Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Closet Writer

My family knows I write. My closest friends know that I do. Anyone reading this blog knows that I do, but most of my work colleagues don’t have a clue and I’m not really sure why I haven’t told them. It probably has a lot to do with the fear of still being in my same job twenty years from now and having someone snigger, “Hey, Jen, whatever happened to that book you were writing?”

I was at a work course the other day and a psychologist came and gave a talk about “sticky thoughts”. These are apparently those thoughts that most people try and instinctively push away, but come back and haunt us later if we don’t learn to deal with them. I’m a bit hazy on the details because I was sitting on a very comfy couch trying not to look like I was about to doze off, but there was a point when the psychologist asked us for examples of sticky thoughts, and bang, there it was: I might never get published. I shut my mouth, of course, as people do at these things, because bringing it up would have meant explaining the whole process to a room full of my colleagues: Yes, I have written a novel. Yes, I have sent it away to an agent. Yes, I am still waiting to hear. Yes, I am terrified I am not good enough.

And I’m sure I’m judging them unfairly. Once, on night work, the sergeant heard me tapping away at the keyboard. Worrying that something that was bigger than Ben Hur was about to land, he asked what I was doing. Caught out, I told the truth. You’re writing a book? he said. That’s great!

I write. By definition that makes me a writer. So why haven’t I come out? Is it my own fear of failure, or is it just because, to most people, a writer is someone who has a published work? Most people think, and I suppose I do as well, that until you can thump your published book down on the desk and say “Here! Here it is!” that calling yourself a writer is premature, like a kid on a tricycle calling himself Lance Armstrong. Having said that, does anyone point and laugh at people who peel on their lycra suits and ride ten kilometres a day just because they’ll never win the Tour de France?

I mean, I point and laugh at them, but that’s not the reason.


  1. So true, I have been working hard on my music for a couple of years now but have never really shared it. I feel like I am at the same place as you are writing aboot right now and I have just decided to throw my stuff out there and see how it lands! Great stuff!

  2. Jen,
    I have the same fear, and I have an agent and am prepping to submit. I don't like talking about my writing, trying to explain the subjects or process to people who either don't know my genre or anything about writing. I'd rather (hopefully, at some point in the not-so-distant future) hold up a book and say: "That. That's what I did."

    I don't know how logical this is. Most people are supportive, if a little mystified, when I tell them what I'm working on. And I need more beta readers, so at some point I'm going to have to start sharing my work with more people. But, I totally understand where you're coming from.

  3. That's the thing. Most people are supportive. I think it's only my own fear of failure that stops me from announcing what is one of the most important aspects of my life. I need to harden up!

    Daimo, can't wait to hear your music. I'm in awe of anyone with musical talent - always wanted it, never had it.

    Hillary, congratulations on getting an agent. That's a huge milestone, and I hope it all works out for you!



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