Bookies and Basement Dwellers

Although it is now old news, I thought I would nevertheless call out Roger Rosenblatt’s entertaining essay in the New York Times on the position of the writer in the family.  His granddaughter introduced him to her classmates as “Boppo, who lives in the basement and does nothing.”  This reminded me of the time when my then three-year-old son informed his teacher that I was a “bookie.” *

I found Rosenblatt’s piece particularly poignant, because if you happen to follow this writer, you’ll know that he moved in with his son-in-law in order to help care for his three young grandchildren after the sudden death of his daughter, so my guess is that the “nothing” also includes a good bit of child-rearing.  His piece goes on to examine the difficult place that writers occupy with respect to their loved ones; writing is a solitary pursuit, rarely money-making, and if not always outright selfish, it is necessarily self-directed.  In many cases, writers earn their ambivalent status, and I know from many clients and writer friends, that carving out the space and time in which to create is fiendishly difficult, fraught with resentment/guilt.


How does your family—either immediate or extended—view your writing? Are they supportive? Indulgent? Bemused? Impatient? Suspicious? Downright hostile?


*Like the granddaughter’s characterization of Rosenblatt’s work, this is not entirely incorrect, but still.

6 Responses to Bookies and Basement Dwellers

  1. Linda says:

    From the adults, bemused at best. I am still in the pre-published phase, so I suppose I should be happy with bemused. Perhaps once I am published they will move to amused. My kids however are very supportive and believe in what I do, they are my biggest fans. Now to get published so as not to let them down!

  2. Sarah Henson says:

    My husband supports me, even if he doesn’t fully grasp what writing means. (He keeps saying when my book is published he’ll quit his job and be a house husband. I tried explaining it doesn’t quite work like that, but he’s entitled to his fantasy I guess, ha!). My siblings are supportive too, although my brother is studying journalism so it’s kind of a requirement for him to stand behind my writing.

    My mother sees writing as little more than a hobby, and most of my friends view it the same. They support me in that they’re happy when I do well in a contest or something, but I would say they’re mostly bemused. “Oh, isn’t that cute? Sarah has a new book idea. Look at her playing writer!”

  3. I’m still single and live on my own, but it has always been kind of an odd notion that I’ll have to tell potential suitors that I need enough alone time to work on writing and will have to evaluate whether they can deal with that.

  4. Heather says:

    There are very few people who know I write so most of the time they perceive me as sitting around all day doing nothing. Then there’s my partner who knows I write but whenever he glances at my computer screen, I’m usually on Facebook/blogger/twitter or just staring at a blank screen. It’s very hard to explain that a good part of writing is not just getting the thing done and out there, but learning more about the craft and perfecting every word.

    So in short; I do nothing. And my family don’t let me forget it.

  5. I said to my son, “I told you that I’m writing a novel, but I’m really playing World of Warcraft.”

  6. In my immediate family, only my sister and my son are in any way supportive. The rest don’t understand that I am running a business. A profitable one, too. I’ve learned to withdraw myself from them, particularly as deadlines draw near. It makes me sad that this is necessary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>