Friday, 19 February 2010

Secret Lives

I have a mixed selection of biscuits, some plain, most with chocolate and one or two custard creams, so please help yourself. I've given up biscuits for Lent - as well as chocolate, cake and crisps - in an attempt to loose one or two (thousand) pounds, so I'll only join you for a cup of strong tea this morning.

A couple of years ago at an RNA conference, I think it was my first, I was eating lunch with a small group of women and probably was listening more than taking part in the conversation. They were asking each other the usual questions: what is your book about; how many have you written; have you had anything published, etc.

One of them started asking my about my writing, courses I'd attended, what I had planned to do next, and so on. At the end of the lunch she told me that I was living so far in my comfort zone that if I wanted to build my confidence as a writer I had to push myself and 'get out there'.

People who know me generally find it amusing to think that I could ever consider myself to be remotely shy in any way, but back then the thought of self-promotion was worrying, to say the least. That's when I decided to be brave and start a blog. I attended more conferences, the excellent London Bookfair Masterclass, a week at Caerleon and thought of myself more of a writer, rather than someone pretending to be one.

However, it was only when I had a piece in My Weekly about writing in my shed that anyone other than my family realized my secret. One of the PA's emailed literally everyone in the company - 180 or so people - showing them. So now they all know that I'm the barmy one who spends hours each week writing books in a shed. Even when attending a course about Trust & Company Law - oh, the excitement that is my life - the organizer told the lawyer who was tutoring us, as well as the rest of the class that I write 'books about passion and romance'. You can imagine how colourful my face was at that point.

So, my question to you this morning is: how much of a secret is your writing? Is it common knowledge to those around you that you write? Or is it only close family members who notice you disappearing for hours at a time and who understand why you've suddenly tuned out of what they were saying whilst out to dinner, so that you can listen to the fascinating conversation on the next table?

18 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

Ah! Everybody (who knows me) knows Harold and Jasfoup. Most of them know about the poetry and at the end of the year most will know about the *cough*porn*cough* erotica too.

"Quiet! Rachel's writing!" is a common utterance in the house.

Denise said...

Well I hope those 180 people all buy your future books to make up for the colourful face moments!

I also decided to step out of my comfort zone a couple of years ago and started telling people that I was writing. It's been good and bad. I've had lots of interest and encouragement, but also a fair bit of people thinking I should be finished and published by now because it can't be that difficult...

One of the weirdest moments was discussing writing a science fiction novel with my 90+ year old grandparents. I'd love it if they were around to see me published!

JJ Beattie said...

*Laughing* at Rachel's embarrassment!

Hmm, everyone I know knows that I write; it's been part of me believing that I could do it.

However, this self promotion/getting myself out there thing is more of a struggle. Like you Debs, most friends laugh when I tell them how hard I find that but I do find it tough. I'm not shy but I struggle to big up my abilities.

I shall have to learn, eh?

Have a good weekend everyone.

LilyS said...

I wish I had a shed. well i do but its full of boyfs work out equipment!

My whole family know I write although some are more interested than others in what I do. I've told a few of my work colleagues who were positive about it and even asked to read what I've read. I have sent a few stories around but only when they are in my opinion finished. It's quite a nice secret to share really especially when I get a good response. I suppose it will make it easier if I ever do get published as I have gone on about the book for so long that everyone I've told is dying to read it!

Flowerpot said...

I suppose being a journalist it's slightly different - my work's out there and my editor knows I am trying to get a novel published (ironically I tend to do all the author interviews now so my bedroom is full of proof copies of books!). As for writing novels - my friends all know and I don't keep it a secret - I try and use journalism to help me writing fiction and vice versa.

SueG said...

Great and telling question. It took me a very very very long time (like over 40 years) before I told people. I didn't start until I had a book deal. But I really think that was a sign of my own self-esteem issues. It's scary how many of us are like that, though. Not good....

sheepish said...

