Are you a ‘writer in the closet’?

You’re watching your friend closely as surprise flirts across their features, the expression sinking into their eyes and the lines around their mouth.

‘You’re writing a book? Far out, I had no idea you were even a writer!’

You smile tentatively back, feeling naked under their blazing gaze. ‘Well you see… I’ve always been a writer, I’ve just never told anyone before. I mean, some of my very close family know, but even they don’t know how serious I am about it all.’

If you are familiar with this conversation, then you too, are a writer in the closest. Actually, I think most of us probably are. A common misconception about writers, especially ones who write novels, is that you have to be published to be validated as a real writer. So if you’re not published, it can be incredibly challenging to admit that to anyone. Because the last thing you want is their eyes to shine with sympathy for you – the struggling, unpublished artist (although I quite like the idea of being a struggling artist – there is something inherently romantic about such a label, if you live in Paris that is).

I always believed it would appear as incredibly presumptuous to gallivant around, telling people how much you love to write. As if the act of admitting you write in itself confirms that you think you are good at writing. Which is usually not the case. Most writers don’t think they’re any good at all – which is probably the reason why most never admit to being a writer. Also, when you write you transfer a little piece of your soul onto every page – and how would it feel to have that rejected?

You won’t be surprised to hear that even some of my closest friends from college had no clue I was writer until I surprised them all with the news that I had a publishing contract (which fell through by the way). As you can imagine it was a shock to most of them! Some of my favourite reactions were ‘oh so I suppose your famous now, please do remember us when you’re on the best seller list’ or the inevitable ‘OMG I wonder if you’ll be the next J.K Rowling?!’ – Well of course I’m going to be the next J.K, that’s not even a question.

Despite my publishing contract falling through, at least it prompted me to come clean to all my friends – yes I’m a writer, I have a blog, I write books and I want to be a published author one day! If you haven’t done it before, let me tell you that it makes for one hell of a stressful conversation – and almost feels like you’re confessing to murder (although I don’t know what that actually feels like – I promise). 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. My younger sister thinks it’s all just fantastic, and is constantly pitching to me her chook lit novel ideas that she wants me to write for her (I promise to write a country romance for you one day!) And not to forget my parents, who are my pillars in all this – they are just so wonderfully supportive.

My mother, in particular, is incredible. She reads all of my first (and bad) drafts without complaint and provides excellent, constructive feedback. She never goes overboard by saying how ‘amazing’ it is – she simply says ‘I think you did a really good job and I know you’ll get it published one day Milly, and if you don’t, maybe you’ll get your next one published, the most important thing is to never give up.’

And that’s all I really need to hear to put a smile back on my face.

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

50 thoughts on “Are you a ‘writer in the closet’?

  1. I too know all to well the writer in the closet scenario. Ive been writing since I cant tell you when. Then one day I discovered a blogging website known as thoughts.com and for the first time I came out as a writer and let my writing be shown. I was so scared to even let anyone see my work. I never thought any of it was any good then people started to like and follow and comment encouraging and hateful things. I accepted both as criticisms that I needed. I stayed humble and then after five years the site died out and now I’ve come to WordPress after hearing about it for so many years and never thinking I would ever have one but then I thought “what if I did and what if I find a new community to guide me and to talk to” again I found a new place to belong. My ultimate dream is to become a published poet and I’m sure I’ll die before that ever happens as it does in many people’s case. I’ve written two poetical works but not a clue as to where to begin to have it published or who to talk to. Any pointers? I’ve read some of your work and it’s really good as well. 🙂 thanks for this post it really made me appreciate what I do…what all of us writers do .

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  2. Ah this is so true! Still a bit hesitant in telling the world to be honest. However being a writer is a unique profession, we all should be proud.

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  4. For some reason, I thought that the moment I tell anyone about my attempt at writing, I expected them to have responses that would question my sanity. Surprisingly, no one did so far… but the fact is that I told less than 15 people so far and I expect that my family will question my sanity (apart from my sister who knows and considers it cool for whatever reason).
    It gives me a bit of hope to see that I am not alone. Thank you for that!

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  5. This is good. When I told my father I wrote a novel (unreleased) his immediate and toneless response was, “For what purpose?”

    I though something like, do you not know me? Do you not remember when I was a kid? I filled whole notebooks with stories. Most of it was terrible, but I wish I still had them.

    When I published my first children’s story he called me.
    “On page seven it says ‘the smell of whatever hung on the air,’ it should be IN the air.”

    Dad, you’re not an editor. (Actually I never saw him read anything in my life.) This story has problems, but ON THE AIR isn’t one of them.

    It is like 6:30am, I swear he literally just sent me a text asking how sales are going.

    It’s like the people closest to me have a hidden snobbery peeking through the support facade, like looking for something to say “Ha Gotcha, You Made A Mistake!”

