Do You Admit To Being A Writer In Public?

Why do we shrink away from claiming the word writer when people ask what we do? Louise Wise discusses why in this guest article.

dreamsWhen can you say you’re a writer?

Is it after publication? Or when you’re submitting to agents? Maybe, you believe you’re a writer when you’ve, er, written. Anything. Something.

It’s a heated discussion.

I’ve written three books, and yet I STILL don’t call myself a writer. When I’m sitting in the hairdresser’s chair and my neck is being warmed by the stylist’s bosom and she asks, ‘What do you do?’

I mumble automatically ‘I’m a pharmacist technician.’

My days spent slogging away on my laptop, yelling at the kids for quiet, and moaning at my husband for ‘not understanding’ have completely slipped my mind. And I’ve left the hairdressers with nice bouncy curls but also kicking myself for not revealing my true vocation.

Why can’t I, and many of us, admit that we write?

I’ll tell you why. It’s the comments we get that we can’t deal with. You know the kind:

‘I could write a book if I had the time.’

‘You lucky thing! Wish I could stay home all day writing.’

‘You? But you’re as thick as a plank.’ Not that one? Just me then. Anyway, those are the main questions we are thrown. The other, complimentary ones, I equally squirm over. But that’s me. I don’t know how to take compliments, so the ‘OMG! Have you really! How clever of you! That’s amazing!’ make me prefer the former comments.

It’s because we’re introverted. Many writers are. We’re at one with our thoughts, and before I get all poetic and teary, let me tell you a story.

Stan was an ordinary guy, working in an ordinary job with an ordinary wife and ordinary kids. You could say his world was a grey sort of colour. Dull. He expected nothing, and got nothing.

One day his ordinary wife came home from the supermarket with a flyer.

The flyer said: First the dream, then the work, then the conclusion. If you don’t dream, you’ll never conclude.

It was a flyer for a gym, which Mrs Ordinary chucked in the bin because she was ordinary and didn’t think the gym was for middle-aged women like her, but nevertheless Stan was struck by the words. So struck that that night he dreamed of being promoted at work, and when he woke, he wanted the promotion SO much. It made him work harder. He pushed himself and began doing things he’d not have dreamed of doing before. He began to LIKE his job.

One day, he admitted to his wife that he wanted to be promoted and she confessed in return that she’d joined the gym, and that there were other middle-aged ordinary looking women there too! They made a pact to one another not to just dream but to WORK for their dream.

Stan got his promotion—it took five long years but he got there in the end. Mrs Ordinary left Stan for her fitness instructor, but hey, not all dreams turn out like you expect!

The moral of the story?

Dreams are a long painful slog for you to make into reality. But BELIEVE in them, admit them and above all SHARE them. So tell your hairdresser you’re a writer!

Do you talk about being a writer? or do you keep it quiet? Please share in the comments below.

About the Author

Married, with four children, Louise Wise lives in England. She is a pharmacist technician by day, and a writer by night.

Louise used her general love of romantic fiction and interest in astronomy to write her first book, Eden. She had received many rejections, which stated that the novel was just too original for the current market. An agent took it on but failed to find a publisher for it, this urged Louise into believing in herself as a writer.

Since then she believes she has found her niche with romantic comedy.

Her books include: Eden, A Proper Charlie and non-fiction So You Want an Author Platform? And newly released, The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch, therefore I am.

Top image: Flickr CC / nicole.pierce.photography ♥

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I first started pursuing my dream of being a writer when I was fresh out of high school back in 1979. Back then, becoming a published author was a much more difficult process than it is now. Over the years since then, I have continued to write, mostly for myself, but I have continued to develop those skills. In April of this year, I started my first fictional novel, and fully pursuing my high school dream of being a published writer. Writer is a part of who I have been for most all of my life. To have denied that would be to have denied part of who I am. It has not always been in the forefront of who I am, but it is now.

  2. Katie says

    I freely admit to being a writer, and pretty much all my friends know this, even though I have never completed anything original let alone published it.

