Thursday, September 8, 2011

Are you out?

Thinking about Thursday

Are you out as a writer?
       I have close friends. I mean,"on-the-emergency-card-to-pick-the-kids-up-from-school" kind of close friends, who have no idea I am a writer. No clue. 
      For years, no one knew I was a writer. If I told them there was the danger of someone actually asking to read my work. There was also the danger they would say something like, "That's nice." and change the subject. Both would have been equally horrifying. 
      The problem is now I am at the awkward stage. I am like an adolescent in the writing world. I am learning everything I can. I am working hard to prove I can do this. But, I get all shy and mumbly when asked to talk about it.
     To add to the awkwardness is the "Why didn't you tell me?" factor. Like I said, some of the closest people to me have no idea. How exactly do I break it to them? "Oh, by the way, I have four completed novel-length manuscripts, a blog, author Facebook page and twitter account. What? I haven't mentioned any of that to you before? Weird." 
So, where are you? Do you tell everyone you meet you are a writer? Or only a close few? Any suggestions on breaking the news to those who probably should have been told a while back? Do you think it is harder or easier on you for everyone to know?



Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Most people I know are aware I'm a writer. I've been open about my dream as long as I can remember. I have had to deal with letting some people down when I wasn't ready to share my work, but I never really felt the need to hide what I do.

I think it would be really hard for me if the people in my life didn't know and couldn't offer their support. I'd rather have a friend who wasn't interested in my work (because let's face it, different people have different tastes) than one who couldn't know what I do.

If you make the decision to tell someone close, you have to be aware that they may well feel hurt that you kept this from them. A lot of people may view writing as a hobby and not understand how much it means, or how fragile your hopes can be with it. Others who are aware of how much writing can mean as a career goal might not understand why you wouldn't discuss your career aspirations with them.

My advice would be to be as honest as possible with your friends about what you do. If you make that decision to tell people who you think should have been told sooner, pick your time right, like when you've just finished your book and are starting to query. Make an occassion out of it. Make sure everyone you tell is on the same page regarding whether or not you want them to spread the word. You definitely don't want one of your friends to find out second-hand.

Unknown said...

I haven't had to think about this, my husband tells everyone for me. Which, in itself is scary for the same reasons. I gave up and went with it years ago, now I'm open to any and all input and if someone asks to read it, I let them. And then I send a preview sheet along with the manuscript. At least I know exactly what they think and don't have to wonder.

Don't let anyone make you feel bad for what you do. If they don't like your taste in writing, that's fine. In fact it can be very resourceful to hear your harshest critics review your work. Because let's face it, it's not going to get any easier once we're published. There will always be not-so-nice reviews - no matter how great your writing is.

Go get 'em Dawn. I'm betting your friends love you and will be supportive, even if it's not something they would've picked-up off the shelves. They'll be vital in helping you through your upcoming transition from pre-published to published.

Roxanne Ocasio said...

Maybe it's because I've always been a pretty open person, but I've never felt the need to hide that I'm a writer. But because I'm also a college student studying creative writing, I get this: "So what are you going to do with that, teach?" (Eventually I need a day job, right?) I had one woman (granted this was a cashier making conversation) say "Isn't that kind of BORING?"

I can understand not wanting to tell someone because they might not get it. I'm sure I still have a few family members that won't say it, but they still think I'm never going anywhere. I always contrast that with the wonderful support system of family, friends, and teachers that DO encourage me when I need it. Writing can be itself discouraging, so the more people you have on your side, the better.

Where you might consider yourself an "adolescent" in the writing world, I think I may have hit adulthood, a.k.a. the point of no longer caring what my peers think. :)

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I'm pretty much in the closet, as well--heck, I had a tough time telling my husband I wanted to do this, and I still haven't let him read anything I've written.

But I do practice what I say to people when they find out...and I'll say something like, "I'm taking a fiction writing workshop, just one of those things on my bucket list", which may minimize what I feel about it, but also kind of gets me off the hook as far as sharing...I just say it's all at the "shitty first draft" stage and change the subject!

And if it's someone I'm close to, who maybe would be hurt that I didn't tell them, I just tell the truth: I'm a big chicken and am not brave enough to share, or I tell the other truth: It's my evil twin Phyllis who writes trashy romances. She writes all this stuff and won't even let me read it.

Granted, one of these days I hope to have something worth submitting, and may have to get braver about telling people what I am up to. In the mean time, this is working for me!

Tressa Green said...

It never occurred to me to hide it. It's such an integral part of who I am - the flip side of my artist-self. I don't know what's worse really; I was heavy duty pursuing my art "career" and I'd get sooooo many people come up to me and say, "Oh, I like to draw too." or "I have a _insert family member here_ who likes to sketch." That's nice. lol You don't get that as often with writing at least. But since theoretically anyone can string together sentences, it is a bit more difficult for people to understand the labor of creating a story.

