Dealing with Unsupportive People
From where I’m sitting in my spot on the couch, there are several kinds of unsupportive people.
There are the people who are close to you – often, they live with you and some of them you might have even made yourself. These people are less unsupportive and more “What’s for supper?”, “Can you sign this permission slip that’s three days late?”, and “I know you’ve asked me every day for the past week, but I’m finally telling you that we’re out of lunch meat, cat litter, and fruit snacks.” heedless of the fact that you have headphones and your work face on. The spouse version sounds a lot like, “Hon, have you seen my keys/flashlight/20-sided die/Shadowrun book/etc.?”, “Are there any clean underwear?”, and the ever-popular, “What’s for supper?” also heedless of the headphones and work face.
Normally, my family gets that if my headphones are on, I’m working and I’d prefer not to be disturbed. They’re actually pretty good about it. And despite the above listed questions, they’re also pretty good about being self-sufficient human beings. But it seems like once one of them caves and interrupts, it’s all downhill slide from there.
Then there are the people who have trouble understanding that just because you work at home doesn’t mean you have unlimited time to entertain drop-in visitors I loathe this. So much so, that I’ve pretended that I’m not home. More than once. I’m not proud, but whether I’m working or not, I don’t always have the emotional energy to deal with surprise company. (Mom and Cait, this doesn’t apply to you. I get that sometimes, a girl just needs to pee and get a cup of tea. Besides, if you’ve been given your own key, it’s hardly drop-in.)
A lot of these are also the same people who get pissy when I can’t just drop everything to go out to breakfast or lunch with them. This isn’t to say that all of the people I occasionally lunch or breakfast with don’t understand that being self-employed often means putting in a fuckton of extra hours. Most of them totally get that. It’s the ones who seem to think that because I work from home I’m living some sort of magical life of leisure that piss me off. Even explaining the reality of deadlines doesn’t seem to click with them.
Then there are the people who are unsupportive because “writing isn’t a real job”. I have a couple relatives that I don’t see often who are somehow under the impression that the freelance editing I do is somehow more of a real job than writing is. (Yeah…I’m not sure I get that, either.) These same people also feel that what I write is an affront to their delicate sensibilities and because of it are disdainful and sometimes downright douchey when we interact.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to love what I do and proudly wave the erotic romance flag. Far from it. My only request would be…don’t be a judgmental asshole. It’s really not that tough to live and let live.
So what to do about unsupportive people?
For those you live with, the occasional reminder that they’re capable of washing their own undies, or checking the menu posted on the fridge may be necessary. Also, make sure that you’re not so buried in your work that you’re not spending any time with them. Balance is huge. But so is respect of your work time and creative process.
For the drop-ins or the pissy people who expect you to drop everything, let them know when you might be free (if you still want to keep them in your life, that is) or let them know that you’re under deadline for the foreseeable future and you’ll call them when you’re available. And if you mutter “the 12th of never” under your breath, I certainly won’t tell anyone.
For those people you’ve perhaps inherited through your spouse or maybe a step-parent, you could unload on them. Or, if you’re interested in some sort of semblance of family harmony, you can avoid them as much as humanly possible. However, when confronted with their assholery, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself, your genre, your child, or whatever their unsupportive bitch of the day is. It’s possible to do that without throwing down. Possibly not as satisfying, but possible.
But really, the best thing to do is find your tribe and surround yourself with supportive friends and colleagues who will not only have your back but also get the whole writing life.
You should check out the Jessicas. They probably have better advice.