Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gee, Why couldn’t you come up with Harry Potter?

Okay, it’s simple (and unfortunately unoriginal) but it fits here…

I write, therefore I am (a writer).


I don’t like to mention it in mixed company.

Now I’m down with the whole New Age throw it out to the universe, believe in yourself, write it down a hundred times a day and chant it, you are what you think philosophy. So that on most days, as I sit down with fingers to keyboard, dog curled at my feet, and write, I believe I’m working toward something. The words come out, the scenes are written, the characters that talk to me are alive on a page and all feels right with the world. When I have a good writing day it’s like I’m high on a drug with no bad side effects. If that’s not being a writer, than what is?

Try explaining that to your loved ones, who would rather you cook dinner, play dress-up or take them shopping at Target. I shouldn’t complain because my family supports me in more ways than I probably even know.

Writing? They just don’t get it.

My parents who have logged countless hours of unpaid babysitting in my pursuit of publication still refer to my critique group as my writing class. My children, whom I adore unconditionally, sometimes wonder aloud why Mom is at the darn computer so much. And just the other day my husband alluded to my writing as a hobby. What’s a writer to do?

The pinnacle of this not understanding is when my Dad, who is wonderful beyond imagining, said to me after I came home from my critique group, "Too bad you couldn’t come up with something like Harry Potter."

How do you reply to that?

A shrug of the shoulders, a polite laugh and smile? (which is what I did)


Well, yeah, that would be great, let me just go whip my muse with a cat o’ nine tails and yell "Give me a bestseller NOW!" (which is what I wanted to say, but scary thing is…I think my muse would like it – the whip thing, not the demand for a bestseller)

So my question is this, how do you take yourself seriously, when the people, who love and support you, just don’t "get it"? That when I’m staring off into space, I’m not only daydreaming - I’m getting my story together. All those hours spent at the computer, I’m actually creating a completely different world. One I hope that will enchant and delight readers for years to come.

In the future, I know, I’ll think about all these frustrations and laugh.

I just hope I’m not wearing a straitjacket by then.


  1. Enjoyed reading Robin’s post. It’s a problem we writers deal with, but I’m wondering if it’s only writers.
    Imagine Andy Warhol’s relatives – “A still life of tomato soup cans? Gee, why not a basket of fruit like Cezanne?” Or: “A blue Liz Taylor? Too bad you couldn’t come up with a Mona Lisa.”
    So what to do? Share your frustration with those who will nod, smile, and say, “I GET IT.” And make sure you have some of these people in your life.

  2. Lunch boxes....

    My husband yearns to see my characters syndicated into lunch boxes and happy meal figurines. Never mind that he wouldn't know one of my characters if he met them at a dinner party....never mind that I write mostly YA historicals so who's going to want a lunch box or a happy meal if they're reading YAs or that my one soon-to-be-published picture book is on the Holocaust. Talk about NOT GETTING IT!!

    But that said, like Robin's family, my husband and children support me 100%. And I take even greater strength from their support because they haven't got a clue. It doesn't matter to them if I publish or not - of course they'd be happy because I would be happy - but the fact that they support and encourage me without knowing what the heck I'm doing while their dirty laundry piles up or they eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner AGAIN (because there are no frozen pizzas in the house because I didn't get to the grocery store AGAIN) means more than if they did get it. It shows their complete faith in me.

    It's the rest of the world I'd like to shake until they suffer from shaken baby syndrome. Those who ask "are you working on another book?" once they hear that I have one coming out.

    As if I only had one story in me!

    AS IF!!

  3. Robin, your post reminded me of something Joan Bauer (who won a Newbery Honor for Hope Was Here) said at One-on-One about a similar experience she had starting out as a writer. When she told an acquaintance that she was working on her first children's book, he scoffed, and said something like "Yeah, right, send me a copy when it's published." To which she replied, "I'm not going to comp you, you turkey!" Guess he's one trussed bird by now.

  4. Hi Robin,

    I love the question you asked! It makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have some family members who really "get" the whole writing thing.

    But what I think is so very hard about writing is that you have to believe in yourself before anybody else does. I mean, before I had a single poem accepted for publication, I had to believe that I was good enough at writing poetry to keep going. And it's the same thing with every genre (and even every new manuscript), I create.

    Will this manuscript be the one? I'm never sure, but I have to believe it will. Otherwise it's tough to keep going.