Dr Niamh On The Plum Tree

Childhood Imagination Sows Seeds of Future Brilliance

Dear Loved One by Karen S. Elliott

Dear [Loved One]: I am a writer

My name is not Shakespeare, Poe, Bronte, or Rowling, but I am a writer just the same.

I may not be a doctor, lawyer, or executive chief, but my writing – to me – is just as critical. Can you indulge me, just a few moments?

You read articles in People, Sports Illustrated, Time, or Cosmo about the problems with celebrities and their children, the latest athlete arrested for drugs or spousal abuse, the trouble on Wall Street, or how to apply your make-up for a night on the town. However, when I try to talk to you about the article in Writer’s Digest about e-book vs. print book or how to improve my web presence, you give me the hand wave and say, “Who cares?”

You’ll spend a half hour with your nose in a catalog for new clothes, a new computer, or new hunting gear. I’ll spend a little time trying to find that just-right creative writing class or the perfect book for getting my novel to market, and you tell me I’m wasting my time.

I supported you when you wanted to start a small business, when you wanted to get out of a small business, when you wanted to start a new job, or retire. When I have a great idea for a new book or realize the book I’m writing must be shelved, you say, “Oh well” without lifting your head.

I’ve spent hours in the car with you to get to the ball game, watch the ball game, and get home from the ball game. I’ve watched, waved, and smiled as you pull out of the driveway on your way to that week-long hunting or fishing trip or when you were going for a girls’ weekend at the spa. But when I plan a day-long workshop at the local university or a weekend conference in Vegas or Seattle, you ask me, “What about the kids?” “What about dinner?”

I’ve sympathized over your aching joints or shin splints, your aching back, and your stress-related headaches. But when I describe my tired, bloodshot eyes or I’m afraid I might have carpal tunnel, you remind me you told me I shouldn’t spend so much fruitless time at the computer.

I’ve observed as you spend hours watching L&O marathons, night after night of Dancing With The Stars or American Idol or weekend sporting events. But if I ask for one hour of uninterrupted time to hash out a new outline or finish my edit, you complain.

You go online and spend hours sifting through junk email, silly chain mail, and funny pictures. You play farm games, card games, or puzzle through Sudoku. I spend online time with writers, agents, publishers, editors; I learn about writing, how to query an agent, or how to land a publisher. And you wonder why I don’t do something productive.

You regale me with stories of the quirky character at the grocery store, the fabric store, or the paint guy at Home Depot. But if I try to describe one of my book characters, one of my villains, or my protagonist’s triumph, your eyes glaze over.

I agreed when you wanted to upgrade to a $1,000, 54-inch TV, when you wanted another new car or yet another pair of designer leather boots. Yet you scoff when I want to spend $500 on a weekend writers’ conference or a professionally-designed website.

You spend hours tending your garden, washing and waxing your F-150 baby in the driveway, or creating the perfect lasagne. But you tell me I’m wasting time when I struggle over the perfect paragraph, the perfect opening line, the perfect surprise twist.

I celebrate with you when your second cousin in Alaska has her first baby, your aunt and uncle buy a retirement condo in Florida, or your friend in Arizona graduates from ASU. The birth of my novel is barely a blip on your radar.

I have coddled you through the flu, knee surgery, and that pesky rash. I have consoled when you were depressed and commiserated with you over what the boss had the nerve to do on any given day. Yet when I try to tell you how much mind-bending, sleep-losing trouble I’m having with my final chapter, you suggest I just give it up.

You will read a book if it’s on the NYT Best Sellers list (by someone you don’t know and have no hope to ever meet), a tell-all book by a politician you didn’t vote for, or a memoir by your favorite sports figure. Why won’t you open my manuscript?

You read numerous blogs every week about cupcake-decorating, care and feeding of a Labrador, how to paint a War Hammer figurine, or how to grow the perfect rose bush. Why won’t you sign up for my blog?

I hope we never have to talk about the death of my dream. I’m afraid you won’t listen.

