When Loved Ones Don’t Support — Or At Least Understand — Your Writing Career

“When are you going to get a real job?”

That is probably the harshest criticism any artist can ever get from anyone, especially people close to them — whether it comes with full understanding from the person asking, or it’s simply an honest, clueless question. I’ve seen it happen to several successful artists, writers, actors, and musicians in my life. I’ve felt it in my own life from strangers and loved ones alike. I’ve written before about friends and family not reading your work or when people love you and not your writing, but today I’m talking about something a little different — something that I’ve seen literally make some artists quit right in their tracks and do something else that they think will make others happier. In some ways, it’s the artist’s fault if they let others’ opinions pressure them to quit. After all, we are in charge of our own happiness and destinies, right?

I’ll be brutally honest and say right now that I’ve felt negative pressure for a long time now from the world in general, and not just because of my writing. I happened to marry an actor who has chosen to pursue a career in acting and combat choreography. He’s still in school and it’s taking a long time to get through. He has a day job that pays our bills, but he’s also actively pursuing his dream, and he’s not letting anything get in his way. In this way, my husband has been one of the most shining examples of happiness and sources of inspiration for me and my own choice to chase after a dream that many people simply don’t seem to understand. Why would we both choose to pursue artistic careers and limit our own comfort and happiness? That seems to be the question — phrased in so many unspoken ways — that we get asked on a consistent basis, whether people mean it negatively or not.

Why would we choose to limit our own comfort and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that we aren’t. When I married my husband and he decided, after some very trying experiences for both of us, to follow his dreams and do what he loves, I told him that I’d rather be poor and rent for the rest of our lives than see him follow any other career path that will make him regret leaving behind what he knows he was meant to do. Several years later, I decided to chase after my own artistic dream, and well, here we are. We’re both close to our mid-thirties and in a lot of debt. We don’t own a home. Sometimes we can’t buy groceries or shampoo or toilet paper, and sometimes I wonder how we’re going to make it every month, but we always seem to push through and move on. The most important thing is that we are happy with what we’re doing — and we haven’t given up.

I do have to admit that one of the hardest blows for me just happened recently when my publisher closed their doors and I was left with what felt like absolutely nothing. I had to start all over again, it felt like. Finally, though, I realized that I have more than I thought I did, and I’m now picking up the pieces around me and moving forward just as I was before. I may not sell as much as I did with a publisher, and I know for a fact that I’ll get even more of what feels like disapproval for my chosen career path, but the truth is, I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m a mother, which I happen to feel is the number one most important job in my life right now. Yes, more important than writing, obviously. My daughter is one of my top priorities, but guess what? We went to a parent teacher conference the other day, and her teacher said, “So your daughter tells me you’re a writer. I think that is fantastic.” A really great conversation about writing and teaching and my daughter’s own pursuits ensued. My heart melted. My daughter knows I am doing what I love to do. She sees that I am happy, and that makes her happy, and I hope one day she will have the courage to follow her own dreams no matter how difficult and impossible they may seem — because her parents did just that.

Many, many people in my life do support, appreciate, respect, and at least try to understand what both my husband and I are doing with our lives. For that, I am truly grateful. I figure that if someone doesn’t approve of what we’re doing, that is not our problem and we shouldn’t waste any time letting it affect us. So, I suppose next time I get the “when are you going to get a real job?” vibe from someone, I can make it quite clear that we’re perfectly happy where we are, and I hope they are too. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate more people who are chasing after their dreams like we are. None of it is easy, and most of it takes a massive amount of patience to see any satisfying financial results. For some reason, the world seems to measure success with the amount of money you’re making, which I find very sad. It would be nice, yes, if my husband could quit his day job because he found financial success with his acting and stage combat/choreography. He does make money at it so far, and I make money at my writing, as well, but we don’t make enough to completely support us. Yet. One day, though, I believe we will — as long as we don’t give up.

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“When you stop reading books, watching movies and television, looking at art, going to plays, and listening to music.”

