Congratulations, you’re succeeding in your blogging career! Whether your work is online, in print media, print books, or ebooks, your friends and family may not be as supportive of your work as you had hoped. Furthermore, you might find that your online writing buddies are your biggest cheerleaders, which shouldn’t make you doubt your “real life” friends and family.
As a longtime blogger, freelance writer, and friendship advice columnist, I like to help fellow writers keep their expectations of friends and family in check. Here are the five typical ways you can expect the people in your non-virtual life to respond to your published work.
1. They will be enthusiastic
These are the friends who read your work regularly. They send you occasional texts and emails saying, “Really liked this one,” and they may even be supportive on Facebook as well. To keep these friends, you must never, ever assume they have read anything. You are to be surprised and delighted by anyone who has taken the time to read your work.
I’m going to say right now that to expect enthusiasm from anyone in your life, even your spouse, your sister, or your mother, is asking a lot. It’s rare that anyone can keep up with all the work we writers produce. So when you find these people, make sure to come from a place of deep gratitude and appreciation. There is so much material out there to read, and if friends and family read your work in any capacity (weekly, monthly, occasionally), then that is generous. Ask them about their jobs and their families constantly because you owe them tons of enthusiasm in return.
“It’s rare that anyone can keep up with all the work we writers produce. So when you find these people, make sure to come from a place of deep gratitude and appreciation.”
2. They will be neutrally indifferent
These are the family and friends who know you’re a writer and have seen your work here and there. They ask you about it sometimes, but if they don’t, it’s not for any specific reason — just like you might not know the gritty details of their jobs. They are neither excited nor threatened by the topics you cover. I suspect that most family and friends fall in this category, and that is not a bad thing. Ultimately to succeed in this business, your audience has to expand beyond family and close friends anyway.
3. They will be confused
These folks say things like “I don’t understand the internet or blogs” even though it is no longer 2009. This reaction is genuine and not meant to be hurtful, but starts to feel like passive-aggressive criticism when it goes on for years.
4. They will be disinterested
The family and friends in this category do not read your work and they do not ask you about it even if you ask about their jobs or passions. It’s worth mentioning that they may also be the types who are not good at asking questions in a conversation. That is why disinterest can feel personal, but it truly could be a matter of poor social skills.
It’s important to remember that not everybody likes to read in the first place, not everybody likes to read online, and nobody will be as interested in our writing as we are. That said, do I think it’s irritating if you’re always asking about friends’ work and they never ask about yours even if they’re not particularly fond of essays or whatever else you write? Yes. It’s especially rude and awkward if you’re supposedly good friends. People do not have to actually read your work to ask about how things are going for you.
5. They will be disapproving
These are the people who read your work and see your activity online, but do not like what you are saying and doing. They may openly let you know, or they may choose to act disinterested to avoid letting you know directly. No matter how the message gets across, being on the other end of disapproval never feels good.
So, what should you do if your close friend, sibling, or other important person in your life falls in the last two categories of disapproving or disinterested?
There’s only one answer: You have to force yourself to forget about winning this person’s interest, support, and approval. We can get overly fixated on changing the mindset of a particular person. Ask yourself why this one friend or beloved family member’s lack of support is bothering you so much. Do her doubts mirror your own? Is his refusal to acknowledge your success holding you back from reaching for new goals?
We can control the time and effort we put into our work, not the way anyone reacts to what we put out there. And if you have a tribe of writing buddies who cheer you on, consider yourself supported enough. If you can recognize that these online connections are your colleagues, I believe it will help you to avoid putting the same expectations on your other friends or family. I know that at Beyond Your Blog we can all count on mutual support. For assured enthusiasm, start here.
“We can control the time and effort we put into our work, not the way anyone reacts to what we put out there.”
A version of this post originally appeared as an answer to an excellent question posed to Nina for her friendship column at The Herstories Project. You can ask Nina an anonymous friendship question here.