Karen was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in a day. Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, writer, and grandmother. You can find her at The Word Shark website. Connect with Karen on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

www.TheWordShark.com
www.karenselliott.wordpress.com
www.twitter.com/KSElliott_Shark
www.linkedin.com/in/karenselliott
www.facebook.com/karenselliott
https://plus.google.com/113113932825667302868#113113932825667302868/posts

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19 comments on “Dear Loved One by Karen S. Elliott

  1. Shawn MacKENZIE
    January 27, 2012

    Oh, so lamentably true. Even those who proffer support do so only when convenient to them, as if what we do isn’t real work, after all….A writer’s life is not for those lacking big dreams and self-reliance, that’s for sure.

    Like

    • theobblog
      January 27, 2012

      Indeed, it takes self-belief, bravery, resisting the trend, loneliness, and being prepared to be poor!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Today, on the ob blog | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

  3. Angie Ledbetter
    January 27, 2012

    Sadly, so true many times. xo

    Like

  4. Wendy Reis
    January 27, 2012

    Karen is a remarkable woman. She is the executive editor of Plum Tree Books. (I am a contributing editor and I know how hard and how long she works.) She has nailed this. Every author goes through this; the struggle to remain buoyant and positive and stick to the process when also burdened with ridicule and the discounting dismissal of the people they most treasure. Most who work in the arts, unless they are wildly successful, can relate to this magnificent piece of insight and perception.I am not only keeping this, I have printed it. I ride this roller coaster with the writers I know, and I have my very own personalized ride with my own loved ones. It seems every waking minute is consumed with networking and trying to build my end of this publishing jungle and I also hear “You just can’t stay off that thing, can you?” Thank Karen for your candor and honesty. Wendy

    Like

  5. Donna Martin
    January 27, 2012

    Years ago that was me in almost every word. No support, no interest, and every negative word thrown at me until I put away my dream of writing for over 20 years. Fortunately the dream refused to die and now I make sure I only have positive, supported friends and family surrounding me as I try once again to follow my dream. Thank you, Karen, for a wonderful post that touched my heart…

    Like

  6. Cindy Cornwall
    January 27, 2012

    This is so true of many creative, non-conformist occupations. People (especially those who aren’t creative or never wanted to be) tend to glaze over when you mention a project you’re working on. Or, don’t think of what you’re doing as a “real” job. Yet, as you say, they will be the first in line to buy a Harry Potter book or run to the latest Twilight movie. The best one can do is to surround yourself with at least two or more people who are like-minded and supportive. That’s why SCBWI and all the conferences/workshops can be such a breath of fresh air!

    Like

  7. Wayne Zurl (@waynezurl)
    January 27, 2012

    Well done, Karen. That says a lot about reciprocal courtesy. I know a couple more occupations (or avocations) that could do with this being posted to their blogs.

    Like

  8. dianneebejer
    January 27, 2012

    Amen, 52 times! Talk about nailing it! What a wonderful piece! I get ridiculed for “having the computer glued to my face, get called “Cyber Queen”, get asked “how can you sit there staring into that computer hour after hour?” , and you don’t even get paid for it! “At least when you spent 12 hours a day at the office you got paid for it!” So again, Amen 52 times!
    DiAnne

    Like

  9. Clearly this resonates with many of us.

    Thank you, Karen, for giving voice to these common experiences we writers share. It helps just knowing I’m not alone. It definitely makes me more appreciative of those folks (usually not our loved ones) who write to say how much they were moved or inspired or edified by something we wrote.

    There are all kinds of ways to definite “family.”

    Like

  10. Betty Dravis
    January 27, 2012

    How well you know us–and human nature–Karen. Verrrrrrrrrrrrry interesting blog. Thanks for sharing.

