On Writing: Resistance

40

November 11, 2013 by Laird

To new writers, and especially to young writers: expect resistance. I am forty-three. I’ve written since I was five. I know one thing if I know anything.

They will try to stop you.

Resistance to artistic aspiration is typical. In general, people aren’t going to leap onboard your dream train. It’s cute for a teenager to talk of becoming a novelist, or a poet. The gloss is tarnished once you travel beyond the solar system of middling youth and into young adulthood. If it has not already begun, it will begin. If it has begun, it will now begin in earnest. People will gently, or not so gently, undermine your artistic endeavors. How will you pay off your loans? How will you pay off a mortgage? How will you afford a family? What will become of you?

Grow up. Get real. It’s for your own good. We love you. Stop, just stop.

They will attempt to subvert you. They will attempt to cajole and coerce you. They will roll their eyes and shake their heads and talk about you in hushed tones of mourning. When you pursue the dream of being an author, people always mourn you. They will bargain with you. They will read your words and pronounce you No Hemingway, no Jackson, no McCarthy. They will probably be correct in this latter judgment. It doesn’t matter. Hemingway was no Faulkner, Jackson was no Shelley, McCarthy is no Steinbeck. None of them were Shakespeare. Be sure they were told this or something like this and by someone who loved them, wanted the best for them.

Print is dead. Publishing is dead. No one reads. We love you. So stop.

They’ll do anything to blunt your progress, to deflect your trajectory. They’ll offer you a raise at the sausage plant. They’ll marry you, knock you up, or get knocked up. They’ll send you down the trail behind a team of huskies. They’ll jail you. Drug you. Withhold love. Punish you. Blast your mind with a 24 hour news cycle and infinite cartoons on the Cartoon Network. They will guilt you for the hours you spend apart, writing, dreaming. The most insidious of them will publish you, review you, praise or condemn you, encourage you to rest on your laurels or to simply quit, the world is better off without you, because you’ve made it, or because you never will. And so they say, Stop. Quit. We love you. Come back to us, don’t leave us here.

They will do anything to stop you. Remember. They love you. You have to be ready for that.

40 thoughts on “On Writing: Resistance

  1. isylumn says:

    Reblogged this on My Isylumn and commented:
    Yep

  2. Reblogged this on Rotting Thoughts and commented:
    This is very true when pursuing an interest that makes you happy. Lost on many is the notion of enjoying what you do in your single chance at life.

  3. Honestly, I did not have that experience. Possibly because people who truly love you won’t pull this shit. Maybe it was because I was an only child, or maybe because my mother was an avid reader and my dad an avid sci-fi nerd, but when my childhood habit of making up stories out loud, endlessly rehearsing them for an audience of one, turned into late nights at the computer, all they really worried about was my getting enough sleep. I couldn’t have gotten two novels out by the age of thirty without that support in childhood. But it’s the kind of support that every thoughtful parent should give.

    So, yeah. You probably will encounter resistance. From haters. And assholes. Tell them to fuck off with their concern-trolling, because if you need help you’ll ask for it. Tell them that plenty of writers work dayjobs to pay bills, because that’s what being a fucking grownup is about, it’s about being independent and pursuing goals and having control over your own life and establishing boundaries between yourself and people who are jealous that ideas just randomly, spontaneously occur to you, that the muses visit you and not them. Because anybody telling you to quit having those ideas is telling you to change your very identity. So fuck them.

  4. This hits home. There’s champions and there’s those that don’t understand breaking out of the comfort zone. This is precisely why some people that may not be as talented as others break out– they are the ones brave enough to put all their chips on their dreams. On the flip side, and fair warning: just because one does bet entirely on themselves, doesn’t mean they’ll break out. Hollywood is overflowing with just such folks. But still? We have to try, and keep on trying. Right on, Laird. Follow your passion. Follow your dream. To those that try to stop you, consciously or not? All fuel for the creative fire.

  5. Gene O'Neill says:

    This hit me hard enough that i shared it on my message board.
    Write On, Laird!

