Write on Wednesday-Coming Out of the Writer’s Closet

None of my friends know I do it. My husband knows, but basically ignores it, considering it another amusing little project that takes up time and doesn’t make any money. My son probably understands it better than most, and does it himself on occasion. What is this deep dark secret I’m harboring? Writing, of course.

“You know the last thing in the world people want to hear from you,” writes Carolyn See in Making a Literary Life, “the very last thing they’re interested in? The fact that you have always wanted to write, that you cherish dreams of being a writer, that you wrote something and got rejected once, that you believe you have it in you – if only the people around you would give you a chance – to write a very credible, if not great, American novel.”

Every so often, I think about telling one of my really good friends that I write. Perhaps my friend Pat, who is all about “living your dreams,” no matter what age you are. After all, she’s nudged me out of my musical shell, taught me to step outside my safe box and take risk now and then. Surely she, of all people, wouldn’t think I was silly, or worse yet, pathetic, for writing stories and poems, for hoarding private fantasies about publishing novels.

Or my friend Millie, my “other mother” as I call her, who always props up my flagging confidence with genuine caring and pride, who simply grabs me by the hand and drags me into places I’m fearful of, assuring me with steadfast certainty that I can handle myself there. Wouldn’t she pat me on the back with a hearty “good for you!” and say “I’m not the least bit surprised!”

So why do I always cringe at the thought of admitting my secret aloud to these women, these “real world” friends? Why is it so easy for me to share my writing dreams with all of you, and not with the people who share my life on a daily basis?

Part of it, I suppose, is fear of criticism, fear that they’ll look at me, smile politely, and make some sort of “that’s nice, dear,” remark before continuing the conversation about next weeks rehearsal or last night’s episode of “The Closer.” That reaction would not only bruise my fragile writing hopes, but could actually damage our friendship.

Perhaps keeping the writing secret is a way of protecting it. Hemingway said that talking about your work weakens it, diminishes the magic it develops as it gestates in your head. Carolyn See writes that “the wonderful thing about your inner life is that it’s your inner life.” All the while you’re stuck in traffic, or sitting through boring meetings at work, or spending time with deadly dull relatives, you can think about this secret world of characters and ideas living in your mind.

Still, I often feel a distinct urge to spill my secret. I’ll have it planned out, waiting to announce when people ask “So, what have you been up to lately?”

“Well,” I’ll offer, “I’ve been writing – stories, poems, even a novel.”

But when the moment comes, inevitably I back away. “Oh, the usual,” I’ll concede. “Work, some music stuff, taking care of the parents – you know, nothing new.” Once again, I pull the writer’s closet door tightly closed, hoarding my secret to myself for a while longer.

So, how about you? Have you come out of the writer’s closet to your friends and family?


12 thoughts on “Write on Wednesday-Coming Out of the Writer’s Closet

  1. I’m sorry Becca that this fear is hiding a beautiful talent from those you love. You should self-publish a book of short stories under a fake name and share it with them. When you tell them I wrote that, take a picture of their faces for me. 🙂

    My friends outside of blogging won’t read my blog, yet email me asking what’s new…argh! I’m not a great writer but I’m not a snooze either. Dave and my blog friends are my only validation. My kid’s roll their eye’s… lol


  2. My husband knows about my writing and is very supportive; my brother knows I like to write but doesn’t know about my blog (my choice).

    I think part of the reluctance on my part is that the friends I have made through blogging have seen me in the context of writing from the beginning, and my “real life” friends know me from a much different frame of reference. I’m not wholly behind Hemingway’s idea of diminishing magic, but I do feel a sense of wanting to keep that part of me as a personal oasis.

    For me, the closet door will probably remain firmly closed.

  3. I don’t think there is anything wrong with keeping your “secret” to yourself. The only time I let the cat out of the bag is when I know I really need to do something I’m not wanting to do but really must. It’s a way of making myself walk the walk. I don’t think that people who don’t write understand what it is that you are doing as a writer. Next time you are on a plane flying somewhere, try telling the person sitting next to you that you are a poet!! All conversation stops!!! Ha!!

  4. This post hits too close to home. I came out of the closet and now I’ve gone back in. I have a very close friend who reads my blog. Her passion is photography. I’ve supported her for years. When I started posting some of my fiction on my blog, she simply didn’t mention it. Never. It’s as if she never read it, but I know she did. Strange.

  5. I really only “came out” with my friends and family when I was part of a supportive group of writers. Knowing there were people who would read my work with a compassionate and open eye made it less worrisome to let family read. But I protected myself by only sharing pieces I felt comfortable sharing. It’s not easy, though. It’s going to feel like you’re really exposing yourself, because you are, but I believe if you are a writer (and you ARE), sooner or later you have to go public with it. … I was going to start into suggestions of “do this” or “do that”, but you will know yourself when you’re ready to make the leap. Good luck with it (But… the fact that you are raising the question tells me that you are really close to the point of needing to break out, perhaps?)

  6. Tammy: A big hug for your kind words and great support! And you are definitely no snooze as a writer 🙂

    Star: I agree~our blog friends have known us as writers from the beginning, so it’s easier to share our writing lives with each other. If I have to stay in a closet, at least it’s nice to have such great company 🙂

    Joan: OK, on my next airplane trip, I’m going to tell my seatmate I’m a writer and see what happens! (Yikes!)

    Yolanda: Here’s to opening the door 😉

    Annie: I hope you’ll keep writing fiction~I really enjoy your stories!

    Imelda: Having the support of blog friends certainly helps. And you’re right, I am feeling more and more “on the brink” of talking about it. Thanks for the supportive advice 🙂

  7. My family and childhood friends all know. Now I have just shared with some co-workers. It will be interesting to see their responses.

  8. I think that your friends, especially the one who encourages you to step outside of the box, will be intrigued by your secret. If you ever do tell, I hope the reaction is a positive one.
    ~But it’s not such a secret, because we all know!~xo

  9. I’ve told all my real life friends about my writing and as you mentioned it’s pretty much a “that’s nice dear” response. Or like Annie said, a strange “it doesn’t exist” response.

    As I believe that it takes too much of my energy to hide things, I continue on in the open with my writing. If it bothers some of them, then that’s their problem, not mine. And it makes those who support me all the more precious.

  10. I’m not sure why you’re worried about sharing your talents with your friends. They’d be proud of you, supportive and encouraging, I bet. But even if they’re not, the important thing is what YOU think of your writing – you have talent and should nurture it, no matter what anyone else says. xo

  11. Most of my friends know I write, my family all know. Most of them encourage me, a couple of not so close friends behave as though I never admitted it, and one or two are also writers to some level or another. The dsmissive ‘oh I used to do that too!’ is in my experience the worst response! I’ve never regretted telling people about my writing.

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