The main exchange I get when told I write is "what do you write about?" About ten years ago that would've been an embarrassing (for me) question to answer as I was dipping my toe into not just erotica, but homoerotica. I'd blush and just say romantic shorts. haha Now I can say literary fiction or speculative fiction and watch the eyes glaze over and get a "that's cool." response. (I still dabble in homoerotic shorts, though, but that's my secret. hehe)

For me, I was praised and encouraged in high school for my writing (I had awesome creative writing/English teachers!); so even though I'm self-conscious at times about what I write, I've also been pretty confident about letting people read my stuff. I think that when you find that confidence - that moment when you realize that writing is indeed a part of who you are, you'll find that it's actually pretty easy to say, "I'm a writer." I'm sure that your friends won't feel like you've been keeping something from them as much as they'll think "Wow! I didn't know that about you!" and they'll definitely want to encourage you and read your work.

Go forward and be fearless with it! Out and proud! :-D

Writing Writerly things said...

I grew up writing, so my friends and family all knew about it. I still remember reading Little Women when I was ten and asking my mum, why was it such a big deal for Jo to be a writer? She should be what she wanted to be. I was only ten of course, but it was such a foreign concept (sometimes it still is) to read about a girl who was told what she could or couldn't do in terms of a job.

My eldest who is 11, is an avid writer as well. I encourage him to write not because I want him to follow in on my footsteps, but because imagination is such a powerful thing. I think more children should be encouraged to write and to read their stories out loud in class.

Kendra Leah said...

I understand completely how you feel and have had many of the same thoughts and fears about sharing my writing. I have always wanted to be a writer but took a twenty year break and put it on the backburner.

At this point in my life, it is time to swallow the fear and just go for it. Setting up my Twitter account wasn't such a big deal but sharing my Facebook page with friends and family was a totally different story. First, I had to make myself share the dream. Then I went through my friends list and hand picked a select few who I trusted not to laugh at this dream.

I think the fear comes from "fear of failure" more than the fear of sharing. We all know it is very hard to become that bestselling author, yet that is what I aspire to be. What I know now is that the real failure will be in never trying. Although I may aspire to write a bestseller, the dedication and emotion that goes into my writing does not have to be validated by others.

Be fearless and never let go of your dream! :-)

Loree Huebner said...

Most people - friends, family, and co-workers, know that I write non-fiction history articles. Only my close friends and family know that I have completed several novels. Most of them do not know that I have a writers blog.

Jessica R. Patch said...

At first I only shared with my closest friends. Mostly I was scared of peopleknowing and then I'd fail. Utter embarrassment, but after awhile I stopped hiding it and turns out people are more supportive than I thought they'd be!


I hear you. It's not that it's embarrassing but it's like a parallel world to higher ed academia (with publish or perish in textbooks & journals). In that world, saying, "I'm writing" means a whole different thing. It then becomes awkward to correct my colleagues (especially since the two times I did turned into pleasant smiles and "oh's"). But, that's just my work friends. My family definitely knows and though only a handful of my face-to-face friends know, all of my online friends do. I say the easiest way to share it with your old friends is to share your writing, not the "title" of writer. You may be shy calling yourself the title of "author" or "writer" but are you equally shy about your work? If not, let that be the way to break the story, so to speak. Go ahead, post in on facebook how much you love your latest manuscript about xyz. I guarantee your friends will gush over it as well as the news. (= Great post!

Dawn Alexander said...

Wow. I am overwhelmed by all the comments and touched by some many of your stories. It is great to hear from people on both sides of the "closet door" so to speak.
What's funny is I am not a shy person at all. Everyone in real life would tell you I'm very outgoing, but (as many people pointed out) it comes down to fear. Fear of being laughed at and fear of being dismissed.

The one person in particular I feel I should tell, who doesn't know, works at my day job and has said on more than one occasion she doesn't like to read. *gasp* The other issue with telling people at my day job is they mostly express affection by teasing. I can hold my own, usually, but I don't think I could stand to be teased about writing.

Thank you so much for all the comments. I am blown away.

Darlene Steelman McGarrity said...

Great post. I tell a select few I am a writer. If I happen onto someone who writes (which has been happening often lately) or I get to know someone.
I finally told a few of my co-workers (you know, at my real job) I am a writer.
I am working on my first novel and hope to graduate from writer to author within the next two years.


Anonymous said...

I tell everyone who will listen. Some of my family doesn't understand but most of them do. My husbands family supports me. My mother in law buys all my books. Now my husband is published as well. She buys his.

Dawn Alexander said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us. When I am published, I will probably rent a blimp to fly over where I live flashing "Dawn is a writer!"