Monday, January 23, 2012

Who Do You Tell?

Yesterday, I saw a license plate I could identify with:

KIDS BKS

Of course, for the full effect, you needed to read the custom license plate frame. Above the plate it read: "I love creating," and then below was a web address. I was driving at the time, so I unfortunately don't remember the address.

In short: I love creating kids books.

Aha! I thought. A kindred spirit right in front of me. But then it made me wonder. Is she/he published? Not published? What kinds of kids stories do they write? And with all these questions, I wondered if I would have the moxy to make that MY license plate?

I remember reading a post by Hilary Wagner, author of Nightshade City, shortly after she got a book deal. She confessed that she didn't tell anyone she wrote until after she had an agent. That post really made me think, because I, like her, didn't want to tell anyone about it until I'd had some tangible success.

At that point, I kept a family blog, but not one to chronicle my writing. Only direct family (and critique partners) knew my secret. I felt comfortable with that. It's better this way, I told myself. Less to explain. But what I found was that I was withholding a significant part of myself from people I really cared about. Standoffish is probably the best word to describe how I felt.

For me, that wasn't okay, so I changed some things.

I remember the first time I told a friend that I was writing a book. I steeled myself for the reaction. You know, that credulous look that says, "you really think you can write a book good enough to be published?"

It never came. Instead, she said, "Actually, that doesn't surprise me." She asked all kinds of questions about what I was writing, my writing process, and what my plans were. And I realized that people who care will always be interested. Always believe you can succeed.

Because that's what friends do.

I still don't tell just anyone, but I don't withhold it from my friends either. So back to the original question: would I choose a license plate like this?

The answer is probably not. At least not yet.

What about you? Who do you tell that you write?

28 comments:

Beth said...

It took me a long time to admit that I was a writer. Like you, I felt it would sound ridiculous, completely pie-in-the-sky unreachable. When I started telling people, I couldn't believe how supportive they were. Some of them even confided their own dreams to me!

Old Kitty said...

I only tell when I have a story printed legitimately - say if I won a competition - otherwise I keep very quiet about it! I'm too insecure! A new temp just started here at work and within the hour she's told everyone she's writing a book. She's a really lovely person but she has that confidence enough to tell people - everyone. I don't! LOL!

Take care
x

Kamille Elahi said...

I like to tell everyone I'm a writer. That way, they'll treat me nice so I don't put them in my book and give them a horrible death.

Lol jk, very few friends know but a lot of family members know. The family are convinced it's just a little quirk of mine. I don't think they ever expect me to publish.

If I had the money to spend on a license plate, I'd probably go with something rude just to piss people off or give someone a laugh during rush hour!

Stephen Tremp said...

I tell most people somewhere down the line. I may not right away. But eventually, I'll get around to it.

Slamdunk said...

Ha, I sometimes tell folks that I write, but no one is ever interested. Thank goodness that I can use blogging as an outlet.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I haven't gotten a license plate...yet...but I've been pretty open with people from the beginning about my writing. My feeling has always been that if people know then potential embarrassment will keep me from giving up until I meet my publishing goals.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I had 4 books published before I felt like I could say I was a writer when someone asked me what I did! Pathetic, huh? :)

Charlie Holmberg said...

I'll tell anyone who asks/where it comes up--most of my friends are quite aware, ha. Letting them actually read my work is a different story! I'm a little self conscious about that...

Carolyn V said...

I think everyone knows that I write. I used to keep it a secret, but it gets hard when you keep making excuses to stay home and hang out with your computer. ;)

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss janet! i dont think you dont gotta be published to call yourself a writer. for me im a big blabberer so everyone in the whole world knows im a writer. i just gotta say it cause of how much i love writing.
...hugs from lenny

LTM said...

well, in my case, I write for magazines/journals/papers, so a lot of people know I *write.* But as far as books--ugh! I wish I'd told fewer. It feels very pressurey to get something "out there." :p But I like that car tag~ :o) <3

Carrie Butler said...

I tell people, but I'm vague about my goals and what I'm working on. (A few negative reactions have stuck with me.) Anyway, I love that you always see these fun license plates! :)

Colene Murphy said...

