6 Ways to Talk to the Fam About Your Writing
Writing is one of those occupations that people either respect or don’t take seriously. If you’re writing about yourself or sensitive, politically-charged or R-rated stuff and you’re sweating just thinking about explaining it to the fam, you’re not alone.
My first article, “Why I Don’t Sleep With White Guys,” was published by The Huffington Post in 2013, days after publishing it on a friend’s blog. It was my first published article and I wanted to share my accomplishment with my grandfather, who I had finally convinced that I could be a successful writer and journalist and not the social worker I was going to settle to become.
But I couldn’t bring myself to explain how I had just written about my dating and sex life for the Internet to a man that I’d hoped to leave out of all this personal biz. So when my grandfather asked for the link to the article, I felt the dread set in my stomach. I gave him excuses for a good week — the site was down, it was being edited again, I’d get back to him — until the following week when we were at the movies.
“I read your article,” he said slyly during the preview as he reached for the popcorn.
I tried to think of every possible apology and defense that would undo the pain and embarrassment of this moment. I said nothing, consumed by my own thoughts.
“And?” I managed to sputter.
“I liked it,” he smiled.
Now, I’m not saying all of y’all are going to get this reaction. I certainly wasn't expecting it, so anything is possible. But it’s still good to have the talk with your loved ones if you know there’s subjects they aren’t comfortable with — especially if they're Internet-savvy enough to Google your name. Trust, it's better that it comes from you and not a search engine.
I’ve still spent a lot of time defending the things I write about, especially race. If I didn’t assert myself and treat my writing — and all the tough subjects about — as all part of my career and my niche, I’d be writing in fear, and that would greatly affect the quality and fierceness of my work.
Here are some tips on how to talk to your loved ones about your writing:
When you challenge certain assumptions or beliefs (that your personal experiences should be kept public and not shared over the Internet, that it’s best to keep your political views to yourself, that you just don't "go there" on certain topics, etc.), people react with fear-mongering questions (Why would you want to share your experience of sexual abuse for everyone to read? What if you anger someone by talking about your political views?). It’s usually unintentional, but it can certainly make you question your own intentions, especially if it’s coming from the people you love. While you should always be cautious and consider taking their concerns into consideration, you should also know when to stand up for what you really want:
“Mom, writing/writing about these topics is what I love doing, and I’m great at it. There may be some topics I cover that you disagree with, and I know you’re concerned with my job security, but I’m confident that I can make a career for myself as a writer/journalist and your support would mean a lot to me.” Putting it into perspective and being assertive could do a lot of good.
Break it down
A lot of people aren’t familiar with what writing and/or journalism entails (and both of these are very different, FYI!), so be patient and explain what you’re actually doing. Whether that’s your writing process, how you choose stories and what you actually write about, the more your fam knows, the easier it is to understand. The last thing you want is to be a Scott Disick — the type of person who nobody knows what you actually do for a living.
Talk about your successes
Nothing smashes skepticism like good old success. Share all your publishing accomplishments and achievements with your family — not only will they be proud, but they’ll want to know more about your writing.
Let them decide
While my family is cool with my writing, I leave it to them to decide if they want to read my work. Sometimes it’s too personal or too raw. Sometimes they don’t really know what I’m talking about. I offer to send a link to my stories if they’re interested, and for other stories, I give them the “don’t read” heads-up.
Remind them this is your career
If you want to be a writer or journalist then you need to act like one. Even if you’re just starting out, you gotta fake it ’till you make it. Not only will this make you feel confident when you talk about your passions, but you’ll carry yourself like a career-person. Let them know this is not a phase or a hobby (unless it is), but your livelihood.
Leave the door open
Even if the fam still isn’t digging your writing or your career as a writer or journalist, don’t shut them out. They could very likely come around in the future. One of the most beautiful things that I’ve noticed in the years since writing is that my family know looks out for stories they know I'd love and engage with me on subjects they normally would’ve seen as taboo/irrelevant. It’s a great feeling to know my career has connected us in a way that it wouldn't have if I wasn't a writer.