We all know creative people - there will be at least someone in your group that will want to write, draw, paint, make music, make films or photograph [or something equally creative] for a living. That person needs your support...it can be difficult enough believing in and pursuing a dream at the best of times, without someone saying something unhelpful or negative to them. So here's a list of things you probably should avoid saying to your creative friend, unless you want to annoy them. The list is written from a writer's perspective, but could apply to any creative field:
1. Why don't you write more like so and so?
As a writer, I'm naturally inspired and influenced by other writers...I can't help it really. Yet, even though I may draw on my influences a lot, I don't want to write exactly like someone else. I never want to lose sight of my own distinctive voice or the things that make my writing original and distinctive. Being told to write like someone else is a bit insulting, it implies that your writing style isn't good enough, and whilst every writer could probably improve in some way, copying another writer's style completely is not the answer. You've got to stay true to your own writing style and voice, even if that voice is constantly evolving.
No two writers should be completely alike, even if they are similar...
2. Why don't you try writing in a different genre?
This is similar to number one. If I'm interested in writing teen fiction, don't tell me I should be writing sci-fi. Yes, there are some writers who like to try lots of different genres, and that's great, but don't tell someone that one genre is less worthwhile than another. I've been told that I shouldn't waste my time with writing chick-lit, that I should focus on writing literary fiction instead. I take umbrage with this, as there are great writers in both camps - some chick lit writers, such as Marian Keyes write fantasically well about a whole range of subjects. I just don't see the point in doing something that I'm not personsally interested in, just because someone thinks that one genre is somehow 'better' than another.
I'm not saying that I would never take on board someone else's suggestions - if for instance I was commissioned to write something for someone I would do my best to do the subject justice, but if I'm writing something of my own accord [like this blog] and I'm not collaborating with anybody else then I'll write about what I like to write about. If you're not interested in my subject matter or the style I choose to employ, then you don't have to read it.
3. One day you'll be rich and famous...like J.K Rowling
Maybe other writers don't mind being told this...but I find it a bit irksome. I don't have a problem with J.K Rowling [she is one of my favourite writers after all] but I just don't like how she's always used as the ultimate standard of success for writers. We all have different definitions of success and to me, even just being published would mean that I was successful in my own eyes. I genuinely don't write to be rich and famous, I write because I enjoy it and I find it fulfilling. Yes, I want to be a professional writer and I would love to be able to make a living from doing this...but I don't need to be a megastar to be happy with my own work, or to be a 'success'.
4. Are you really going to stay at home and write?
I've told quite a few people that from September onwards I will be working part-time in order to focus more on my writing. Most people have been more than lovely about it, but a couple of people have rolled their eyes and looked at me in confusion. Why would you take a pay-cut and write? These people see writing as a waste of time or as a bit of a dead end...they only see the decision in terms of the finacial loss I will be making. Well, my answer to them is that life is short, and this is something I want to pursue. Even if I never make any money from my writing, I'll still be richer for spending more time doing what I love.
5. Is it any good?
I had an ex- boyfriend who used to ask me this everytime I mentioned my writing to him [mutters darkly to herself] and it was supremely annoying. Now, I'm not claiming to be some kind of writing genius, a lot of what I've written in the past has been poorly constructed or a bit slapdash and I confess that I'm an absolutely terrible poet....but I do believe I have some kind of writing talent, otherwise I wouldn't do it. So, if I tell someone that I'm happy and proud of a piece of work, and then they ask me 'but is it any good?' I find that utterly demoralising. I can take constructive criticism, especially from an expert such an editor or a writer who is successful, but please don't assume it's bad before you've even read it. If you read it, and find fault with it, then fine, I will take your criticism on board - but don't assume it's crap without even trying it, that's just unfair.
So there we are...rant over. Most of you are lovely and wonderful about my writing dream, so thanks for that!