End of conversation.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

30 comments

Nicely said! I’ve been feeling this pressure ever since I graduated from university, because my family can’t seem to fathom how, with two books out, I’m not making any money. They don’t understand why I’ll willingly work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, on something with little financial return – but I know I’m doing what makes me happy. Success to me means writing a book people enjoy, and the money’s only secondary to that – even if it means I’ll have to stay living with my parents for a while. I’ll keep chasing my dreams! Best of luck!:)

Michelle D. Argyle

Thank you for coming by, Emma! I’m sad you’ve dealt with the pressure, but I do hope that your family tries to understand one day how much your writing really does mean to you. *hugs*

I’ve heard people argue against spending time on your passion and spending more time on “normal things” – ie, making sure your child is absolutely secure (or having children at all), by saying, “Dreams are what you give your children.” Um, that’s a pyramid scheme!!

Good for you. I love how you answered the question at the end.

Michelle D. Argyle

Jaimie,that just makes me laugh about “normal”. Gosh, what IS normal, you know? Hah, and yeah, never thought about it like that before (pyramid)!

Great post, Michelle. I honestly think this question comes from jealousy a lot of the time–jealousy and a lack of knowledge. Most people have a secret dream of what they’d like to be doing, but few are brave enough to really go after what they want. There’s always an excuse: when the kids are grown, when the mortgage is paid off, when we retire….

I got this question a lot when I started a career as a freelance journalist soon after graduating from college. I didn’t mean to be a freelancer–I thought I’d have a regular 9-to-5 like everyone else. So I jumped at the first “real” job I was offered, and it was horrible. I had fifty different hats to wear, I wasn’t appreciated for any of them, and my boss was literally out of his mind. You never knew when he was going to have a crazy outburst. So I quit. In the midst of being quite worried and depressed over what I was going to do for money, I was offered a freelance contract. I took it. This led to more and more work, and before I knew it, I was making a nice living working for myself.

The funny thing is, I made more money as a freelancer than I did in almost all of my “real” jobs, and I had a wonderful life when I worked for myself. It’s hard to leave the security of a day job, even though no job is truly secure. Most people are afraid to gamble on their own talent. I think that is where that question comes from. It’s about them so much more than it’s about you.

Michelle D. Argyle

Holli, I really appreciate you sharing your experience here. I’ve thought about it a few times over the past few days. I definitely didn’t want to live one of those excuses of “I’ll do it when …” What good is life if you’re always pushing things you really want to do out of the way for the perfect time? I’m so glad you’ve followed your dream. You do seem very happy. 🙂

Michelle,

Thanks for this post. This is a subject that hits very close to home for me and has been on my mind a great deal lately. I would love to talk with you about my thoughts and feelings in great depth, but this is not the forum. I hope you know that I greatly admire the tack that you and Adam have chosen to take. I will always support you both!

Love You,

Doug

Michelle D. Argyle

Doug, I do hope we get to talk about this together at some point! I am truly grateful for all the support you’ve given us over the years.

Katy Glemser

You nailed it, my friend. “The most important thing is that we are happy with what we’re doing — and we haven’t given up.” Love, love, love this post. Thank you. 😉

Michelle D. Argyle

Katy, I have to admit that you are part of the reason why I decided to write this post. I really have been struggling with this for so long, and to talk to you over the phone about it and know that you deal with the same thing was a great comfort to me. So you inspired me to talk about it a little more publicly. Thank you!

Beth OVermyer

Glam, you are FANTASTIC! So glad that you and your hubby are still pursuing your dreams. Keep going, girl!

<3 Beth

Michelle D. Argyle

Aww, Beth, you are so sweet thank you. *HUGS*

anne gallagher

You know what’s going to be really great — is when 10 years from now (or 5, or 2), you and Adam and Darcy are sitting on the back deck of your magnificent house, watching the sunset over the mountains, and you say, “Hey honey, remember when we were scraping by. Just look at all we’ve achieved.”

Hard work and dedication to your craft make you who you guys are. And are giving Darcy the right motivation to grow up and be what she wants to be. Following your passion and committing to what makes you happy is giving her something no money could ever by.

