Saturday, October 23, 2010

“I’m a Writer.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Longtime readers of this blog will know that for a couple of years I’ve been really reluctant to admitting to be a writer.  Especially in casual conversation with a new acquaintance.

That’s because, in my experience, whenever you mention being a writer, the focus of the conversation shifts to you.  Many writers are introverts and aren’t especially excited about being in a conversation with someone they don’t know anyway, much less being the focus of it.

For me, though, it got to the point where it was ridiculous not to mention it.  I found that if I didn’t mention my writing, then people didn’t understand why I couldn’t volunteer every day at the school (I still volunteer a lot there), or why I couldn’t talk on the phone for long periods of time during the mornings.  Or why I’d disappear into my house around deadlines and not be seen out.

Writing and promotion became such a huge time-taking part of my life that it was impossible NOT to say something about it.

But I’m not a salesperson.  Or, at least, I’m a really rotten one.  So I tend to say, “I’m a writer” in the same tone of voice that someone would use for “I’m an accountant.”  It’s very matter-of-fact.  If they ask a lot of questions, I hand them my business card (especially since I have a pen name.  New acquaintances have a hard enough time remembering my real name, without having to learn a pen name, too.)

Then I get the heck out of the conversation as fast as possible.

I’ve decided that there is no typical response when you say you’re a writer.  I’ve gotten:

“Should I know who you are?”  (No.)
"Are your books at the library?” (Yes.)
"I have an idea for you! I’ve always wanted to write about…”

There are, also, questions I always get:

“What types of books do you write?”
"Are you published?”
"Do you write under your own name?”
"How many books have you written?” (7, but there are only 2 on the shelf right now—and one on backlist, 1 in production, and 1 that’s due in a month that I’m editing. And one that will be finished in a few months.)

This past week I had two times where I needed to mention what I do.   And they were probably the worst reactions that I get. So for those of you who are worried about mentioning your writing?  These are the worst-case scenarios…and it’s really not that bad. 

The first time was on Monday.  I was on a field trip and had been asked by the school to pick up another chaperone and carpool with her for the 45 minutes to the field trip destination.

She said, “So, tell me what you do.  Because I haven’t yet met any housewives here in Matthews.”  (She was new to the area.  There are plenty of homemakers and stay-at-home moms.)

“I’m a writer.”

“You write books!?""


She looked at me disbelievingly and changed the subject.  Lovely ride for another 40 minutes or so in the car. Smile

The next time was last week with a new physician I’m seeing.  He’s intended to cure me of my lifetime sleep problems (good luck with that.)  He asked me what I did for a living.

“I’m a writer.”

“You write books.  They’re on the shelf."  (These were not questions.)


“I could go over to the store and get them.”


He looked at me very seriously for a minute.  He apparently has one of those really dour personalities.  “That’s very interesting,” he said, in a completely deadpan voice.

I burst out laughing because his expression and his tone totally belied his words.  He really didn’t find it very interesting, but thought he should say that he did.

Now there are writers out there who really don’t want to (and shouldn’t) reveal they’re writers.  Being put in the spotlight might affect their creative process too much.

But for those of you out there who would actually make life easier by admitting to being a writer (because people would leave you alone more during your free time)—I’m here to tell you that it can be done.  And you can become immune to people’s reactions (I think I have now), find them interesting enough to make the people into characters if they have a unique reaction to your revelation (that doctor may have to fit in to a WiP somewhere)—or possibly even sell a couple of books.

If I can do it, so can you!

Are you still in the closet, in regards to your writing?  Or have you come out to the world about it?