Monday, 9 July 2007
Dirty little secrets
Keeping an online ID under wraps is one thing. What about hiding the writing from one's nearest and dearest?
I've kept my writing a secret from most of the important people in my life. My son has always known, and my sister, who also writes. A couple of friends who write know that I do some clandestine scribbling and there are two more who pretty much are traveling the same road, so we talk about the work, provide encouragement, act as critics and first readers. Who else is in? My agent, of course. Even now that I have an offer from a publisher, I'm not telling a whole lot of people until I see my signature on the contract. Maybe not even then. Perhaps only when the book is released.
I told my mother nothing until the agent called to say we had an offer. My brother is pretty much in the dark. I haven't even told several near and dear friends. Why this ridiculous secrecy?
Apart from my own paranoid need for privacy, there are good, sound reasons. For one thing, there is a yawning division in most people's minds between pubbed and unpubbed writers. Until you're pubbed many non-writers view you with outright derision, patronizing good humor, or simply consider you an oddball. The writing is hard enough, sometimes. Trying to get pubbed can be dementia-inducing. I can do without the attitude as well.
Even the most harmless and well-meaning of people can put a strain on a writer. Innocent questions such as: So when is your book coming out? and Why don't you self-publish? when you're barely past the first draft either put the writer on the defensive or compel her to try to explain the industry, blurting out info which the questioner really has no interest in. Many people also have this weird idea that once you take up a pen you're on the fast track to raking in the dollars à la Stephen King. They have no idea that most fiction writers would starve if they tried to live off their writing. The erroneous assumptions are endless.
I no longer feel badly about my predilection for secrecy. Heather Sellers in Page After Page tells us to shut up and write. And Carolyn See, in this wonderful article which I re-read occasionally to alleviate the guilt at my lack of openness, advises that you keep your family out of your darned business.