Michelle D. Argyle

Hi Anne! I knew you’d understand this, for sure. I love your scenario of us in 10 years. I sure hope it ends up like that! Thank you so much for your comment and understanding!

Liz DeJesus

I know exactly how you feel.

Michelle D. Argyle

Thanks, Liz!

“My daughter knows I am doing what I love to do. She sees that I am happy, and that makes her happy, and I hope one day she will have the courage to follow her own dreams no matter how difficult and impossible they may seem — because her parents did just that.”

Now THAT is pure awesome, Michelle!

I truly hope that you will always listen to that voice inside you which has proven trustworthy in guiding you towards your true happiness. I rejoice knowing you are happy with who you are and what you choose to do!

PS For what it’s worth, your persistence to follow your own definitions of happiness continues to inspire me to pursue my biggest dreams, too.

Michelle D. Argyle

Thank you, Alicia! I hope I can keep listening to that voice in my head too, especially when things get harder and harder (as they seem to be doing at the moment). I just have to keep pushing on. I appreciate your support and caring so much.

Danny Adams

I was lucky: I had a family member who was a successful author, so I not only knew what pitfalls lay ahead, including ones you’ve covered in your blog, but also that nobody could tell me “You’ll never make any money at it”.

I still get the “Real Job” (though I also do have a “real job”) and “You’ll Never Make Any Money” lines now and again. At this point my stock answer is, “What should I do instead? Watch TV?”

Shannon Lawrence

Woo-hoo! Well said. I haven’t gotten much of this yet, for which I’m grateful, though I’ve gotten the “You’re lucky your husband has a solid job so you can be a stay-at-home mom/writers.” My family does support me, thankfully, and THAT is how I’m lucky.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Michelle D. Argyle

Shannon, thank you for coming by! You are very lucky to have that supportive family! It’s still not easy getting it from others, though. Here’s to staying strong!

Oh, wow, do I get this. On a different level, but still…my husband’s family is not cool with his career choice. It’s been really hard for them that he deviated from their planned path. He’s not doing something so daring as being an artist, he’s a Marriage and Family Therapist, Phd. So, long story short, lots of schooling for not a lot of money. We are the “poor” ones in the family.

But for the two of us, we’re happy, we’re pursuing what we love, and that’s enough for us.

I love you answer at the end of your post! I’m sorry people judge so much-men esp. have it really hard when they’re not “super bread winners” but we get it too. Why don’t I quit writing so I can get a real job and help support my family better? Yup, we make choices and I wish our family and friends would understand and let. it. go.

Thanks again for sharing. I think you know how much I appreciate your honest and open posts, but here’s me telling you again, I sure do appreciate them and learn from your strength.

Michelle D. Argyle

Robin, I’m sorry to hear your hubby gets this too. That means you get a good brunt of it too, it sounds like. I love that he’s doing what he loves. It makes all the difference in a satisfying life, I think. I wish you the best in your writing!

Kathryn Purdie

Another fabulous Michelle post that I totally relate too. Actor husbands and writer wives. Yep! BTW, I linked to this post on my blog today. 🙂

Michelle D. Argyle

Thank you, Katie! You, probably more than anyone, understand where I’m at since you’ve got an actor hubby too. Thanks for linking my post!

Thank you for this beautiful, honest post, Michelle! I have always admired the dedication and sacrifice you have put into following your passion and I hope I’ve remembered to express that to you. You and Adam are marvelous examples to Darcy, me, and so many others of focusing on what brings you joy. I probably speak for more than just myself when I say I need a little more of that in my life. 🙂

Michelle D. Argyle

Aww, Katy, you have always been so supportive! It has truly mean the world to me, and I hope you know that. *HUGS*

Michelle, I LOVE your comeback, “When you stop reading books, watching movies and television, looking at art, going to plays, and listening to music?”

So perfect!

Michelle D. Argyle

LOL, thanks Tara! Yeah, I just figure that’s true, you know? When the world stops USING the arts, then I won’t have a real job anymore, but so far (since the beginning of time), that hasn’t happened.