Thursday, May 5, 2011

Subtle Ways to Come Out of the Writing Closet

Hotel roomIt can be difficult (and some writers feel, impossible) to out yourself as a writer to friends, family, and neighbors.

It shouldn’t be that hard. I don’t see plumbers, doctors, vets, or carpenters having the same problem.

But I totally understand this reluctance. For years, I wouldn’t introduce myself as a writer when people asked what I did for a living. I’d label myself a mom or a stay-at-home mom. I’m usually uncomfortable meeting people for the first time, and I don’t like to focus attention on myself.

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.

When I finally did talk openly about being a writer, some people I knew were upset that I hadn’t mentioned it earlier. I think they thought it showed a lack of trust on my part.

It’s usually the fear of not knowing the reaction that the other person is going to have when you say you’re a writer. I think I’ve now heard about every reaction there is—from interest to disbelief to boredom. There are some questions that are inevitable: What types of books do you write? Are you published? Do you write under your own name? How many books have you written?

Let’s say that you do want to let people know that you’re a writer. How can you subtly reveal you’re a writer?

An email signature. Got an ebook out? A printed book? Articles to link to on the web? A writing blog? You’ve got plenty of material for a simple email signature that automatically goes out on any email you send.

Bookmarks or business cards. Many writers I know use online printers like VistaPrint to order inexpensive business cards. When an acquaintance or neighbor asks you for your phone number or email address, you can hand them your card and scribble your personal info on the back. (When I’ve done this, I’ve almost never gotten questions about my writing right then. The person usually looks a little taken aback and then asks about my writing the next time I see them.)

Write an article for the community newspaper with a writing tagline at the end. This is a great way to make a little extra cash (and I do mean little) and have a tagline at the end of the story for anyone in the community to see. The freebie community mags are wonderful for that kind of thing (and always need material) and everybody seems to read them at the coffee shop, etc. I’ve had a few people mention my writing to me for that reason.

Got a traditionally printed book? Have a signing…and mention it on Facebook. This is a very public way to announce you’re a writer, but if nothing else works, this will. Your friends will assume that they just weren’t somehow paying attention when you mentioned your writing around them.

Give talks in local schools. Teachers love it if you speak to their classes about how exciting writing is…especially if you ask them how they’re approaching teaching writing and you can follow their curriculum in your talk. A few parents of the children I spoke to in the elementary school mentioned weeks later that their kids had enjoyed my talk.

Actually telling people. When they ask you what you do, say you’re a writer. Because that’s what you are. A writer isn’t only someone who has a book on a shelf. A writer writes.

Ultimately, talking about my writing not only made my life easier but it also got me some new readers.

Do you openly talk about your writing to others? When did you decide to do so?