4.12.2012

A to Z: Keeping Secrets

It took me a long time to begin thinking of myself as a writer.

It has taken me much longer to start to tell other people.

In fact, there are plenty of people in my life who don't know I write at all.  There are a lot of reasons I keep it to myself: they're acquaintances and it just hasn't come up.  They're work-friends and we don't talk that much about our personal lives.  They're people I don't speak to all that often, and when we play periodic "catch up," mentioning that I spend all my free time writing gets lost under all the "Oh, and I got married!" updates.

Then there are the people I don't tell because I dread the inevitable next question: "What do you write?"

I don't mind answering, "A novel."  Or even, "A young adult novel."  It's the people who press beyond that, who want to know the details, that trip me up.  It's not that I can't talk about what I'm writing, it's just that... I kind of don't want to.  I feel conflicted about that - shouldn't I want to be shouting it from the rooftops?  Gauging people's interest?  Getting my elevator speech ready?  But until the words on the page at least come close to approximating the ideas in my head, my instinct is to play things pretty close to the vest.

Here's the thing: the more I talk about what I'm writing, the less I want to write it.  It feels like a little bit of the magic seeps away each time.  And - particularly when it's in first draft form - my stories feel so fragile.  I don't want to breathe too hard around them for fear of jostling the perfect picture I have in my brain.  So I keep quiet and tread lightly.

How about you?  Secret keeper?  Rooftop shouter?  Something in between?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

21 comments:

  1. Yeah, I think I get it. I'm kind of the same way. I sometimes struggle to call myself "a writer" in front of RL friends and family.

    But for me it's not so much that I'm afraid of losing the stories -- it's that they might not be good enough!!!

    Gakkk!

    And without any publication, there's nothing to prove otherwise, lol!

    It's an insecurity thing, I guess. It's hard to respond to the inevitable questions -- "Oh, you're a writer? What have you written?" -- when I can only answer, "Well, I'm working on an unfinished novel, and I've created several short stories that have been rejected by multiple web sites..."

    It's like I can call myself anything I want, but until I can give some level of proof of success, I just ain't it.

    At least not yet... ;^)

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    1. Yeah, that "Oh, have you written anything I'd have recognized?" question is tough to answer. You sound like a jerk if you say something cocky like, "Not yet!" but otherwise you're left with, "Uh... no." I try not to let the holy grail of publication be my measuring stick, but it's true that it's certainly the easiest way to validate your talent to others...

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  2. I'm the same way. I stumble over the label, and I really don't like 'aspiring writer', so if I say anything it's "I'm writing." Then it's about the act and not me, which is easier for my ego to grapple with.

    I don't write YA, but I also avoid saying what I write. Even folks I know who love to read romance invariably ask the same question: Why don't you write a REAL BOOK? That one really gets my dander up :)

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    1. I like that - saying what it is that you do, not what it is that you are.

      And argh, yes! The "real book" comment is super annoying - as though anything but hyper-intellectual literary fiction is something you can just dash off without putting any work into it.

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  3. Definite secret keeper here.

    And you and Anne Tyler think alike: "Any time I talk in public about writing, I end up not able to do any writing. It’s as if some capricious Writing Elf goes into a little sulk whenever I expose him."

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    1. Ha! It's true. My Writing Elf is as super sulky. :)

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  4. Oh I'm very secret squirrel like :) There are a few writers/ bloggers who know me on a personal basis but they are few and far between. I get your point about not wanting to right something once you've discussed it at length with someone - it feels rather like the magic has been taken away. Good post :)

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    1. We need a secret-squirrel handshake or something. :)

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  5. 'It feels like a little bit of the magic seeps away each time.'

    It does. I am a woman who likes to back things up with more than just dreamy language and 'wanting something to be so' (click my ruby heels) but I have seen this happen again and again to the point where I could collate the data and write up an article for a psych journal, with footnotes.

    Keeping it close to the vest until you're at a certain point is just wisdom.

    'Write with the door closed, revise with it open.'
    --Stephen King

    When asked what he was working on now, Norman Mailer replied, 'A novel is like a secret love affair, you don't let anyone else in on it.'

    Carry on, miz .jessica.

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    1. Secret love affair indeed. Nice to know we're in good company!

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  6. Secret keeper for sure. It's mine. I don't want to share it with anyone.
    Just dropping in from A to Z.

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  7. I tend to be secretive. But I have to sell books. I'm working really hard on that idea. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

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    1. Sorry, Sharky, but you've said that a 1,000 times. Sheesh.

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    2. Yes, it's certainly hard to balance all that quiet and secrecy when writing with the self-promotion required once you've published. I'm not there yet, but it has been interesting to watch how authors handle it - I learn a lot that way.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I sort of keep my writing to myself as well. The few people who do know what I'm writing are now asking when it will be finished. Ummm, when I'm done. Our work is intimate and it isn't easy letting others in. I'm a bit more open with my photography, though. Not sure why.

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    1. Yes, at some point I had to ask one of my friends to stop asking me about my WIP - I appreciated that she was interested, but it was stressing me out! It's done when it's done, and not before. :)

      I'm not a visual artist, but I could see how photography in particular is a bit more immediate - there is skill involved in taking the picture and developing it, but then it's ready to be shared. Writing, on the other hand, could take years and years...

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  9. I choose who to tell if they ask. Telling everyone that you're a writer from the rooftop is an ego thing (in my opinion). It's better to write and let your work tell them you're a writer.

    This topic reminds me of a Bible passage that (and I paraphrase here), 'A prophet has no honor in his hometown.' That is so much like a writer, don't you think?

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    1. Agreed that managing to work "I'm a writer," into every conversation is a turn-off - like those people who can't stop telling everyone they went to an Ivy League school. :) But there's also something to be said for owning the identity, which is where I run into trouble. If I'm taking my writing seriously, I should be able to call myself a writer. But without being published, it's hard to own it.

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  10. I agree with Jeremy screaming it from the rooftops is an ego thing and really isn't very nice. But I also think we do need to market our work as well.
    And if self published, marketing is extremely important as this is how you distribute your work. I am a Libran and can never make up my mind.

    CarolynBrown-Books

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    1. Definitely - that's such a hard balance. As I mentioned above, I've learned a lot about how to self-promote in non-obnoxious ways by watching other people do it. There can absolutely be a thin line between promotion that's accessible and promotion that's a total turn-off.

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