In my writers group this weekend a newbie hadn't done any writing this month, and said frankly she wasn't going to go ahead with what she'd been thinking. Last month she'd been so excited about starting her project.
"Gayle, what's wrong?"
She laughed nervously. "I just don't think it's a good idea. My sister said there are a million books on this topic, and I'm wasting my time reinventing the wheel."
I asked if the sister had ever written a book. No. Had the sister done research on this topic? No. As a matter of fact, Gayle is taking a common problem but has a unique spin on it, and frankly IMHO has a good chance of making it in this tough market. I took a few minutes to explain why her sister would not be a potential buyer for her book, but in fact there are many people out there who WOULD be. The sister is not able to perceive this difference -- since SHE doesn't like it, NO ONE will like it. Flawed thinking.
Happily, after a few minutes of a pep talk Gayle is ready now to go ahead again. She wants to start this month by building a few reserve entries for a blog she will create this summer, and use these to help focus her area of expertise. This is the type of tiny goal that she feels she can do to start to hook into the project. Three cheers!
I see this discouragement a lot when writers parade fragile ideas before friends or family. While it's fine to tell people you're writing something, until you've already got a good hunk of it I don't recommend telling them the specifics of what you're writing, for the simple reason that it may be difficult-to-impossible to convey what you see. The idea at this beginning stage is malleable and changing, and the writer may not know at this point what makes it exciting, much less be able to express it.
If you do tell someone they will not *get* why this idea is attractive. The best response (from your mother) is a tepid pat on the head and a "Good for you, Dear." Most people say, "Huh," and then start to tell you about their own book ideas. A few, like Gayle's sister, are dream killers. They may not even be aware that they are dream killers, but they are.
Don't let discouraging words kill your dreams. Trust in yourself that even if (ironically) you can't verbally express what you're trying to do, you WILL be able to do it. Writing is not done quickly -- it takes regular work, five to seven days a week, to put a few words down at a time. All writers think while they're writing that the words are terrible. Many times this is correct but the only way to get past this is to KEEP WRITING. The reason more people don't write books is because they're unable to get past this self-criticism.
Don't tell people what you're doing. Don't kill your dreams. Just do it.