Telling People You Write



I recently attended a family event at  which several people who know that I am working on a novel asked – So is  it published yet? And then seemed a bit mystified that I am still  revising the novel I wrote four years ago. To be clear, I did take a full year off writing to work full time and then a second year to write a  second novel. But their inquiries led me to the age-old question of whether you should tell people you write or not. Early on in my what I consider to be an attempt at a writing career, I received very strong advice from an accomplished writer that you do NOT tell people that you  write, especially in a small town, and especially not your family.


I tried to do this for awhile, but there became the problem of explaining what it is that I do with my time. I do  work from home doing contract work, so in theory I could tell people that I am working on a contract and nobody except my bank account would be the wiser. But l’m not good at lying (stretching the truth a little  okay, but making up clients not so much), and I didn’t want to be perceived as inefficient. So I told my family and friends. In retrospect, I think my husband might have informed people and the news  has since travelled so far that generally I don’t bother to hide it  anymore.


I have read lots of blog posts about how  people react when they find out you write. Many of these are funny, but most of them suggest that people’s reactions are negative in some way –  they don’t understand the publishing world and expect you to be the next  J.K. Rowling, they think that writing is easy and you sit around all  day in your underwear, they write too (but not really), or they stop just short of laughing out loud.


Perhaps I have just been lucky, but I have  found most people to be very supportive and understanding. Of course there are people who don’t understand the writing and publishing world,  but it is fun to be able to try to explain it to them and they usually listen. There are the people who want to write, or think they can write,  but I like talking to them – some of them will prove to be serious and some will not, but either way I have learned something about what others  think of the writing process. And nobody has laughed at me. At least,  they haven’t laughed to my face. Over 25 of the people I have told have  read my entire novel, several others still ask for it, and a few have indicated they want to read the rewrite.


That said, it is a bit uncomfortable to explain why four years later one would still be revising. Nevertheless,  once I explained that this is the process, they took it in stride and  seemed to accept my explanation.


This is all still the easy part though. I have not yet sent it around sufficiently to experience much rejection.  Thus I still have hope and don’t yet have to explain why it still isn’t  published four years from now. The people inquiring about it this weekend said they can’t wait to read it when it is published. Their confidence (or at least their support, just in case they guffaw behind my back) is lovely and heartwarming, but what am I going to say if this  whole experiment turns out to be a failure?


That is where the whole huge leap of faith associated with writing comes in. It would be much simpler to say I am a doctor, which I am, but not one of the ones you’d call if you slashed open your hand because you put a blade on your grinder (although I did  drive my neighbour to emerg). I can only hope that the same friends and  family, if I have to tell them it just didn’t work out, will be able to  say, well at least she took a shot at her dream - as opposed to  chortling when I leave the room, and referring with giggles to the years  in which I attempted to be a writer (with the word writer in air  quotes). At worst, perhaps they will just think I spent a few  comfortable years in my underwear.


In the end, I don’t have much choice. As  Gloria Steinem said, "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I  don't feel I should be doing something else."

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