  6. You said it, pard.

    And to paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis: “If I’m goin’ to hell, I’m goin’ there playin’ the piano.”

  7. The hell of it is, one of the naysayers may be you yourself, especially as the rejection slips pile up. Or the acceptances, but only (primarily) to small circulation internet mags you know no one else reads. Or even within a story itself where you find yourself thinking “this is crap.” So the answer for me was pigheadedness — or choosing a more polite word, persistence — “I know you love me, but I’ll do this anyway. Then we’ll see.” Or else, “Maybe you’re right, but I’ll do it again anyway. Hey, it’s better than mugging little old ladies.”

  8. lilthundercloud says:

    Nikola Tesla was doubted, Edward Jenner (creator of the smallpox vaccine) was ridiculed, Robert Goddard (the father of the space age) was mocked and Mark Twain’s own publishing house went bankrupt. The list goes on and on…
    There are those who will try to dissuade you. They are miserable bastards who never had the courage or the gaul to pursue their passions. And you know the old adage “misery loves company”.
    Don’t sell yourself short! Follow your dreams!!

  9. anonymous this time says:

    It is so very sad and so very true. My family and ‘friends’ didn’t have the excuse that I couldn’t earn my living that way as I was already retired, but it didn’t stop the opposition from them. It was if I was choosing something that hurt them.

  10. jtglover says:

    Reblogged this on J. T. Glover and commented:
    I’m reblogging this post because I think it’s a good one, I like Laird Barron’s writing, and I’ve never previously used the “Reblog” feature. He’s spot on here about stopping: there are a million reasons to stop, and precious few to continue. When the yardstick is that of improbable success, we will all “fail” regularly, if not always. There are many potential pull quotes from the post, but I choose this one:

    They will read your words and pronounce you No Hemingway, no Jackson, no McCarthy. They will probably be correct in this latter judgment. It doesn’t matter. Hemingway was no Faulkner, Jackson was no Shelley, McCarthy is no Steinbeck. None of them were Shakespeare. Be sure they were told this or something like this and by someone who loved them, wanted the best for them.

  11. Vlad says:

    I think I’ll translate this into Russian, if you don’t mind (of course I’ll give a link to this page). You can’t imagine how well-timed this message of yours has proved for me.

  12. […] Laird Barron on the resistance writers receive in pursuit of their craft. […]

  13. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Amy Britton Mendoza and commented:
    Awesome post. I have been very lucky to have a supportive family, but I know others aren’t as lucky. And no matter what a writer’s situation, what he said about Shelley and Shakespeare is so important to keep in mind. “They will read your words and pronounce you No Hemingway, no Jackson, no McCarthy. They will probably be correct in this latter judgment. It doesn’t matter. Hemingway was no Faulkner, Jackson was no Shelley, McCarthy is no Steinbeck. None of them were Shakespeare.”
    Thank you, Laird Barron, for such a great post.

  14. Beautiful post. I was encouraged to major in something practical – so I did. And I hated it. I encourage my children to follow their dreams – so far we have a budding concert pianist in music school, a film maker, and a ballerina. And now one mama who has been inspired by her children (and encouraged) to finish her first novel. This life isn’t a dress rehearsal for the next…we must do what brings us joy.

  15. Things said “in love” are often the most painful things you’ll ever hear.

  16. Amy Schaefer says:

    I found the opposition I got to my writing was actually pretty helpful. It forced me to decide whether I was serious or not. Once I knew that clearly in my own mind, the flak I got from other quarters became irrelevant.

    But I do try to put down my pen when my kids ask me to stop writing and read to them instead. I can always write while they are sleeping.

  17. Josh Mason says:

    My motto has always been “A writer writes. Always’ You cant stop writing if you are truly meant to. Published or not, someday or never I will always be writing.

  18. […] Laird Barron writes about resistance new writers and even established writers might face over there. […]

  19. rrapmagazine says:

    Reblogged this on The R.R.A.P. Magazine and commented:
    Such a necessary piece of motivation for the writers/artists out there. Keep pushing!

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