    I suppose it is partly because I separate writer and author from one another – writer being a person who writes, and author being a professional who actually gets paid for it. (But maybe it is a division I just made up.)

    So even if I am a mere hobbyist, who mainly dabbles with writing fanfiction (feel free to judge, I am not ashamed of it), I still feel I am a writer. I love to plot and tell stories, it is part of who I am.

    Original fiction or not, finished project or not, published or not, at the end of the day, I’m still writing. Isn’t that enough?

  3. Corm Fitz says

    Hi Louise. Really good post on a topic that has always bothered me.

    I think it’s hard to call yourself a writer to other people, especially strangers, if you haven’t published anything or if you don’t make a living from it. I guess it’s that introspective shyness that writers have, or the fact one puts so much of themselves into their writing that to reveal that passion to someone else is to expose a deeply personal part about them. On the other side, though, if I paint every day, but all I can draw are stick figures, does that make me a painter? Or, if I dance in front of the mirror every day, does that make me a dancer? The term “writer” is such a fluid, loosely defined word that I think the admission of writing must vary so much from person to person. When asked, I’ll say I work in a bar; if pressed, I’ll say I want to be a writer or my passion is to write or, at least, I have an interest in writing. But I can’t yet say that I am a writer.

    Anyway, great post again. Bring all us introverts out into the open!

  4. Candice says

    I’m a senior in college and my major is creative writing. In high school when people asked what I wanted to be, I’d say a writer. I’d get the worst humiliating looks followed by, “What do you really want to do…to make a living?” Second to that response was the, “But what’s your back up plan?” (I wonder if I had said I wanted to be a teacher or doctor would they have asked for a plan B.) Now that I’m about to graduate from college, it’s even worse. I say I want to write young adult fiction and I get blank stares from my professors, family, and friends. There’s no encouragement in this field for rising authors–even from faculty. It sucks. BUT, I thoroughly enjoy when those same people hear/read my work and are completely blown away.

    • says

      Candice, I say go for it. From my experience it may be very tough, but if you’ve the skills, the confidence and the drive you are very likely to succeed.

      As I say, live for your vocation, not your job.

  5. says

    Thank you; I’ve grown used to calling myself a poet, and that I write poetry, and the most common response is usually along the lines of “What kind of poetry do you write?”

    It was a lot harder when I was just starting to get published, but the last five to ten years has been so much easier.

    A key point: a lot depends on our confidence. If we have the confidence to say we are authors, and to feel this about ourselves, it is so much easier to say it and believe it. And that can lead to so many new opportunities. Recently, I contacted the organiser of a local literary festival, asking if they had a poetry stream. “No,” was the reply, “would you like to organise one?” And I did, and it was both a success and a boost for me.

    Imagine what having the confidence to say you’re an author can do for you.

  6. says

    A really wonderful post and so many great comments! I am fourteen, and I have wanted to be a writer for a very long time. I have never been published, but I have plenty of time. On most of my profiles on really anything, I call myself a writer. When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I answer, “a writer.” It’s only in the past few years that I’ve introduced myself like that; I’ve always been very vocal about what I wanted to do, but in recent years I find myself volunteering this information more and more. I think this is because I consider myself writer because I WRITE, and I’ve started writing more. I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, and I think this will really help with my productivity (that’s always been my problem. I hardly ever finish my stories). I write HP fanfiction , fantasy, I even started a horror story once, and I’ve had a few ideas for a couple screenplays. Writing is something I enjoy, and so if I announce it and someone doesn’t like it, or tries to dissuade me that it isn’t PRACTICAL, they aren’t worth my time.

