Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do you tell people you're a writer?

I try to avoid it if I can. That's why my landlord thinks I live a life of leisure.

If I tell people I'm a writer, then people (understandably) ask, "What have you written?"

Then I have to tell them none of my novels have been published, and they secretly feel bad for me, because I must not be a very good writer. Either that or I just don't understand how to market myself. Sometimes they try to help me with that.

Or they ask "What's your book about?" and if I'm feeling brave I might give a pitch. Or I might not, if I can't bear that empty silence or disinterested gaze one more time.

So I'll them it's for teenagers, and hope they don't ask anymore.

"Is it about vampires?"

"No."

But eventually, I have to tell people. At least, friends, acquaintances. The type of people who ask how your weekend was, and I need to explain how I spend long portions of my life sitting inside, staring into space.

The worst is when I see them again. "Is your book published now?"

"No."

Thankfully the best and closest friends understand. Or they're writers themselves.

Do you tell people you're a writer?

16 comments:

  1. I'm more likely to say, "I write" or "I do a lot of writing." This has a tendency to make me sound like a dabbler or hobbyist, but I find the "I am a....." sentence a difficult one. PS You're right about the "Is it about vampires?" question, Anne!

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  2. For a long time I was hesitant to tell people what I do, but it's getting easier now that I have some publishing credits. Still, people don't seem to understand why books can sometimes take years to come out. They think the second you write it, it's available. If only they knew!

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  3. Thorny, isn't it? I don't tell people. If they ask, I say I write and leave it at that. I find most are only interested in whether you have published a book. I see that with some of my students, too. They aren't interested in writing, they only want to publish a book. Why this has become such a validation of being important is beyond me—other than they equate it with fame and money, and that's really what they're seeking. They obviously don't have a clue how difficult writing is.

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  4. Jane: Yes, I get the vampire question ALL THE TIME! I like your solution. Part of me hates to downplay what I do, but it doesn't make it easier to explain to those who don't get the business at all.

    Kelly: Yay! What a brilliant position to be in! You should be proud! But yes, totally agree. People really don't understand how the business works at all, but yet strangely think they do!

    Andrea: I think beyond fame and money, there's a certain cache about knowing a person is important enough that others wanted to share what she said. But that's just it, people are impressed by it, but on the other hand, completely underestimate how difficult it is! I usually keep my mouth shut, too.

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  5. Even beyond the questions about which books you've published, you also open yourself up to OH! I'm going to write a children's book too! Which I've heard from: my kids' eye doctor, the dog-rescue woman we got our puppy from, the mother of a not-friend of my daughter, scores of friends of friends, my kids' teachers, etc.

    Of course, I also heard it from a musician I sent a fan-grrrl note to, and we might collaborate, so it's not all that bad.

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  6. That's tricky. Before I got my book contract, I would tell people I was a writing instructor. Then they'd ask if I was also a writer and I'd say yes. When they asked if I was published, I'd say I was working on it.

    After I got the contract, people would ask: "Is it out yet?" After telling people "not yet" for over a year, I'm hoping they'll finally leave me alone next month! But I have a feeling the next question will be: "So when's your next book coming out?"

    Haha, the questions never end. :-)

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  7. Audrey: Thanks for stopping by! Hah, that is so true, I forgot all the random strangers I meet who want to be writers! How exciting that you actually found someone you might end up working with, though! I had a really interesting conversation with my hairdresser the other day about overcoming dyslexia and the type of books teens love. So it's true, while the questions can be obnoxious, sometimes they take you amazing places you didn't expect to go.

    Anna: Ah, yes, you're probably right about the never-ending questions! But if I were you right now, I'd be telling EVERYONE that my book was coming out next month! Congrats! I'm so excited for you.

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  8. I love this post. Pre- acceptances, DH used to tell people that I’m trying to write. I would correct him, “I’m not trying to write, I am writing. What I’m trying to do is get published.”

    BTW- I read your excerpts, which you linked on the margins, and they are superb.

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  9. Mirka: Aw, thanks. For the post love, but ESPECIALLY the excerpt love. Made my day.

    And yes, I definitely agree, "trying to write" sounds much worse! Writing and publishing really are two totally different things.

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  10. Ha. I used to when people asked what were some of the things I did. I usually don't do that anymore because of all the crazy questions.

    Now I just tell them I make software for the FBI and that usually shuts them up. Fast.

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  11. Anne, I know just what you mean. I only started telling people that I'm a writer about a year ago. And when they ask what I write I totally don't want to tell them about my book. Just like you, I say "it's a young adult novel," and hope they don't ask for more. We really should get over this, maybe use these opportunities to practice our pitches. Maybe someday.

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  12. Karen: Hah! I'm going to start telling people I make software for the FBI, too. You don't mind, do you? I figure I really don't need to worry about follow-up questions with that one! ;)

    Luv: Yes, that's what I keep thinking. I should be brave, tell people I write, tell them about my books... but so often it ends badly. However, I must say, last night someone point blank asked me what I did, and I said I was working on a novel. We then had a very normal conversation for several minutes about what I did, and how it was going, and how a friend of hers has been published. Phew!

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  13. Everything about your post resonates. I started out clueless and told everyone I was a writer; now I pay the price and suffer the pitying looks of all the people who assume I have no talent and just don't know it.

    The vampire/werewolf issue is so tiresome. "You should write about vampires -- vampires are hot. My kids love vampires. Why don't you write about them instead?" Sigh...

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  14. Mary: Ohhh, yeah, I did that telling everyone thing a bit too. I can learn to be patient and wait for my chance, but having other people pitying me is just embarrassing!

    Mary... Why DON'T you write about vampires? I bet it'd be great! ;)

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  15. I tell only part of the truth; when they ask what I write, I say "brochures for businesses, stuff for corporate newsletters and the like."

    Nobody ever bothers me after that; it's too boring!

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  16. Anne: I think that's the problem, that I'm not working right now, so I really have nothing else to say. But I do see a future of writing brochures and FBI software, at least in my conversations, if not my real work! Thank goodness for all my smart writer friends! ;)

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