But I Digress – “Dear Loved One”… A Guest Writer’s Perspective

There is room to roam in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
There is room to roam in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Fargo, ND

This coming weekend is one I’ve been waiting for some time. It’s Steiner Family Reunion time! As a result, I will be missing the deadline for my usual weekly blog entry. In its place, I am publishing another digression from the norm. This time, I’ve invited a guest to share a favorite blog post.

Some time ago, my son, Josh (a blogger in his own write – yes, pun intended), introduced me to the North Dakota Bloggers page on Facebook. Finding that page has led me to meet some blogging colleagues from around the state and has introduced me to new blogs to follow. One of those colleagues, Karen R. Sanderson, a blogger from Minot, ND, featured one of my blog posts on her site a couple of weeks ago. Unlike me, one who dabbles in writing, Karen is a writer, editor, blogger and more. You can read a more complete bio at the end of her post.

Though I have never written fiction, I have written technical books and magazine columns. I can emphasize with Karen’s comments.

Enough of my blather… I’ll be back again next week.

Karen, take it away…


Dear [Loved One]: I am a writer

My name is not Shakespeare, Poe, Bronte, or Rowling, but I am a writer just the same.

I may not be a doctor, lawyer, or executive chief, but my writing – to me – is just as critical. Can you indulge me, just a few moments?

You read articles in People, Sports Illustrated, Time, or Cosmo about the problems with celebrities and their children, the latest athlete arrested for drugs or spousal abuse, the trouble on Wall Street, or how to apply your make-up for a night on the town. However, when I try to talk to you about the article in Writer’s Digest about e-book vs. print book or how to improve my web presence, you give me the hand wave and say, “Who cares?”

You’ll spend a half hour with your nose in a catalog for new clothes, a new computer, or new hunting gear. I’ll spend a little time trying to find that just-right creative writing class or the perfect book for getting my novel to market, and you tell me I’m wasting my time.

I supported you when you wanted to start a small business, when you wanted to get out of a small business, when you wanted to start a new job, or retire. When I have a great idea for a new book or realize the book I’m writing must be shelved, you say, “Oh well” without lifting your head.

I’ve spent hours in the car with you to get to the ball game, watch the ball game, and get home from the ball game. I’ve watched, waved, and smiled as you pull out of the driveway on your way to that week-long hunting or fishing trip or when you were going for a girls’ weekend at the spa. But when I plan a day-long workshop at the local university or a weekend conference in Vegas or Seattle, you ask me, “What about the kids?” “What about dinner?”

I’ve sympathized over your aching joints or shin splints, your aching back, and your stress-related headaches. But when I describe my tired, bloodshot eyes or I’m afraid I might have carpal tunnel, you remind me you told me I shouldn’t spend so much fruitless time at the computer.

I’ve observed as you spend hours watching L&O marathons, night after night of Dancing With The Stars or American Idol or weekend sporting events. But if I ask for one hour of uninterrupted time to hash out a new outline or finish my edit, you complain.

You go online and spend hours sifting through junk email, silly chain mail, and funny pictures. You play farm games, card games, or puzzle through Sudoku. I spend online time with writers, agents, publishers, editors; I learn about writing, how to query an agent, or how to land a publisher. And you wonder why I don’t do something productive.

You regale me with stories of the quirky character at the grocery store, the fabric store, or the paint guy at Home Depot. But if I try to describe one of my book characters, one of my villains, or my protagonist’s triumph, your eyes glaze over.

I agreed when you wanted to upgrade to a $1,000, 54-inch TV, when you wanted another new car or yet another pair of designer leather boots. Yet you scoff when I want to spend $500 on a weekend writers’ conference or a professionally-designed website.

You spend hours tending your garden, washing and waxing your F-150 baby in the driveway, or creating the perfect lasagna. But you tell me I’m wasting time when I struggle over the perfect paragraph, the perfect opening line, the perfect surprise twist.

I celebrate with you when your second cousin in Alaska has her first baby, your aunt and uncle buy a retirement condo in Florida, or your friend in Arizona graduates from ASU. The birth of my novel is barely a blip on your radar.

I have coddled you through the flu, knee surgery, and that pesky rash. I have consoled when you were depressed and commiserated with you over what the boss had the nerve to do on any given day. Yet when I try to tell you how much mind-bending, sleep-losing trouble I’m having with my final chapter, you suggest I just give it up.

You will read a book if it’s on the NYT Best Sellers list (by someone you don’t know and have no hope to ever meet), a tell-all book by a politician you didn’t vote for, or a memoir by your favorite sports figure. Why won’t you open my manuscript?

You read numerous blogs every week about cupcake-decorating, care and feeding of a Labrador, how to paint a War Hammer figurine, or how to grow the perfect rose bush. Why won’t you sign up for my blog?

I hope we never have to talk about the death of my dream. I’m afraid you won’t listen.



Karen was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun. Her favorite book is the dictionary.

 Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, writer, and grandmother. Visit her blog. Connect with Karen on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.  See her website at The Word Shark.


  1. I have read Karen’s powerful post before, but it never ceases to impress me with the way she cuts to the heart of anyone who has a passion or dream with no support or interest from their immediate family or friends. It has made me think about ways I can be more attentive to my own friends and what they want to do with their one precious life. Thank you, John, for sharing Karen’s excellent article.

  2. You make an excellent point, Elizabeth, about also doing the same for others. No, all my friends’ interests are not mine, but I should support them and promote them and bolster them whenver possible. Thanks for visiting us here at John’s blog.

  3. Karen, somehow I missed this one previously. You’ve no doubt struck a nerve with many writers, though I’m happy to report I enjoy strong support from family/friends.
    As you mentioned in your comment to Elizabeth, it doesn’t really matter if we enjoy something our friend/family member does -we should just support one another and be happy we all have some hobbies and interests. It’s what makes the world turn!

    • Absolutely! I might not love WarHammer. No matter. My son loves it, so I should be enthusiastic!

  4. Yoo hoo, hey Karen! Hello, John. Nice place you have over here 😀

    I’m sure I’d adore this excellent letter even if it didn’t fit so well, but it does, and I do. I worry that too often in this ridiculously fast-paced world we live in, we allow ourselves to forget to stop now and again to water another’s garden. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging hard work, diligent passion, or a finished project. At others, it requires a further stretch, reading a new book, attending an opening, saying “I’m proud of you for hanging in there–for accomplishing what you set out to do.”

    It saddens me that I myself can so easily fill in that blank with more than a few names, but it is a sensation I will not allow to settle or linger. Instead I focus my gaze on the far brighter light cast out by good and understanding friends–many of whom I’ve never even met in person–yet who are consistently generous in lending a good word, pat on the back, or essential nudge. All of which assures that the ones who “get it” easily trump those who don’t with every hand.

    This letter of Karen’s is a keeper. A comforting reminder that so many of us are on that same road, dodging those same potholes…playing that same song.

    • Unfortunately, I have a few friends and family members that are as you and I describe. They love me, but they don’t read “my stuff.” Their loss! On the other hand, I have a huge, supportive online tribe who do read my stuff and support me and promote me. Thank God for tribes!

  5. That is a great letter, and so very true. Although my husband is very supportive, most of the people I know could have been the ones you are writing about. That’s why I love and depend on my art club and my writer friends. It would be mighty lonesome without them.

  6. A lightbulb just went on in my head. I wrote Dear Loved One with my own groans and moans. But once John posted it – and I got new comments – I had a revelation. I was complaining about my family not realizing my dream. But was I realizing others’ dreams? I was, a little bit, but not enough. I am going to write another blog post about “realizing and supporting the dreams of others.”

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