Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday Fricassee

So I was standing in line waiting for the doors to open for a local children's theatre show this past weekend.  I was all by myself, so naturally I spent my time eavesdropping.

Okay, not really.  But the gal in front of me was VERY. LOUD.  In fact, she's familiar to me--I've seen her around town before.  And every time I've seen her, she's been VERY. LOUD.  So the eavesdropping sort of came naturally.

Probably it's even a misnomer.

Anyway, to be perfectly honest, I didn't turn down the music in my earbuds (which I had cranked specifically to drown her out) until I heard her say, " critique group."  I perked right up, deftly loosening one of my earbuds so that I could eavesdrop listen better.  I caught more phrases like "book release" and "her novel's really good", and I realized that the Very Loud Woman was a writer.  A bonafide, card-carrying, I-foam-at-the-mouth-when-I-talk-about-books writer.

I'm one of those introverts-who-actually-likes-to-talk-to-people.  And normally, at a moment like this, I would have chimed in.  "So, you're a writer?" Or, "What do you write?"  Just sort of worming my way into the conversation, yes?  Because WRITERS LOVE TO TALK ABOUT WRITING.  And it was obvious that the gal this Loud Woman was talking to wasn't one of "us".

I stayed quiet, though.  Stuck my earbud back in and turned away.

I felt ashamed.

Wow, right?  I was pretty bowled over by it, too.  And I'm still processing my emotional response, because I don't like that it happened.

Thing is, I'm in a sort of weird category.  I'm not a newbie, so I'm not coming in from the green-eared, all fresh and confused camp.  I'm not querying agents, so I'm not having that sort of angst.  Truth is, I have a fantastic agent who has been working on selling my stuff, and a lot of time has passed.  A lot.

And I don't feel like explaining that to a stranger.  I don't even feel like saying, "Oh, yes, I'm agented.  We're working on selling that first novel!" *insert socially acceptable smile*

I mean, a couple of years ago, I was fine with saying that sort of thing.  But this journey has turned out to be longer than I ever (ever ever ever) expected.  And as I stood listening to Loud Author last Sunday, I didn't feel compelled to join in.  I felt embarrassed.

Embarrassed that I've been writing so long.  Embarrassed that I've been agented so long.  Embarrassed that I can't say, simply, "Yes, my novel will be released in September," or "Yes, I have several YA novels published."

It's easier to say nothing at all.

On the healthy side of things (I really am fairly emotionally intelligent--I promise!), it's actually not a bad thing that I can set my writing aside.  It makes the waiting easier, makes the pushing-through easier.  Helps me to focus on the rest of my life so that the disappointments in my writing pursuits don't crush me.  So there's that.

But I would feel more at peace with myself if I hadn't felt embarrassed.  If I hadn't stood there thinking, "Well, I'm sort of a living fail right now, so I'd better not say anything."

I'm not a living fail.  I'm not ashamed of my work.  But the raw, deep-gut part of me had a knee-jerk reaction.  And it was a wake-up call, because I absolutely don't want to stay in a shame place.

At the end of the day, I am a writer.  And when I wake up, I'm still a writer.  So there you have it.  Actually, I don't have to talk about it with strangers if I don't want to, and that's okay.  But the shame part?  That needs to die a sudden death.

Each of our journeys is unique.  This one's mine.  I've got to own it when it sucks, own it when it sings, own it until I've walked it all the way to the horizon--and beyond.  And the same goes for you.

Thanks for being in my corner, and have a wonderful weekend!


  1. First of all, virtual hugs. I've been there.

    I attend a yearly YA author event that is mainly geared at librarians and teachers, but it's open to anyone. The chit-chat with guests starts with: which school are you with? Or which library system?

    Once when I answered I was a writer, the person looked at the table of published books beside us for sale and excitedly asked "which one is yours?"

    "Um, none. I'm not published yet."

    Responses vary from polite smiles to mild disgust.

    Now I can laugh it off, but those responses can hurt.

  2. I'm currently writing my own blog post touching on this, actually! I'm in a similar boat, though I'm working on the agent part. It's hard; people who were so supportive in the beginning have started to fade, and now at family functions they don't ask "How's the writing going? Can't wait to read it!" instead asking some variation of "You're still doing that? Is your book ever coming out?" I'm not embarrassed or ashamed, but now I dread it a bit when writing comes up.

