How did you reveal to your friends/family that you were an aspiring author?
I like this question because it’s strange to think how much has changed and how much has stayed exactly the same since I started writing for publication six (!) years ago.
I’ve always been a writer, but for most of my adulthood (I use this term very loosely) I’ve only been comfortable talking about the writing I did at a desk, Monday through Friday. I’ve worked as an editor at a few magazines and I never hesitated to tell people what I was editing or ideas of my own that I’d pitched at editorial meetings. It didn’t seem like a big deal; I was putting my writing out there, but it was journalism. I’d gone to school for it and I was getting paid for it.
Creative writing is different. Everyone knew I’d always written for fun, on the side, but to me, telling people I was pursuing publication was a Big Deal. I was very hesitant to show anyone my writing—even the people I’d asked to critique my work!—because I kept worrying someone would call me out. Tell me to give up because I wasn’t talented or because it’s incredibly difficult to get published or that agents don’t actually obtain clients from slush pile submissions, etc., etc., etc.
When I started querying my first novel, I told my family and a few friends who I knew would wonder why I was obsessively checking my email and receiving mysterious SASEs in the mail. But I never talked about it much because what if it never happened? I didn’t want to explain to everyone how I’d failed. It was easier to keep the disappointment to myself.
The more I improved as a writer, the more personal the rejections became and I could tell I was getting close. I still wasn’t quite there, but the more positive notes I received from agents, the more comfortable I was talking to my close, non-writer friends about the process and you know what? They were really supportive. Most of them had lots of questions, but it was generally about the inner workings of the publishing industry and they were amazed that I’d figured out everything from agent and author blogs and writer-centric message boards.
Several years later, it’s still not easy for me to talk about my writing. Even now, with an agent and a book under contract, I feel like a hack when people ask what I do and I say I write books. I’m so awkwardly bad at describing my book that I had to look up the (very succinct) blurb on Goodreads to describe it to someone the other day. The novel I wrote. True story. Maybe it’s because I know how incredibly lucky I am to do this or maybe it’s because it still doesn’t feel real. I don’t embarrass easily but a good way to get me stumbling over my words and answering questions with vague, stilted responses is to ask me about my book in a crowd of people.
Despite my utter lack of poise when it comes to discussing my writing with others, there were a few people I was especially ecstatic to tell that my book was going to be published—my childhood friends. They’d read some of my earliest writing (we’re talking elementary school here, guys), when I wasn’t so private about my unpublished work, when I was just writing for fun and wanted to share those stories with the people close to me. Their [happy] responses varied, but for the most part, the sentiment was, “Dude! Your dream totally came true.”