Noooo. It took a long time for me to even tell my mother. And she had a similar reaction: "well, good. about time" was something like what she said. So it was a huge relief. I still don't brag or anything, I'm a little superstitious about counting chickens and all that. Don't want to jinx myself. But if someone heard about it and asks, okay. Fine. But I don't send people I know IRL to my blog. Is that weird? lol.

Shallee said...

I tell anybody who asks, pretty much. :) Part of that might be just because I've never had the "are you crazy?" reaction to hinder me. I love talking to people about writing!

Victoria Dixon said...

For a long time I kept my fiction writing separate from my working life because no one - at least none of my superiors - wanted to know about it. Eventually, like you, I decided I was selling myself short. And if they blow me off (which still happens with my current employers), I've learned to blow THEM off. They don't know me. They have no idea what I'm capable of. And the rest of my colleagues have always been fascinated and supportive. So it's on my resume now because I'm proud of it. Whether or not it's part of my "professional" life. It's who I am and I want to be hired for being that person, rather than a lie. :D

Carol A.Bender said...

Wow, first thanks for posting about this. It's good to see others go through the same things. I have always written and I was getting better at keeping it a secret until I published a children's book this year.

Hilary Wagner said...

I think it's all about what works best for each individual writer. By nature, I'm a private person and don't like to be the center of attention, as in people asking me questions about my writing before I was published, or had an agent, etc, so the route I took gave me the comfort level I needed and no pressure to please anyone but myself.

Great post!

Hilary

Catherine Denton said...

I'm like you, it took awhile to even tell my friends. But now I'm a bit more open about it. No, it wouldn't be on my license plate.

Found you through Out on a Limb. I'm your 400th follower. :)
Catherine Denton

Mirka Breen said...

I didn't mention I wrote fiction the first few years. Then I realized that my friendships were less complete because I was a closet writer. But it wasn't until my first contract from a publisher that I embraced what I do, openly cyber-space. Publishers expect it now.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This is interesting. Many people I know dance around the self labeling. I think it's about the expectations of others. As soon as you call yourself an author, people want to know when the book is coming out. As soon as a book comes out, people want to know where the next one is. Sometimes it's easier to avoid the issue, right?

Melissa Sarno said...

I've been getting paid to write at my day job for 5 years and up until 2 years ago I still felt weird calling myself a writer. I don't know what happened, I just decided it, I write therefore I'm a writer. I don' t care who knows it!

MikeS said...

I'm not a fully out of the closet writer yet. I certainly don't use the lofty title of "Writer" to describe myself. It's a hobby...for now. Only kindred spirits need to know.

Joylene said...

I've been writing since 1984, so nobody asks any longer. Except to ask what I'm working on. But just to show you how weird minds works. I saw Kids BKS and thought it meant: Kids Break Stuff.

Haha. How can you tell I raised boys?

Actually come to think of it, I've been travelling a lot this winter and while I'm sitting for hours in airports across the country, I look for people are reading and then hand them a bookmark for one of my books. My opening line is, "You can never have enough bookmarks."

WhisperingWriter said...

I tell everyone that I'm a writer hoping to be published. I do mention that I have a blog most of the time.

Emily said...

Oh, I'm so conflicted about this!

I love writing. I think about it all the time, and I'm completely obsessed and passionate (and I think that's obvious to *everyone* around me), but I'm also really embarrassed about it. I don't know why. I'm worried that I'm totally deluded, like one of those sad contestants on American Idol, and if I tell people I WRITE they'll laugh at me, or pity me, or something.

So there's all this push and pull: the crazy drive and loosely guarded secret. One of these days it'll get too exhausting though. I can feel it coming. I'll have to be more honest with myself, and that will probably improve my writing. And then, maybe I'll get a license plate!

Great post! Very thought-provoking!

Barbara Watson said...

It's hard to let people know you're writing, but I do tell people. Then I wait to see if THEY bring it back up in a later conversation because I am very private about what I'm doing and I also know they are interested in hearing about it if they ask later.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I still get really embarrassed talking to people about my writing. Even when they're interested, there's so much to explain and sometimes I feel like I go off too long and I worry I'm being boring. I don't know, I still try to keep it private. But people know, because of my blog, so I often get questions: "How's the book?" I both like and hate that question! :)

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm happy to tell people I write, but I don't do vanity plates.