want someone to read your work and they don’t seem to care. But my advice today is to understand that if you’re an artist (writer, actor, whatever) that this might always be an issue and you never know the other side of the story. If you’re upset over someone not caring, the other person probably doesn’t even know or understand why. There might just be something about them you’re not understanding, either. All I know is that when I let myself open my eyes to that Shakespearean side of my husband my life expanded just a little bit more.

So how do you feel about this? An issue for you? A non-issue? Something you’ve grown beyond and have advice about?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

32 comments

Sometimes it can be disappointing not to have friends and family want to read your work. What's worse is the ones who ask you about it and seem interested but still won't buy. They don't have to buy it, though. I know what I write isn't everyone's cup of tea and that's okay, even if it is sometimes disappointing.By the way, I think it's awesome your husband is in Shakespearean plays. I was in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor in college and LOVED them. They were perhaps my favorite things to perform in. πŸ™‚

josephrobertlewis

I can count on one hand the number of family or friends who have read my books. It bothered me right when I started out, but then I quickly realized that I didn't want to harass them about my books, and I did want them expressing some false interest or worse, pity. You can't expect a person to be genuinely interested in your hobby or career just because they're related to you, no matter how passionate you are about it.So now I'm perfectly happy to keep my new professional life separate from them, unless they're really interested. Which is great!

josephrobertlewis

*didn't want them expressing false interest

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Cherie: I think it's the ones who pretend to be interested and then don't make an effort that I have a hard time with. I just want it to be clear to people that they don't have to love my work or be interested in it. I won't be hurt by that, honestly. I need to be more forthright, I think.And that's wonderful about you loving Shakespeare! My hubby was in Midsummer and I loved it. I haven't read or seen The Merry Wives of Windsor, but I will eventually. Shakespeare is like the essence of storytelling – truly a spectacular experience.Josheph: I'm happy it doesn't bother you anymore! I never want to feel like I'm harassing people so I've been better at just keeping my mouth shut when I know I'm with someone who truly does not have an interest in that side of me. I find other things we have common and life is happy.

Stephanie McGee

I'm trying to get to where it doesn't bother me anymore. But it's hard when the biggest opponent to what you're doing is your own mother. And you live in her basement.It's the biggest bone of contention between us, second only to my job hunt. Sigh.

It used to really bother me that so many of my family and friends didn't even attempt to read my books. But I can't force people…so I concentrate on the ones that do. I still put it out there….letting people know so that someday if they decide to finally check me out, they will know how.

dirtywhitecandy

Lovely and thought-provoking post, Michelle – especially the point about what we might be missing about what matters to other people. To some friends, our passion is 'just scribbling a few books'. I've spent the last 6 weeks launching a book. Although my friends who are on Twitter and FB know about it, plenty of my friends never go near there and probably won't even find out unless I happen to mention it. Although I love what I do and totally believe in it, it's refreshing to not have to be 'on' as an author all the time.

Well, my Texas Hold'Em loving sister doesn't expect me to attend her poker tournaments, and the same goes in kind re: my good friends who are passionate about karate, movies, hiking, photography, archery, etc. though I will make an effort if I'm genuinely interested. I was quite fascinated by the demonstration of Japanese archery that I attended which one friend was engaged in. My own passion is birding, and I haven't managed to get any of my friends interested in it. So it goes.As for my first book, some of my family and friends read it and liked it and that was fine, though I didn't want to force it on anyone. It was actually more of a thrill the first time a total stranger bought it and liked it, because I knew they were under no pressure to do so.At least one of my friends writes fiction of a type I don't normally read, and while I'm happy to support authors I know well by buying their books, I hope they understand that I won't necessarily read their books.As some overrated playwright once wrote, "To thine own self be true."-Alex MacKenzie

I can imagine that this is something almost everyone on the planet struggles with regardless of profession. And really if you can't do it for yourself then you will almost always find disappointment. I came across this myself recently with my photography book that I poured my heart and soul into and no one even really so much as gave me any real feedback on it let alone bought a copy, but I kept in mind the whole time I was creating it that that would probably be the outcome and just to do it for myself. I feel much better about the whole process because I did it for me. I hope you can feel the same way too.

Wow, can I ever relate! My own mother doesn't read my blog. And when I was a full-time journalist with articles in the paper and various magazines all the time, hardly anyone I cared about read them. "I never read the paper," was the excuse I heard the most. Even my fiance never read my articles.It hurts, but the flipside is the people you've never expected to take an interest, such as an old friend of my mother's who always reads my blog, and who has even commented a few times. You never know who is going to appreciate and celebrate what you have to say. Often it means more when your fans read your work because they love it, not because they love you.

It is interesting how this applies to everyone in all situations. As a dancer, my family does not always approve of what I do and it does hurt to work so hard at something only to be told at the end by those you love that they did not approve of what they saw.I do like to think of something my dad taught me as I was starting my first job… Keep home and work separate. Don't bring home to work nor work to home. When it is my family who are the ones who do not approve, I look at them as though they were a critic. It is still hard to hear it, but doing this makes it easier for me.By the way, I want to like Shakespear, I think a lot of people do. It's just so dang hard to understand the guy. ^_^ My Adam has to be my interpreter. haha

Sorry, this is your blog. Not mine. I'll go rant in my space.Think this is why I haven't written comments all summer. I'm struggling with having positive things to say.One thing I can say: I'm thrilled looking forward to celebrating Monarch's release on October 15!