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  6. Just ‘came out’ recently with a personal blog, although have been working as a freelance ghostwriter for almost 6 years. Double the irony! 😀 Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I honestly thought I was the only one that is like this. My husband and children know that I am writing and that I’m serious about becoming published. My parents, especially my dad, know that I have always loved to write but I almost feel embarrassed to let anyone else know how serious I am about writing. I’m afraid of all the questions and the looks that I will receive. So, I’ve decided to wait to truly come out about my writing until I’m ready to actually publish my book. Thank you for posting this!

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    • I feel embarrassed, too! I’m not sure why I feel embarrassed about it because I actually really love my stories. In school I wasn’t as embarrassed about it and even won awards and contests with my writing, but now that I’m an adult, I’m so embarrassed to mention it to nearly every one!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We all have that moment where we lurk in the shadows. I did, once. It wasn’t fear of rejection that kept me there, either. It never occurred to me to say anything. I am thankful I have so many supportive family members who root for me. They gave me strength to say “I love writing stories.”

    I hope for the best for all of us. Those in the closet, fear not your voice. For those out of the closet, be a shining star for those who are wading through the waves in your wake and keep writing on.

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  10. “although I quite like the idea of being a struggling artist – there is something inherently romantic about such a label, if you live in Paris that is”

    Those are my feelings EXACTLY and you put them into words! Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am a writer in the closet for what I believe it a good reason, although many people would say my rationale is more absurd than being in the closet. My reason: I am superstitious. All my life whenever I have wanted something, the only way I seemed to be able to get it was to not speak about it, keep it a secret. Sure I am a writer but I am an unpublished one. Until I am published, I will not tell anyone how serious I am about this passion that grips me day and night.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well said as alway Milly. I’m “in the closet” to some extents. I compromised and told people I’m a freelance writer. I don’t let on about my fiction writing though. its as though it’s more acceptable to be a freelance writer than a non-published writer of fiction. Sigh. Perceptions.

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  13. This piece resonated with me so much. I am very much still a ‘writer in the closest’ though strangely, I feel more comfortable telling new people I meet than my oldest friends and family.

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  14. I liked your beginning to this piece – yes, I’ve seen those facial expressions too. My friends have all been very supportive, as have hubby and kids. I have no idea whether my inlaws know I’m writing – it’s never been brought up. But when that conversation eventually happens (you know, when I’m preparing my Miles Franklin acceptance speech), I’ll think of your post and be sure to look out for their facial expressions.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’m not closeted about writing, and my dad goes over the top with his exhortation on how i’m gonna be rich and famous. In fact, It makes me miserable when he does. I feel like a sham sometimes and a hack on others.

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  16. Thank you for this wonderful and thoughtful post! I realize that I have been a “closet” writer – all this time, I thought it was just me and that all the other writers out there are not in the closet 🙂 It is reassuring to know that I am not the only one with this problem!

    I tell my closest friends and my family that I write. I am reluctant to tell my coworkers and friends who are not as close. When they ask me what I did during the weekend (and I had spent the weekend writing), I’d tell them, “Oh, nothing much. Just relaxed.” I think it’s because I am afraid that people will ask me what I am writing about, or worse yet, ask to read it! For me, writing is very personal, and I tend to be a private person with people I don’t know well. If someone reads my writing, then they know what I’m thinking, and that’s just…. *shivers* (On the other hand, I have no problem with strangers reading my writing.)

    I tell my mom and dad that I write, but I am reluctant to share my writing with them! They are very conservative people and I am not sure if my story will be PG13 hahaha….

    Thanks again for this amazing post!

    Sophie

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  17. Ha! You sum it up so well! I finally made an “official” ish fb page and invited friends to it…and then panicked and had to have my husband tell me about 40 times that it was ok to do, and also had to eat a great deal of chocolate… Putting creative work out there is intimidating, especially without the assurance of ‘sucess’! Glad that you have the family support in your work- if your blog is any indication, I’ll have to check out some of your books! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The closet writer. Ah, yes! We’re all very familiar with that! I’ve had a Wattpad for almost two years now and nobody knows about it except for my followers and a few of my closest Internet friends (cos I don’t have real ones…). Another thing that’s keeping me “in the closet” is the lack of general support. Like, MY PARENTS don’t even support it and think I’m being silly since I’m 25 and it’s what I’m devoting my time to rather than getting a “real job.” It’s just frustrating when you don’t have that security blanket–it makes you want to hide and never reveal that you’re “failing” at something you’re pouring your entire heart and soul into.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I once lamented (probably more than once, but maybe only once on this blogging platform) that every time I told people I was an ESL teacher (and by people I mean women I wanted to ask out, or at least talk to at a party) they walked away. A person commented to me that I should tell them I am a writer–and that that because I wrote a blog, and I did write, I was a writer–publishing contract or not.
    I head that advice loud and clear, but have not used it. I also let that feeling fade to the background.
    Thank you for resurrecting it for me.
    I want to be a published author. I want my blog to be followed by thousands. I want to move people with my words and ideas.
    Those are hard things to type. It’s hard letting people see your innermost dreams. However, you have made me feel that I had better say it out loud if I really want it to happen.
    Thank you.

