I’m becoming a writer who’s afraid to talk about my writing anymore. As any writer will tell you, this vocation can be a lonely one, and things like social media make it easy to feel less alone. Writers need other people, be they readers, agents, editors etc. You’ll hear various forms of advice advocating for or against the inclusion of others in the writing process, from first word to first publication.
Stephen King talks about protecting a first draft in his memoir On Writing while writing programs and coaches everywhere will encourage you to join a writing group (DISCLAIMER: I think both of these are good ideas, too). But when the “writing” process is finished and it’s time for the “promotion” part, conventional wisdom would suggest that if you have written a thing, and you want others to read it, you’ll have to tell them about it.* This is where I become The Writer, and my wolf is the success of my writing career.
I’ve had a short story that was accepted for publication twice, yet it still hasn’t made it out into the world. In one instance I only realized the acceptance was conditional after they asked me to cut 70% of the story away. I declined. The other instance, the anthology folded before it ever went to print.
I also had a literary agent, and a book to be sold. But the book didn’t sell, and shortly after, the agent dropped me.
Writing a book is no small endeavor. I wrote my novel over seven years and talked to countless people about it. I celebrated when I got a literary agent. Heck, my literary agent shouted out about me ,too. I celebrated the journey to publishing. Then, a book deal didn’t come to fruition and I was left to tell friends and family the disappointing news.
It’s become even more personal. When I update my friends on my “writer’s life,” repeatedly, with not much good news, I fear I’m creating an uncomfortable situation for them.
me: I submitted my book to a contest! I know my chances of winning a contest are super low but I’m a crazy writer blaaahhhh!
friend: Oh, um, great!
It’s not that I think my friends don’t believe in me (I have wonderful friends and I know they do), but I wonder if it’s unfair to talk about my trials and tribulations because of the unspoken obligation of support. How many times can I ask them to say, “Hang in there, I’m sure someone will want to publish your book.” And even so, based on past experience, can I be certain it actually will be published if such an opportunity is offered?
What about you, fellow writers? Do you like sharing your good news? Do you dread sharing it?
*We’ll save the very uncomfortable politics of humble bragging for another day.