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I am honestly not bothered by family members and loved ones who don't read or enjoy the things I write and create. Everybody has different tastes. But, as someone above mentioned, it absolutely drives me NUTS when they say they want to read my books or essays or comics and then don't. This is particularly hurtful when it's a WiP. I need feedback on WiPs. There's a certain level of trust that goes along with sharing a WiP and when someone doesn't even bother to take a look–or worse, takes a look and then stops halfway but SWEARS the work is really, really good–then the doubts arise and I start to question whether the those who have made it all the way through are nuts for telling me it's any good. In fact, this scenario is so damaging and so perspective-skewing that I've stopped letting family take a look at WiPs altogether. The opinion of an outsider is more valuable anyway.

Hmmm… Well, one of my nephews read early drafts of some of my work when he was junior high age, but, other than that, no one in my family has been interested. And that's okay. No one else in my family likes YA or urban fantasy. If I were writing biography, most of them would be lining up to read the stuff.But they're very supportive and several of them will buy copies and proudly display them, even if they don't read them.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Stephanie: Oh, dear, now that would be hard, truly! I feel for you, my friend. πŸ™Stephanie: Yeah, I try to keep the information in a place where everyone kind find it if they want.dirtywhitecandy: Thank you! Yeah, scribbling a few books sounds so easy until you actually try it, hah. I hear you on the launch stuff. It's so draining and time consuming. I wonder if it gets any easier with each book… Alex: Very good points! It's so true that we just have to be ourselves and let people love the parts of us they want to love. It's simply nothing we have control over, nor should we. I remember the first time I got an email from someone I didn't know about reading my book. It was definitely a thrill!Alyse: Aww, I'm sorry about no feedback on your photography book. I have it marked to buy, I hope you know! I was waiting for Adam's school money to come in, and now it has, so guess what I'll be doing tonight. :)I ADORE your work! And YOU, even more. πŸ™‚Holli: I hear you about the unexpected people! I've had that happen, and boy does it feel good. πŸ™‚Brooke: I think your dad has a point about the job thing. It's hard for me to do that, though, since I work from home and it is such a personal job. Still, it's important to keep them somewhat separated. For my sanity, at least! My Adam interprets Shakespeare for me, too. πŸ™‚Alicia: I want to send you an email about your other response. I hope you don't mind, but I understand completely. Thank you for your positivity in my life. It has truly meant THE WORLD to me. Brock: I hear you on the false caring. Maybe they want to care and just forget or can't find the time. I always try to give the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes it's hard. It's great to see you here. Thank you for stopping by!Lisa: They would line up for biography? Hehehe! That's nice that they'll support you by proudly displaying and buying your work. That's something, at least!

Donna K. Weaver

You know, I think sometimes they avoid reading our stuff so they can have an excuse not not like it. If that makes sense. Or they have a hard time separating US from what they're reading. My daughter, even though she eventually read my first book and said she loved it, had a hard time in the beginning not hearing me in what I was writing. It didn't help that it's in first person, something I never though I'd write.Even Jesus said a prophet has no honor in his own country. I think that mental and emotional response to us plays a role.

I don't have a hard time with this. I understand not all my friends – even my writer friends – will be interested in my writing. That's okay. I can't spend my life being offended and hurt. I'm totally okay, esp. if they aren't into reading MG or YA. πŸ™‚

I'm all over this one, but I'll just sum it up in that I'm really annoyed by the people that do actually seem interested in and of itself but, then, still don't bother to actually read it. I mean, there were several people before I was finished constantly bugging me for a read bu, then, never read the book. What the heck? And the one that really reads all the genre stuff that is similar but won't read mine.

Amber Argyle, author

I know the feeling. It's hard.

Yvonne Osborne

I've often wondered why some of my own family members don't read or bother to comment on my blog. It does hurt, and I guess you've kinda answered that question for me here. Thanks

I really enjoyed this article because I realized that I'm not the only writer going through this same awkward situation. I think it is wonderful that you married an artist because all artists have a lot in common. I appreciate the members of my family who tell me up front that they do not like to read the genre I write. That way I do not feel let down again and again.

Martin Willoughby

There will always be people who don't 'get' what you do, whether that is your writing, acting or the fact that you chose to live in the rockies with just a dog for company. They have their likes and dislikes and you have yours. The diversity is what makes us human and what gives families life.