I am getting better about admitting my 'guilty' secret, but still haven't shown anyone, not even the OH, what I have written!! One of these days I shall have to bite the bullet but am using the excuse of waiting for the second draft, when I hope I am happier with what I have written. Interestingly I think I am normally a fairly confident person except when it comes to my writing.

Karen said...

I tell people I do a bit of writing in my spare time if I think they might be interested, and feel more confident saying it since having my stories published, but I do play it down. Hopefully I'll be shouting it from the rooftops one day!

Have a lovely weekend, and thanks for the biscuits :o)

Cathy said...

Surprisingly few of my 'real life' as opposed to internet friends know I write. More recently I have told one or two, but although they are interested they are not writers and don't quite get it. Thank goodness for online writers' communities!

Fia said...

I tell very few people and play it down a lot. Perhaps if I had a few books under my belt I might be more forthcoming but you can't keep on saying, 'I'm writing a novel and yes it's the same one I was writing a year ago.'

L-Plate Author said...

Having tried for over ten years to get published and getting and losing the first agent (and telling everyone as I thought it wouldn't be long before I got a deal!), I haven't told the people I work with at the moment. I work for the local authority so although I have worked in lots of roles, I still see the people I originally told every now and then. And I still get that, is that book published yet. So I don't talk about it much now. Sad, I know but people lose interest. They don't know how hard it is to get ahead in this game.

The Bloke from Stoke is my inspiration. He doesn't read my work as he doesn't read books (give him a Landrover mag anyday) so without people like the Novel Racers, I'd be a very lonely writer. x

Emily said...

This is my kind of question.

All my friends know I write (both 'real' life and online friends), my workmates know, my boyfriend knows and my dad knows.

For some reason, 5 years on, I'm still not comfortable with my mum knowing. I know what she'll say (that writing is something I'll get bored of in time.) and I want some sort of proof that it's more than just a hobby I'll get bored of. I want to tell her I'm writing when I get an agent or some sort of big news to prove I'm doing something worthwhile.

While nearly everyone knows I write, only a small handful know the real me. Most of the Novel Racers know 'me' through Facebook or when we met up but for online purposes I keep the real me off the net.

HelenMHunt said...

I do tend to tell people I write, but I'm quite vague about exactly what unless people seem genuinely interested. My parents are both dead - so they never knew about my writing, but my aunts and uncles have been very supportive and as some of the early pieces I had published were about my family I've always showed them to my brother. I've also been quite open about the short stories and now I've had a few published, people have had a chance to read those as well.

I suppose the thing I'm vaguest about is the novel as it doesn't quite seem real to me yet.

Captain Black said...

When I was writing, I made no secret of it. I didn't particularly broadcast it either. Perhaps that's why most of my friends and relatives were pretty indifferent about it. Ho hum.

The only embarrassing moment is when I discovered that my mum sometimes reads Cloud Line. She told me this right after I'd posted a squidgy piece.

Lane said...

When there's something with my name on in the bookshop, then I'll tell people. Until then, it's not secret exactly, but I certainly don't bring the subject up. Like Cathy has said, to a non writer, it's really not that interesting unless there's tangible evidence.

Have a good week everyone.

Debs said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Poor Captain Black. How typical is it that your mother decides to read your blog just when you've posted a squidgy piece?

Tam said...

Late again - sorry, folks! I am a very secret writer at work; only two people know. I've got better with everyone else because it's necessary to sell books :)

Annieye said...

Oh gawd. I'm so late. Sorry Debs. I've been frantically trying to meet my end of the month deadline for JM. M/S goes off tomorrow and then the horrible waiting begins all over again.

My writing was a secret shared only by my husband/kids/parents/grandparents/great grandparents/Godmother right up until the end of 2007. In December 2006 my mum was dying of cancer and made me promise to try and get my book published. My Godmother passed away in August 2007 and two days later I wandered into Waterstones to buy 'Harold the Helicopter' for my grandson. Nestled on the shelf next to it - someone had put it on the wrong shelf in the children's section - was 'Wannabe a Writer?' by Jane Wenham-Jones.

And that, Debs, was the spine-tingling moment when I knew that now was the time - after 40 years of secret writing.