  7. says

    I’ve been writing for 2 decades for no one in particular and considered it more of a vice than a serious pursuit, though I am in no doubt that it is life enhancing. A couple of very minor publications, a few encouraging words from a publishing scout and a competition place hardly qualify me as an author, but I write for good or bad, therefore I have always considered myself a writer. I write therefore I am.
    In the early days, smitten by enthusiasm, I did expose my vice on occasion, but too many began to slowly back away with a vaguely terrified expression for me to believe it was a good idea. I always preferred to believe it was because they thought they might end up as less than complimentary characters in a story (which I can pretty much guarantee they will, at least in part) rather than harbouring doubts about my sanity.
    However, times do seem to have changed. To admit to writing these days seems far less like seeking social exclusion and writing itself has become more accessible. The world is a much more open space and people do tend to be more accepting. Even people who know me personally are more prone to see the fact that I write as a good thing rather than think I may need medical intervention.
    I’m old school so my Dream is to retire into writing with my name on a hardback cover under ‘author’. In the meantime I’ve found someone who genuinely believes my writing is a worthwhile pursuit and is prepared to encourage me to do it and shock horror – let others read it. So my reality based dream is to create foundations for one day getting paid to write in whatever form that may take and I’m determined to achieve it. Still I’m coy about admitting to being a writer, I am still wary of the perception of writers and that faint odour of lunacy that goes with it, even though people may be more willing to accept that writing as a pursuit is kind of cool and has some skills attached to it. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum where you are perceived as being possibly too clever to hold a normal conversation. Personally, I would prefer to be thought of as a bit loopy. Work colleagues are a definite no when it comes to telling, corporate wheels have little space for personal interests and you’re all but guaranteed a whiff of lunacy. Confoundingly I’ve found those most close to me are willing to cheer me on… from a safe distance, which kind makes me wish I’d kept it secret. You really can’t get the staff.

  8. says

    I’m a believer in the “fake it till you make it” sort of thing. When I graduated from my Masters Degree in 2008 (in Digital Media, nothing to do with writing), I decided to pursue my dream to be a full time writer. That already raised a lot of eyebrows but I’m brave to say to everyone I am a writer.

    Then over time, I got more and more tired of the questions and remarks: “When are you getting published?”, “How do you get money?” or the worst thing “Oh, it’s a great housewife hobby.”. It is taking a toll of my confidence, and in the end I don’t really feel like going out and introduce myself to anyone anymore. That was really bad for my mental well being.

    Currently (after 4 years), I gave up my pursue of writing and I’m going back to doing design and software/app development full time (which I realized I also love doing). It might be just the phases of life and I might go back to writing eventually (I’m doing NaNoWriMo, actually).

    But yeah, I think the worst part of admitting is to actually live up with the constant expectations or the raised eyebrows. It’s good to push you forward. No more hiding. But I’m hoping the next time around I’ll be strong enough to just shrug off any bad/non supportive comments. It will happen in any profession anyways. Until then, I’ll be taking my time off.

  9. says

    I have just started to say I’m an author. Before I would say I’m a Financial Manager, and continue to mumble, in my spare time I’m writing a story. I’ve retired from being a manager and I’ve stopped mumbling, but many times I forget to say I’m a writer. When people ask what do you do now that you’re retired, I go on about the house and the yardwork and my daughter. At the end of all of that, if I remember, I add “I’m an author!”

    Reaction are varied. Many times I hear how the other person had written something, or started to, and the conversation dies. I know I have to get better at owning what I do and responding to questions, but I’m getting better!

  10. says

    It depends on who I’m talking to whether I admit to being a writer or not. Whether they are a receptive audience. I think of being a writer as my “second job” that job that I do when I’m not at my “day job”. If I’m talking to a banker, I only tell them my day job! But if I’m talking to someone who might be interested in my imagination and dreamworld, then hell yes I launch into the “I’m a writer” story. I haven’t been published – yet – but I’m working on it.

  11. says

    I’m ‘retired’ so people don’t expect me to be purposeful. So when I mention it people say things like, ‘It must be nice to have a hobby that keeps you busy’ … but I’ve grown stroppier in the last few years, and will persist – something to the point of them promising to buy my book. Maybe that’s the only way to shut me up!

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