Wonderful post. I can relate to this as well – as I'm sure many writers (or any other artist) can. I've reached the point where I just continue to do what I love regardless. There are some who are close to me who take an interest in my writing – but the overwhelming majority couldn't care less. Who knows why? At this point, I no longer care. There are those I know who don't even know I write to begin with! I don't even bring it up anymore – unless they ask. I save all my "writing talk" with those I know who write themselves and take an interest. A mutual thing, of course and often bounce ideas off one another

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Donna: I've had more than one family member say they have a hard time separating me from my work. I think with what I write that can be problematic. I totally get that. Laura: I'm glad you don't struggle with this. It's nice to know that state of mind can be reached! πŸ™‚Andrew: I'm always afraid I'm one of those people that acts interested and then doesn't read something because I've either forgotten or completely run out of time or something. I have the worst memory EVER. I'm sure there are books I've forgotten about. This is why I try to keep Goodreads very, very updated so I have a nice working list.Amber: Yeah, part of the fun! Of course, this can be applied to almost anything in life, I think.Yvonne: You're welcome. I don't think many people in my family even read this blog. I'm not sure. If they do they don't comment, which is totally fine with me. I see them all the time anyway. No biggie. πŸ™‚Haley: That's a great point about family members making sure you know that they don't really enjoy your genre. That makes some awkwardness go away right there. I should inquire more if people don't bother telling me. Hehe. πŸ™‚Martin: The diversity is awesome, I agree! It's just hard when my ego takes it personally and I feel the need to put up posts like this for some reason. I think with time I'll get over a lo of this stuff.Julian: You shouldn't care much, which is good. You are obviously writing for the right reasons for you, and that's what matters most!

At this point, it's a non-issue. I think it's something I learned while beta-reading for friends: everyone has a different style.Things that I do, and that I love in books, drive other people crazy. I didn't understand that until I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and read books for friends in genres I wouldn't normally pick up. At first I tried to edit the books so they looked like mine (which was a horrible idea – they weren't my books). After a while (and possibly some yelling) I realized it was a style and Voice thing.The books were good, but they had a different flavor from what I liked. It took time to acquire a taste for books without body counts and explosions.Now, when people dismiss my work, I understand. I'm writing outside their comfort zone. I'm different than what they usually like. I don't need them to love my book. There are what? 12 billion people in the world? Some huge number… it doesn't matter. What matters is that I don't need that one person who really doesn't like sci-fi to buy my book. They aren't my target audience. If we're friends and they can be supportive anyway, that's great. If they can't be? Well, that's their choice.

I had the same realization as you did, there's a lot I don't know about the professional lives of the people I love. And frankly, there's a lot that doesn't interest me. I think as writers we feel writing is such an extension of ourselves that it seems more personal when someone doesn't take an interest. In reality they may just see it as our career or hobby and it may be just as boring to them as say… engineering is to me.

Boy, you hit on something I think most of us writers can relate to and have to come to grips with. I also appreciate those who are just reading my work to be supportive. I understand those who don't like to read much or those who aren't into kids' books. Like you said, the ones who seem interested, but actually aren't are the ones that are hardest to deal with. What really gets me are the people who act gung ho about buying the book when it comes out, and when it does, they could care less. That's being fake. Who needs that?I've come to realize that I shouldn't expect anything from friends or family, and if they do support me or genuinely enjoy my work, that's wonderful. And it does go both ways as far as us being interested in their lives do. That should be a given as far as friends and family are concerned. I notice that these things bother me more when I'm exhausted or dealing with some heavy issues. I need to tell myself to let it go and not let it bother me because they just don't realize how it feels. Only another writer or artist can relate. That's what I love about blogging and about my writer friends that i hang out with. We support each other and get each other through the rough times. Once we know what to expect, it doesn't hurt like it does at first.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Liana: You got all that right. There's enough readers to go around and you can't force anyone to like what they don't like. I often am pleased when people at least give my work a chance, but not crushed if they don't like it in the end.Candice: I think what matters most to me is getting support from those who love me – at least acknowledgment of what I do. They don't have to love my work to do that. Engineering would only be interesting to me if I were putting it in a book for some reason, hehe.Lyn: I agree about the network here, for sure! It's really lovely to have a circle of like-minded friends who are in the similar boats. It would be terrible to truly be alone in this.

This made me teary. So sweet, the way you see this. My husband won't read most of my stuff, and a lot of the friends I made when I was younger are the same way. There was a point in my life when I felt like a bad friend if I didn't put all my energy into doing things others, but chose friends who rarely did anything for me. I don't know what you call that. Doormat syndrome? Anyway, I know that a lot of people just don't get the writing thing and I don't fault them for that, but I do think it's important to have at least a few people in your corner who want to read the stuff you've written.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Angela: I'm sorry your hubby won't read your stuff. That always hurts me to hear that, but everyone's situation is so different. It sounds like you're getting a good outlook on it – and as long as you have some people in your love who truly care, that is a great thing.

It has bothered me. But sometimes I can take a step back and realize that I’ve done the same with family and friends who have other pursuits I might not understand, particularly non-creative ones (though that’s a misnomer–someone passionate about what they do will always find creative ways to do it). That helps me understand where they’re coming from.

Michelle D. Argyle

It’s made a big difference to me too, Danny, to take a step back and see that I have done the same with family and friends who have other pursuits. I definitely have tried to care a lot more now!

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