Types of Support

by Chris McGinty of AccordingToWhim.com

I have no problem with listening
to people who are successful. You can learn a lot from people who are
successful. There are some things you can’t learn though. They are things that
don’t end up on their radar, because they don’t really experience it. Dealing
with a lack of emotional support to do the thing they are successful at doing is one of those things.

The line often comes down to
money. I don’t think that the true artists and the true entrepreneurs of the
world are really all that worried about money coming in. They do what they do
because they enjoy it. Everybody else is worried about the money, and in some
cases, they perhaps have the right to be. If you have a spouse and children at
home and you’re not bringing in money then your spouse and children have the
right to ask why there’s no dinner tonight.
The issue that I’ve often run
into during my life is related to this, but it’s not exactly that. I work a
lot. In my adult life, I’ve never been unemployed for more than a week unless
it was by choice. The problem I’ve run into is what I do with the time when I’m
not at work and how it has affected my significant others. This is to say that
when I’ve tried to build anything on a part time basis after work hours, I’ve
not had much luck doing such things without it causing arguments.
Lack of Support – This one is
pretty clear. Your significant other is not on board with what you want to do,
and so you get nothing but arguments. At the end of yelling at each other for
five hours, you point out that if you had just been able to sit and write for
two hours that you could have then spent three hours having a pleasant conversation,
and it would have been more productive.
Back in the early 2,000s having a
computer and an internet wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so in order to
write or do any sort of work on a website, I would have to go to my dad’s
apartment and work. This was not well met with my significant other, because I
should be at home. At some point we were given a used computer. We still had no
internet access, but I could be at home and write. It turned out that it wasn’t
just about me being home. It was about me using my non-work time for anything
creative, which apparently wasn’t acceptable.
When Nathan and I started the comic
book and card shop (way before the right time to do so) we weren’t bringing in
much money, and it became another thing to fight about because I wasn’t home.
But then we got internet at the house, and I was able to do some of the work
from home, which was fine as long as everyone else was asleep. It wasn’t ok if
anyone was awake though.
The point is that I couldn’t work
from home, but if I did any amount of work away from home, it was an argument.
I once said that I’d like to get our financial problems under control, because
it would make things so much easier if we accumulated some wealth and I could
quit working dead end jobs to pursue something that I enjoyed that might even
pay me better. The response I got was, “You’re the one who wants to be a
millionaire. I have no interest in money.” I couldn’t even get support on the
idea of not having money problems. When we divorced, by the way, I was told, “I
need to find somebody who makes more money, so that I know I’m taken care of.”
Successful people don’t deal with
this crap. This was just one significant other though. There are other types of
support, and plenty of other things to talk about.
Withheld Support – This is
similar to lack of support. The difference is that there is a form of support
that is available, but it’s not given freely. This can be refusing to read
something you wrote, or not showing up to check out your band. It can be monetary
as well.
In the late 90s, there wasn’t all
this great digital camera technology. Miguel and I wanted to make a film, but
we had a problem. Film costs money. The ideal situation would have been for
Miguel and me to work a lot of hours at work, save enough money to buy the film
and equipment, and then take six months off work to shoot the movie. We had significant
others who both out earned us. Either of them could have easily paid the bills
temporarily to allow us the ability to jump this hurdle.
They had no obligation to support
us financially. I’m not saying that. I’m saying they had the ability. A
solution is Miguel and I could have saved the initial money for film and
equipment from second jobs, so that we were paying bills with our primary jobs.
Miguel and I could have worked part time while filming to contribute to the
bills if need be. The problem is that we both knew that this was never going to
happen, not with our significant others at that time.
Passive Support – This is an
interesting form of support. The support is there as long as you are doing
something. I’ve only ever experienced this in small bite sized timeframes. This
is what happens when someone else says, “I’m glad you’re writing again,” but
only when you’ve brought up that you’re writing again. They’ll read something
you wrote if you say, “Hey read this,” but they won’t ask if you have anything
This is a “better than nothing”
kind of support. The only problem with it is that it works like other passive
behaviour. If you’re writing a novel, for instance, the passive supporter will
be cool with you if you sit down to write every night after work, but the
moment you get overwhelmed and stop writing every night after work, they’re
perfectly happy to just let you forget that you had ambition at some point.
It’s up to you to become interested in writing your novel again.
Passive-Aggressive Support – This
is the same as passive support, except that the significant other in question
is keeping a scorecard of all the times you weren’t paying attention to them,
and when they get overwhelmed by anything there will be an argument. The
argument will be about how somehow the fact that you were working on something
in your spare time is the core of every problem that you’re having.
You might think I’m making this
up. I’m not. This method of fighting isn’t always about a creative project or
an attempt to start a business. It’s anything that the other person has been
keeping a scorecard about. I’m just framing it as a creative thing for this article.
If you’ve ever been in an argument with someone over things that you didn’t
even know was bothering them, then you know what I’m talking about here.
Active Support – Let’s get into
something a little more positive. This is what we think of as being supportive.
This is when the other person is a sounding board, a helper at times, and it’s
noticeable when they’re unable to be there for you because of something urgent
or important.
Now every form of support I’ve
been talking about is a two way street. I feel like for the most part that I
fall into the active support category. My biggest distraction from being an
active supporter is if I’m working on my own thing, so it may not always feel
like I’m an active supporter.
When I know what someone is doing
and I’m an active supporter, I’m there for advice, help, perspective, and
whatever I can do.
If I’m being honest, I think this
is a difficult form of support to scale up. You can probably only be an active
supporter to so many people. Even if you’re an active supporter for a lot of
people, you’re only active for so many hours a month. I’ve been talking about
significant others for the most part here, and I think that if you’re going to
throw active support behind anyone, it’s probably better to be an active
supporter of the people closest to you.
Proactive Support – This is a
special kind of support that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced directed
toward me. This is a next level kind of thing. Remember earlier when I was
saying that the significant others that Miguel and I had back in the day could
have supported the households for six months. That would have been a form of
active support.
If one or both of them had
actually worked out the idea and presented it to Miguel and me that would have
been proactive support. It would have sounded like, “Hey, I know you really
want to make a film. I have an idea of how you might be able to do that without
risking our financial stability.”
The proactive supporter will
actually call you out if you start feeling sorry for yourself. I talked earlier
about the passive supporter being happy when you stop writing every night after
work. The proactive supporter would look at you funny and say, “I notice that
you’re scheduled to write. Why aren’t you at work?”
There are tales of writers who
were full time writers without income, or without consistent income, whose
significant others said something along the lines of, “If you can bring in a
living income within five years, you don’t have to get a job.”
Conclusion: Like I said, support
is a two way street. If you’re not supporting others, you shouldn’t expect
support, though when someone asks you for some form of support, you should
consider what the consequences of not giving that support is.
I don’t believe that successful
people deal with this quite as much. It’s near impossible to suggest that you
should quit delivering pizza to write when you have no income from writing. You
know what would be less likely though? Imagine if you were a writer making six
figures and you told your significant other that you were going to stop writing
to deliver pizza. That’s how money changes the discussion.
The reason why people end up
“doing it for the money,” whatever it is, is because you rarely get any sort of
respect for what you do until the income is there. If someone asks you what you
do, and you respond that you’re a writer or you run your own business, the
follow up question will be, “You make enough money to pay your bills doing
that?” If your answer is no, then they will ask what you actually do.
The purpose of this was just to
define the types of support. I hope I was clear and articulate enough. This is
one of those big ideas that seem hard to get down.
Chris McGinty is a blogger who
doesn’t make enough money from blogging to pay his bills; so therefore; Chris McGinty really
delivers pizza.

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