How do you handle people being unsupportive or even dissing your art?

Q&A With Shay Each Sunday

Any writer or artist knows about this one, especially when starting out and trying to make a name for oneself. You just want that reassurance that people—anyone—care!

Q: How do you handle people being unsupportive or even dissing your art?

A: It’s hard not to take it personal. It doesn’t feel like too much to ask for friends and family to support you in your endeavors, especially when it doesn’t even cost anything to do so. However, people are bombarded by a lot of choices, a lot of art, a lot of interests, and a lot of other individuals out there. There are so many books, poems, short stories, movies, etc and of course we want ours to be lucky enough to be chosen, but it’s not always the case. I do find a bit of a problem in this society where we’ll go out of our way to support celebrity brands and read their books but not those of our own families. It seems backwards, and I have been guilty of it as well. I am now really trying to be aware of supporting those I have direct contact with and a relationship with. I love seeing what others are working on and all the talent that exists out there. I, like everyone else, have to stop telling myself I’m too busy or too bombarded with other art forms. If I know you and I know you have art out there, I want to support it—it’s not reserved for the famous! And if I don’t know you have art out there, please tell me!

So, I think this is a lot of what people experience. They are simply unaware of their blatant unsupportiveness. I don’t necessarily think it’s an excuse, but it’s a way of understanding the process. I was ruminating on this recently about weddings. We will go spend hundreds of dollars on a one day event as guests, gifting the new couple with money and materials, simply for having a party in which they declare their love. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent to find a person you want to spend the rest of your life with and create a life with, but I don’t necessarily believe it’s an accomplishment. It’s hard work, sure, and should be celebrated, sure. But it’s like pulling teeth (pardon the cliche) to get a friend or family member to buy a $8.99 paperback (or $2.99 Kindle) book that you slaved over and finally put out into the world, yet they’ll typically buy you expensive china sets or whatever off your registry just for receiving an invitation in the mail. Imagine if they felt that obligation when receiving notice of a book publication? This is only sometimes though, of course! We all have some super supportive friends and family members out there, and they are truly to be cherished given the rarity.

I don’t deal with unsupportiveness well when I don’t think I’m asking too much, but I continue on without the support of those people, because it’s just the way it is. People can be selfish, but we love them anyway…some of them. You don’t create your art for them, you create it for you and for those who truly connect with it, so that’s the most important thing to keep in mind. It’s also the most important thing to remember when we send it off into the world from the safety of our computer screen. You did that for you.

Now, for those that actually do “support” us but only have negative feedback—they aren’t really supporting, are they? They’re making it about them and their own opinions, whether they bought your book or not. Everyone has opinions, judgements, criticisms, etc—we all do, but find the positive! And, that just means you aren’t for those people only looking for the negative. We can’t all connect with everyone all the time. One author I admire, Tarryn Fisher, recently said something along the lines of, “You don’t create your art for the beige people.” That really spoke to me. My art can be full of darkness, but that’s my own experience, and those in darkness perhaps need art the most. It’s for those who need it and get it, and it’s an extension of myself so of course it’s difficult to be criticized, but you don’t all have to get it, that’s fine. Being respectful is nice though:)

What do you do to remind yourself your writing or art isn’t for everyone? And how do you combat the unsupportive ones? It’s never easy, but we keep going because our art is our lifeline—not anyone else’s.

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