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  20. Dude, I totally relate to this. Ive had to stop myself from broadcasting that Im a writer because people do that signature sympathetic schpeel. But now Ive learned to carefully craft my enthusiasm so that people look forward to whatever the future holds in my career and not feel bad for me 😛

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  21. Reblogged this on Treeshallow Musings and commented:
    It’s good to have support from family and friends, but even so I do sometimes feel like I’m not a real writer because I’m not published yet (okay, so I have self-published my novelette, but I’ve still got seven full length novels sitting on my desktop that no-one knows about).

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  22. Honestly, I was very open about wanting to be a writer when I was younger, and actually got fairly well-known for being good as a teen and young adult… and weirdly, those accolades (for a past0time that had previously been just “for me”) put such a pressure of expectation on me (that I wasn’t prepared for yet) that I hesitate to tell people I’m a writer anymore. I have no desire to write full-time or to make it my living (Ilove my day job too much), so I am trying to find time to write for enjoyment, and then if something strikes me as especially good, I will share it or shop it around.

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  23. Enjoyed reading this post! I feel pleased for you as you are very lucky to have supportive parents and family on your route to becoming a writer. Frankly speaking (correct me if I’m wrong), I think writers are born natural, who are quick with words and enjoy expressing themselves. But I guess they are quite lonely too, and struggling artists as you said. So they need a circle of supporters to be around, or would not be able to keep going because of either finance matters or passion fading down.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thanks for writing my bio, Milly! LOL!

    I was a closet writer for over thirty years, writing for ME and I was just fine with it. Publishing for the first time last year “shocked” my family friends who didn’t know I was a ‘writer’ and wondered when I found the time. (Because a medically-retired, middle-aged woman is just soooo busy!)

    I also have a younger sister pitching me ideas for stories which center around HER under some story-related character name. (DEA agent named Mary Jane Hemp! Save me!)

    Just sent my mom a print copy of my second book (a clean read). She’s not allowed to read the first one because trust me… I’d get grounded! 😀 😀

    Have a great week! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I came out of the closet, realized no one took me seriously and promptly went back in. Only a few of my closest friends, my husband and one or two other family members have been supportive. It’s really weird. I actually prefer telling people I just meet and people I’ll probably never see again – like seat mates on a plane.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I’m not a writer. I’m a cliché. Only when I publish a book will I call myself writer. That’s a bit of a sad commentary on myself, true, but I’m trying to be realistic. Talk is cheap. Also, I’m attempting to avoid the trap of “talking about my writing” more than actually sitting my easily-distracted ass down in the chair and “writing the writing.” Blogging helps motivate me, and reading blogs like yours help keep me writing. So, yes, I’m a writer in the closet and will remain there until I publish and post the cover of my new book on FB and surprise my friends!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. I definately still hide in the closet!! I don’t understand this weird feeling a lot of us have about writing. I have been encouraging some friends to push their writing forward, because not sharing it looks like a total waste of pure talent to me, yet, I understand their hesitation… I’ve heard (and read) the phrase “I just write….” so many times, and I can’t blame anyone for it, since I do it myself…

    Earlier this year, I met my all time favorite author in person. She is worldly known, and it was nerv wrecking to stand in front of her at first. She asked me what I did, and I spoke about my day job, before telling her that I had always loved writing, and had been blogging for a little more than a year… She looked at me and said “Alors, vous êtes un écrivain!” (so, you are a writer!) in the most natural way. “Écrivain” means writer, but is usually used to describe someone who made it big… But she brought it back down to the basic meaning of it, very simply. The fact that she kind of “tagged” me as an écrivaine was very flattering (especially coming from her) and helped me start the (slow) process of coming out of the writing closet 😉

    Sorry for the loooong comment, I guess your post just really spoke to me 😉

    Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I was a writer in the closet until recently. I don’t know what changed (I’m sure it wasn’t my first self-published short story, since I already had publishing credentials from literary magazines), but I openly admitted that I was a writer. What was even stranger is that I admitted it to people I had only met a few minutes earlier. I can honestly say that I surprised myself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. All sounds very familiar. I was a definitely a ‘writer in the closet’ until I decided that I couldn’t keep treating it like a shameful secret. I launched a blog and started to tell people I write fiction. I think many of us are introverts so it’s only natural. But still, we’re here, we write and we’re proud of it! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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