    So many feels. So. MANY.

  3. I so needed to hear this today. Lately the waiting is killing me -- will my manuscript get accepted, or won't it? -- and my inner critic is whispering nothing but negativity in my ear. So much so, I have to force myself to write. Which I do because I refuse to let her win. I've worked too hard, too long, and learned too much to stop now. Thank you for sharing this. My inner critic is getting quieter by the second.

  4. Oh my god. Virtual Hug! So... two things:
    - It's actually human nature to always compare ourselves against others (and women are wired to do it a lot more than men. I read about this in a study. It's a real, neurological, evolutionary sensible response). We measure ourselves against others to check if we're healthy enough, if our children are healthy enough, if we are as prepared to fight off a saber tooth tiger as our neighbor. Because if they are more prepared, we need to get to the gym, pronto, or when the attack happens, we will be eaten. So what you experienced is actually a very useful, ancient, adaptation that in our modern lives can go haywire and make us feel bad about not being as (insert characteristic) as the next person. But this is not to say that I don't understand how you feel. I do. Which leads me to point two:
    - Only after reading your blog for a few years, writing, critiquing, and putting myself out there, am I actually confident enough to BEGIN saying to people I'm a writer. I wasn't anywhere near that before. It's a scary thing to say because it can be so easily dismissed by others. But I'm beginning to look at it the same way a fine artist would look at it. There are many, many, many fine artists in the world who do not make a living off their art. They might even show at galleries, they might even have dealers, but selling a painting or two a year does not support them. But there's not a single one of them who would ever feel embarrassed to say they're a writer (I can say this because I know a lot of artists. They just don't care. They paint, they try to show, maybe they make a living otherwise, but they would never dream of defining themselves as anything else).

    Your journey will eventually be a successful one. If it's not yet, it's simply because you're still traveling.

  5. When I got to LIVING FAIL, I LOLed. (Can you past-tense an acronym the same way you can verb a noun?) Anyway, not laughing at your shame. It's more of a sisterhood-identity-howl. Last weekend at a wedding reception, a friend I haven't seen in a couple of years asked the question. Yes, still writing, still unpublished. But you're writing anyway? Yes, it's the thing that's going to carry me through to the grave.

    I recommend a more tactful reply, especially on such a joyous occasion. But, you know, it's the journey.

  6. I rarely tell people I'm a writer. Somehow it doesn't seem right until I get one published, or at least an agent. I don't know if that's good or bad but I guess that's how it is for now.

  7. I guess I have it easy. In our town, you can tell people that you're a writer/actor/artist, and no one expects anything of you. Except to take their order. :)

  8. I imagine giving a speech to the tribe, basking in the glory, buckling the swash, that goes something like this: "I have exactly the career I wanted, exactly 10 years later than I wanted it."

    And I'm fine with that. The occasional short story sale helps. Nice rejection notes help. My only fear is having to amend the 10 to 20 at some point.

    Keep the faith!

  9. I also want to say that you have to right to eavesdrop on Loud People, not to mention People Who Talk In Public On Cell Phones. Not that I wanted to know about "Fannie Lou's" medical problems, but geez Loud Shopper, the store aisles at Marshall's are mine to roam, too, and even when I tried to tune you out, I could hear you discussing this private matter all the way over in the towel section! I was seconds away from buying a "Get Well Soon" card for Fannie Lou and giving it to the woman on the phone.

    Obviously I have Issues. :)

    As for those critique groups, I may be biased, probably due to reading Sue Townsend's hilarious novels about Adrian Mole and his Quest To Be A Writer, where his critique groups always had the most interesting people, including the old woman who wrote sickeningly sweet stories about her cats --you know, the type of woman who would name her cats Sir Puddington Mittensly CutiePaws or something equally embarrassing to said cat-- while Adrian was a REAL writer, a writer who took his writing SERIOUSLY.

    Guess who got published?

