It’s a well-known maxim that creative types, for the most part, get no respect from their families. Even Jesus knew this, saying (according to King James), “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (and no, I’m not comparing myself to Jesus). Thankfully, in my own house I’m fairly well tolerated, especially when I clean the bathrooms every week. And most of the authors I know have spouses or partners who actually like having a writer around.
But go further afield, and you find people who saw you grow up, and who now make it their business to remember every social misstep, every embarrassing faux pas, every failure of your childhood and look for any opportunity to remind you of it as an adult. Or go out of their way to denigrate what you’ve dedicated yourself to as somehow less than a “real job.”
An example from my own life: last spring, I took my family back to Tennessee, so we could go to Easter sunrise service with my mom. Returning “home” is always problematic for me, because the tiny town I grew up in, and that a surprising number of my family still call home, has decayed over the years to a hamlet of old people, abandoned houses and (probably) hidden meth labs. The school burned down, the grocery store and diner closed, even the truck stop went out of business. All that’s left are one red light, a convenience store and a notorious speed trap. Still, we went, because it’s my mom; she refuses to travel, so if I want her to see her grandsons, I have to bring them to her.
While I was there, one of my relatives told me that he finished reading one of my books. Now, this would be unusual enough, given that I write books everyone in my family considers “weird” (i.e., fantasy and horror). But lest you think I’ve made some sort of breakthrough, he also felt the need to tell me where he finished it.
In his words, “On the crapper.”
That’s right: he wanted to make sure I knew my book, and his shit, were in very close proximity.
I’ve turned this little moment over in my mind ever since. If he’d cackled gleefully and pointed at me, the way people did when I was a kid, I’d know how to take it. If he’d punched me in the face, the way one of my cousins once did for being “weird” (I was reading a Star Trek book at the time) then I’d also comprehend his meaning. But maybe, in some twisted way, he meant it as a compliment. Maybe he wanted to show me that my book had brought joy to his personal sanctum sanctorum. Maybe experiencing a good book, and a good bowel movement, are both rare experiences for him.
Still, I’d hesitate to recommend sharing this sort of thing to the family of other writers. Because it’s also a mental image I never, ever wanted.