The Writer’s Enemy List: Dream Smashers, Crazymakers and Groucho Marxists

 When you start a writing project, whether you’re diving into the intensity of NaNoWriMo, or just carving out a few hours to peck away at the keyboard on weekends, it helps to get emotional support from friends and family.

But be prepared for the opposite.

Some people in your life may find your new interest threatening, and if you’re not emotionally prepared, they can derail your project and undermine your self esteem. They’ll work to sabotage your writing and confidence in dozens of subtle—or not-so-subtle—ways.

Here are some non-supportive types to watch out for, and tips on how to deal with them:

Dream Smashers

These are the know-it-alls who specialize in discouragement.

They may appear to be supportive at first, and may even express an eagerness to read your WIP—only to give entirely negative feedback.

These people have given up on their own dreams, and want you to do the same.

Encourage them to write their own damn books.


Creativity guru Julia Cameron described these people as “storm centers…long on problems but short on solutions.”

They are the drama queens, emotional vampires, and control freaks who crave your full- time attention and can’t stand for you to focus on anything but their own dramas.

Writers are magnets for these people because we tend to be good listeners.

Crazymakers need to be center stage, 24/7. Nothing you do can be of any importance: your job description is “minion.”


Groucho Marxists

The Groucho Marxist manifesto is, to paraphrase the great Julius Henry Marx: “I do not care to read a book by a person who would accept me as a friend.”

Groucho Marxists are your family members and buddies who assume your work is terrible because it was written by somebody they know.

I’m not talking about those helpful beta readers who comb through your unpublished manuscript looking for flaws to be fixed before you submit.

These are the folks who feel compelled to ridicule and belittle your work, whether they’ve read it or not. No amount of success will convince them you’re any good.

 These people are highly competitive and feel your success will make you “better than them.”

Remind them of their own skills and accomplishments and reassure them that any writing success you achieve won’t change your relationship.

It’s hard enough to live with the constant rejection we have to deal with in this industry, so when you’re attacked in your personal life, it’s tough to hang on. You have to erect strong boundaries and be fierce in defending them. But if you’re serious about your work, the people who really care about you will learn to treat your time and work with respect.

The others will evaporate.

Chances are you won’t miss them.

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