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 Because the last thing you want is their eyes to shine with sympathy for you – the struggling, unpublished artist (although I quite like the idea of being a struggling artist – there is something inherently romantic about such a label, if you live in Paris that is).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.