One of the things that has really been brought home for me lately is support. In any sort of artistic endeavor, it’s important. There are a lot of thoughts on the subject, and these are just mine, born from my personal experience – ymmv.
So one of the things that inevitably comes up with people who have creative careers is family and close friend support: how they do, how they don’t, whatever. Stories tend to either favor “oh they’re SO amazing they helped me get through all this, they sold their house to help me move cross country and we have soul connection time every night to lift me up…” or “They never believed in me, here are my receipts from the past 45 years…”etc etc.
Which kind of neglects the in between stuff, or actual reasons.
Here’s the thing: We all want to be the heroes of our own story. We want to be the protagonist and everyone to fall in line and be there no matter what, tell us we’re wonderful, help us finance things, etc. Sometimes those realities just aren’t there.
If you have friends or family who emotionally don’t get what you’re trying to do and aren’t supportive – it’s okay. That has nothing to do with you. I’m gonna say it again for the people in the back: HOW PEOPLE REACT TO YOUR GOALS AND TALENTS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
They may have their own views of what things are, it may not particularly interest them – do you know how many dinners I’ve sat through where people ask me what I’m working on out of politeness, and then they’re eyes glaze over? Do you know how many passive aggressive emails or comments I’ve gotten about how what I’m doing isn’t *real*? Or maybe someday I’ll be a real whatever, like I’m pinnochio and all it takes is the blue fairy to update my bravery forms so I can stop being a wooden costume person or writer or whatever. Or I’ve been compared to whatever property is hot right now.
It happens. I’ve learned to laugh it off and move on, or look at their advice and take or leave it as I see fit, because I get that’s them trying to connect with me the best they know how, and that’s awesome.
Also, if you do have family or friends who know what they’re doing and are critiquing you, that’s totally different. I would hope you’d at least give them an ear.
People like to get their digs in. Or they try to understand, but for whatever reason, they just aren’t as emotionally invested as you are. Or they worry about the pragmatic/logistical sides, which is understandable. Realizing where people are coming from have softened my reactions somewhat, and I try to at least be able to answer some business questions for those who are truly concerned. Also, maybe these people are artists themselves and are working through their own personal path and issues.
I hate to tell you this, because it is a reality that is hard to accept, but hear me out. Some people just aren’t going to be as supportive as you like. And that’s okay.
Before you growl at me in the comments, give me a minute. I’m not talking outright derision or abuse here, those are situations no one needs to tolerate. What I’m talking about is perception and practicality. I know artists who see people as traitorous if they’re not replying to EVERY post and complimenting EVERY last thing they do – and that’s just not reality. No one can keep that up all the time, and you shouldn’t expect them to. You have to find a balance on what kind of emotional and practical support and work you expect from people.
The point of all of this is, people aren’t necessarily enemies coming to get you. BUT, you also don’t have to prove yourself to them. Your path is your path, and you don’t need their permission or to hit certain goals to become real to them. You are real, your work is real. Maybe it varies on the scale from hobbyist to professional, maybe you’re in a bit of a plateau, maybe you’re still in planning stages. You don’t owe them proof of anything to be personally validated. If you feel better not going to dinner with them or just making a rule to not discuss that kind of work with them, that’s fine. Totally understandable. Because when you go in with expectations of what support really is, you’re going to potentially end up disappointed and hurt or wonder why whomever has this big giant fan club and their family goes with them to everything or whatever and you don’t have that.
This is why seeking out your tribe and people who can help you when you’re down and support you and give you real world advice is so important, because so often a lot of us come from backgrounds or friend groups where people may have concerns, but don’t get enough of the ins and outs to really give substantial advice. This is why finding people who are into what you like and have firm guidelines on what advice or critique or input you want from them are awesome. You don’t go to dinner parties or family dinners or see old friends expecting them to fall all over you because you have a book out. You just don’t. You go to engage with them and if it comes up and they like it, awesome.
It’s the same with teachers or others who told us we couldn’t do something five thousand years ago and we cling to that as vengeance material every night before we close our eyes. I get it, it’s motivation, but guys, you gotta let that go. Drop that weight and your journey will be loads easier. I’m not saying ignore it, but resentment over lack of support will eat you.
Everyone wishes more people like them or their work than reality can furnish. Everyone wants validation. Artistic work doesn’t give you that validation to that degree, I can guarantee you that. And, like family, you can always go looking for that outside support system.As I’ve said nine million times: IF YOU ARE GETTING INTO ACTING, FILM, THEATER, ART, WRITING ETC FOR PERSONAL VALIDATION, SIT DOWN AND FIGURE OUT HOW ELSE YOU CAN GET THAT BECAUSE THESE CAREERS ARE NOT BUILT TO GIVE THAT TO YOU.
Sometimes, too, family and friends can be supportive emotionally to a point without being as fulfilling as we’d like. It’s usually practical. I didn’t have the money to do a couple theatre internships that I *really* wanted to do, and at the time we just didn’t have the resources to fund it. The people I knew who did go to things like that had grandparents or whomever who could help them pay for an apartment for a set amount of time. Sometimes the dice roll in your favor, sometimes you can work around it, sometimes you can’t. I’ve had to let that go and realize that that doesn’t necessarily directly mean it caused me to miss out on anything. Sometimes friends just aren’t going to support your kickstarter or buy your stuff or whatever. It can hurt, but it may just not be in the realm of feasibility for people. And yeah, sometimes that means other artists have more of a leg up. Them’s the breaks. But the thing that will hold you back even more is holding onto that resentment or frustration instead of looking for another path or way in.
By the way – I know the family members that are supportive of me ARE extremely supportive. They’re their for me within their means and within their understanding. Hell, one person bought copies of Olde School for everyone they knew for Christmas gifts one year, and has perpetually lifted me up when I get frustrated, while remaining in the real world enough to suggest other directions and options I need to look at as a whole. I know people have my back. That doesn’t magically make it their job to throw me to the next point in my career – that’s still my own responsibility.
I’m not saying to let people walk all over you – absolutely not. Your goals are worth the effort and the work and the love. Sometimes, though, I think we get hung up on how we’re being perceived and how many people around us are holding us up and throwing parties or helping us out and talking us up, and it’s just not great to measure success by that or hold that against people. You can be mindful of it, and certainly don’t stay around them if they’re taking a chunk out of you because of it, but don’t let that fester things inside yourself, because it’s only making things more difficult in the long run.
People may not support you, and that’s okay. You don’t need to give your whole soul to prove yourself to people – that’s completely okay, too. Their opinion doesn’t reflect on all the amazing stuff you’re doing and want to do, so you keep doing you and the rest will come in time.