Coming out of the Writer’s Closet

If you’ve always known you’ve wanted to be a writer, went to school for it and have several books published and no other source of income – this post is not for you.  But many of us have had other careers and lives before finally “coming out” and becoming writers, and I for one am very excited to hear about people’s journeys! 

“Actually, I’m writing a book, too,” the person I’ve just met whispers to me at a party.

“Really?” I say loudly. “I’d love to hear more about it!”

“Well,” this person says, darting their eyes around the room to see who’s listening, “I haven’t really been telling people, I don’t know where I’m going with it.”

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, my advice to them is always the same.   You have to tell your friends and family and start talking about it, or you’ll never get it finished!  The best thing I ever did when I started writing my first full novel was to tell people I was doing it.   

Now, writers have a reputation out there as a group for being a bit reserved, and granted, I don’t exactly fit into that category.  But still, tell people.  For one thing, talking about my writing is usually a great conversation starter, but for another, I found the pressure very motivating!  Stating my goals out loud made them real to myself, my friends and my family.  I no longer had to write in secret.  I could stick my laptop under my arm and walk out the door, waving to my family. 

“Bye!  I’m going to work on my book..”

What a great feeling. 

You might have friends and family ask to read what you’ve written.  I always let them.  They’ll undoubtedly tell you that it’s GREAT!  It’s wonderful.  (Take the praise with a grain of salt.  They are proud of you and don’t want to hurt your feelings).  If you let them review a Work in Progress, you’ll hear:

“Here are some typos I’ve found, but great job!”

 Is this helpful?  Well, yes – because you are creating champions and supporters along your way.  They still have to buy your book when it comes out to see if you took any of their suggestions, or mentioned their helpful feedback in the credits.  If that’s something that motivates you, as it does me, then having friends and family read your work can be really helpful, though unless they have experience writing and editing, it won’t move your manuscript forward in the direction that you need it to go in to get published.  For that, you need to talk to those who have done it. 

GET INVOLVED!  The biggest surprise to me throughout this journey was just how welcoming the writing community is.  At first I was shy.  After all, I didn’t have a completed work to share, I didn’t know what a query was or how to find a writing group.   Take a writing course, attend a writing conference, look for online groups, join Twitter (I can’t believe how many writers are active and helpful on Twitter!)… find somewhere that works for you to meet writers. 

I was astounded at the number of writers I spoke with who invited me for coffee to share their experiences and point me in the right direction.  As it turns out, they love talking about writing as much as I do.  Taking the time to learn from their experiences has opened many doors for me and gotten me on my way.    

So, shout it from the rooftops if you want to take your writing career somewhere.  “I’M A WRITER!”   Then sit down and start writing. 

6 thoughts on “Coming out of the Writer’s Closet”

  1. Yes! I finished my first novel a couple of months ago – and, much like dieting (only more fun), it helps to be accountable to others. Great article, great advice!

  2. Very good advice. Of course, by doing this, you open yourself up to repeated questions of “How’s the novel coming?” which is about as fun to answer as “When are you going to be rich and famous?” Still, that can be great motivation to get the butt back in the chair and finish the draft. Still, it’s better than trying to find time to write a novel without anyone noticing. 🙂

  3. Funny, whenever I tell people I’m a writer, I tell them that I will bore them to tears if they don’t stop me talking about writing and agents and publishing and All the Things.

    I think one of the most important things to do is to find a good critique group and take your writing seriously. I always tell people that if you don’t take your writing seriously, how do you expect anyone else to? (Family and friends.)

    Good luck on your journey!

  4. That’s always been a real difficulty for me. I guess I always thought people would be like, yeah, right, a writer. And what’s your real career? Well, you know what? I’m done with this little insecurity bullshit. No, I don’t make a living at it yet, but I’ve been at this writing gig for over 25 years. I’ve been writing while other people were sleeping or watching TV. I’ve been writing when I could’ve made a million excuses, when I really wanted to do nothing. I’ve turned out a dozen novels in that time and the last five have been really kick ass. So, yeah, I’m a writer. I’m dedicated. I’m hardworking. And I’m proud of it.

    Thanks for your words, Suzy!

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