People’s reactions when you say “I’m writing a book”

When you say “I’m writing a book” or “I’m an author”, people have a number of different reactions. You can get support and enthusiasm or you can get negativity…and anything in between!

Sometimes it hurts, as this may be a lifetime goal and something you feel vulnerable talking about.

You expect your partner or your family to be infinitely supportive but sometimes they just don’t get it. You may also surprise them by what you write. My Dad and my brother found it “surprising” that I wrote a self-help book. They were expecting fiction. But why – when I have never written any?

“Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.”

William Zinsser, “On Writing Well”

You will put a great deal of yourself into your book. Even if it is non-fiction, you will find it an expression of who you are. After all, what you choose to write about reflects on the person you are. People will judge you by the material (but then they judge you anyway!).

The problem is worse when you only have one book, as this is your only child. Your sole expression of yourself in book form. It then becomes the only thing for people to judge you on and the main thing for people to attack. Once you have some more books, you can start to relax as there are different facets of you on show. Your confidence will also grow – you are now an author!

Everyone will have an opinion about you writing a book. At the beginning you might not tell anyone you are writing for fear of what they think, or might say – after all, lots of people talk about writing a book, but few actually finish one. When you tell people you are writing a book, the comments are a mixed bag. In my experience it went like the following graph of criticism and praise.

Initially, there was criticism, negativity and judgement – or at least that is what it felt like. This is also directly related to the editing process. The criticism I got at the beginning of the project was justified based on the quality of the writing. However, the criticism started to die off as the editing process continued and as I showed I was actually going to achieve this. As I then started to tell more people, the praise started to come in. The criticism also dies away (unless you have a controversial book!)

This is also related to your confidence as you may often start out sounding apologetic about writing a book, but this changes over time and you become proud of what you have done.

SOME PEOPLE WILL NOT LIKE YOUR BOOK.

This is inevitable and something you have to face. This will be difficult especially when you are still a new author and emotionally involved with your book. I remember bawling my eyes out when challenged on why people would buy it. I felt that a rejection of my book was a rejection of me.

I have learnt that this isn’t so – perhaps the message was not for them at that time.

How can you deal with this difficult time?

  • Understand that how you feel is not unusual. You are out of your comfort zone. You are not an expert in writing books, so you need to get used to it. Be gentle on yourself, and accepting that you have some lessons to learn before you make it.
  • When someone says something that you consider hurtful, take a deep breath and reassess their comment. It is useful feedback that you can try to incorporate to improve your book? If yes, note it down and use it. Is it jealousy, or a comment that does not help? If yes, try not to think about it again and don’t share your book plans with that person again.
  • Talk yourself up and say positive affirmations. You have permission to write your book. Your opinion is valid. You can be an author. You are creative. These phrases are affirmations that you might need to repeat and say over to yourself. Fake it until you make it!
  • You can achieve this goal. Writing and publishing a book is an achievable goal. It does, however, take some persistence. Think of it as a longer term experience and enjoy the ride!

So when people comment on your book, or on your dream of writing a book, just take a deep breath, note the comments and move on. You are fulfilling your own dream.

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Comments

  1. says

    Joanna,
    what an excellent post, it’s such a huge (and personal) thing to write a book and it seems everyone is an expert once you tell them you’re writing, whether you asked for their opinion or not. I especially like your comment that not every book will suit every person’s taste, this is so true and important for aspiring authors to remember.

  2. says

    Good point about the more books equals more/different representations of you- that’s a very good incentive for me to keep writing more stuff (I only have one non-fiction out there so far).

    Thanks for this – many important points but that one hit home for me. :)

  3. says

    An excellent post and very much helping us all keep it in perspective. I have to say the most common thing people say to me when I say I am writing is ‘have you been published?’ as though writing is only valid if it is published. My writing is widely read and enjoyed by many and may one day be published, but I am a writer now.

  4. sally-anne says

    I’ve been writing for years, but only recently have i finished a novel writing and publishing course. I’m proud of my writing and can not wait to see if i could get one published. my aprehention though is i live in a small country town of 600 people (very intimate group) and my genre’s are romance and erotic romance. I know i’m stong enough to take the critisim of my local citisens its my husband that is embaressed and dislikes the contents i have writen. he doesnt want people to look at him or ask him how i get my material. So im at an impasse, do i strain my relationship by trying to publish my work/ or do i shelf it and say “oh well i had fun writing it”?

    • says

      Hi Sally-Anne, one of the things most erotica writers do is use a pseudonym, set up an email in that name and basically become that person online. Then you can write what you like but there is no stigma for people who know you. You can still be proud of your writing but the veil keeps it private. I personally think a marriage is too important for that kind of strain, so I would recommend using a pseudonym. The wikipedia page has a lot of good examples of this, it’s very common http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen_name

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