    And that's just proof that the universe has a sense of humor! And that Sue Townsend, as successful as she is, doesn't take herself seriously. In reality, if I could find a critique group that was really and truly good, I'd join in a heartbeat, but the only groups I've heard of around here are the "We're talented and superior and you're not" kind of groups, which, I bet, is the type Loud Woman belongs to, the type of groups that exist mainly for group members to brag about.

    I do remember one group member around here getting published, but she had been on a realty show. So that, of course, automatically makes her a writer/actress/star (to be fair, she's a talented singer).

    Maybe WE should come up with a proposal for our own reality series, where we pit a group of writers against each other in a life or death battle to get the publishing contract!

    Except if if were writers from this blog, we'd continually sacrifice ourselves to help the other writers, and I suppose viewers don't tune in to see non-violent, compassionate, humane story lines like that. Maybe we could throw in a make-over or two, add a couple snarky lines about somebody's eyebrows, like: "Her eyebrows are sooo long, I bet she gets them caught when she closes her laptop."

    Or maybe we should just accept that like Emma so wisely said, some of us still have some traveling to do.

    See ya on the road! :)

  10. It is not just writers. I think people in many creative fields experience this. A blog post by my pal Jetty Rae (a wonderful musician and performer) talks about having to break up with her old friend - Comparison - while she was performing at SXSW. You can read it here. It is so true that we spend (waste) too much of our lives comparing ourselves to others: there will always be those "ahead" of us and those "behind" us. Who cares?

  11. I find myself in a weird spot, too. Most people who have been writing as long as I have at least have agents by now. At conferences it's easier because there are so many writers packed in one place and everyone is doing something different. But in "the wild" I'm out of place. It's like being single and 30 (which I am) -- literally all of my friends are either married, married with children, or close to being married or having children. That's not really an issue, but the writing thing is. By the time most people have written as much as I have, they're either published, self-published, or have given up entirely. Where is the camp for "person crazy enough to keep writing after querying and failing for too many years"? I'd like to join. :)

    I don't ever talk to writers in public. I go into hiding mode. If they initiate it and we have some common ground, it's different. But if a coworker comes up to me and says, "oh, this customer writer, too, you should talk to them." -- I hate that so much.

  12. Hugs, Authoress. I have had similar "worthless writer" internal conversations, like parting ways with my agent makes me "less than" others who are agented. It was the right choice for me and I have no regrets, but I understand that sense of shame and withdrawal around other writers who have "arrived at their destination."

    You are such an amazing writer--your posts are endlessly helpful and uplifting, and totally engaging! I can hardly wait to read your book when some wise editor finally snaps it up. Thanks for being so transparent. No living fails around here, just writers who are waiting on queries or submissions, part of the job description that everyone goes through on their way to publication.

  13. My, my this sounds familiar. *hugs and chocolate* I have been in the same boat. My story is similar to yours. I have an excellent agent who is working hard to sell my work, but it takes as long as it takes. Still I get the "hurry up and publish your book so we can be rich already". There are so many things wrong with that statement I want to scream. First, I have no control over how long it takes editors to read. Second, the likelihood hood of me becoming rich from a debut novel is so remote I'll need a plane, boat and scuba lessons to reach it. And third, WE did not write the book so if anyone is going to be will be me.

    I feel the need to avoid the questions because explaining it to people who have never written a thing in their lives is becoming painful. I feel defensive and then I get angry at myself for being defensive. It's a vicious cycle and I'm so glad to have people like you who feel my pain and give me a place to share it.

    Thank you!

  14. I love you for saying that. So she's succeeded where you have yet to succeed. But perhaps your standards are higher and more rigid. Maybe she's written an erotic novel. A Pent-house on Steroids novel? They are authors too.

    Once an editor said to me. Always write what you don't want to hide in a drawer for the rest of your life. In other words, always do your best for the time. As we learn we grow.

    But there is one constant. Writing is in your genes. Publishing is just an end-game. It is your standards that count. Good writing will always conquer in the end. It must fight through many fashion trends. BUT consistently good is better than badly published.

    Zara Penny

  15. There are some editors walking around in the world who have to say:



    Zara Penney

  16. OOps and there are other people who have to walk around saying they called her Rowlands instead of Rowlings.


    Zara who?