    Luckily for me, though, none of my friends or family ever put me down for the many hours I sit in front of my computer. I’ve always been encouraged with my writing; after all, it did raise my children in good style. And now that I’m older, they encourage me because they know it’s good for me to be occupied with something positive and would rather see me transporting other people into “new worlds with my stories” (that I compose in my desk chair)… rather than sitting in a rocker contemplating the past. 🙂

    Wonderful, thought-provoking article,

    Hugs – Betty

    Like

  11. Yvonne Hertzberger
    January 27, 2012

    I am sure you speak for many of us today. It is an unfortunate truth that often those close to us, the ones whose opinion and love are most valuable to us, do not understand the importance of what we do. They do not see writing as a ‘real job’. Or they do not see US as real writers. It hurts. And so we must turn to each other for support and validation. Good thing we have that!

    Like

  12. karenselliott
    January 28, 2012

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I know – from being connected to so many writers and bloggers – that many of us suffer through disinterested family and friends. It is heartbreaking. I too, went through decades of wanting to write but was put down for the effort, because I didn’t have a degree or couldn’t pay the bills with it. Now, with internet, I am surrounded by supportive people all the time! Thanks to Niamh and the ob blog for bringing this story to the fore.

    Like

  13. lastseenat
    January 28, 2012

    Karen,
    Please accept my ‘dittos’ to the foregoing caring, comiserating commentary. To be sure, it could not have been without a cloud of melancholy that you so artfully penned “loved one” at work not loving. I would point out, especially to the empathetic, that there is a curious, nay, black-comedic irony in “loved one”‘s behavior. We, in my view, which admittedly has been known to keep company with the astigmatic, all write of necessity from the well of personal experience. Our art is, therefore, autobiographical in varying degrees. As such, when we lower the bucket to fetch a mug of ‘character’, the mug contains the actual or a composite of ‘loved ones’ who are then paraded across our pages – in style. Ours. The ‘raw material’ may appear exactly as it was in the well or morph somewhat – at our discretion, for our purposes. “Loved one” is nevertheless there, perhaps enjoying a key, ‘starring’ role in the ‘creative product’. More’s the pity, then, that they miss that exuberant feeling of complete narcissistic joy. While they are panting through the peep show of a Demi Moore or Helen Hayes, they pull the collective wool over the ego that could have been prancing in pride through their very own shining moment. (That’s why I so enjoy writing in the first person. It lends a delicious soupcon of mystery because only my pc and I know ‘which one has the Toni’, as it were) Take heart, then, fellow creators. We have Karen, each other and far more fun than a barrel of phony politicians! Lorane Leavy. . . .

    Like

    • theobblog
      January 29, 2012

      Lorane, as ever, I LOVE your quirky comments. It is interesting that there is an element of prophet and visionary inherent in good writers. And you know what they say about prophets. They are never appreciated in their home territory. I often think insight is scary to familiars. They can’t control it! Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt!!! After all, how can you stomach a visionary in the family? And isn’t talent a threat? Talent makes others think, is inherently challenging, and triggers in people such deep insecurities.

      Like

      • Wendy Reis
        January 29, 2012

        You just said a mouthful Karen. That is all so true. We can know all of that and still be deflated by it. Sadly.

        Like

  14. karenselliott
    January 29, 2012

    Lorane – you so hit the nail on the head. Yes, I am very grateful to people and friends like you and Niamh that see the light!

    Like

  15. bethkvogt
    January 30, 2012

    I’ve learned to embrace the people who value my dream — and I do have those family members.
    Those who don’t?
    I try not to let it hurt me anymore.
    I don’t write for them.
    And don’t write in spite of them.
    I write because I am a writer — it’s my passion.
    And yes, maybe I don’t (over)extend myself on their passions so much anymore . . .

    Like

  16. karenselliott
    January 31, 2012

    I just write because it’s what I do. I am sorry some of my family does not understand what I do, but I certainly do not let that stop me! And I certainly don’t love them any less. They may not be on my “dedicated to” page though…. 🙂 I think a lot of people (outside the industry) need to hold a book in their hands in order to validate. That’s sad. I am so grateful for the friends I have made on line that do understand. I appreciate you! Thank you all for stopping by to listen to my lament.

    Like

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