When Do You Confess To Being A Writer?

A very good friend and fellow writer, Howie Gunston, recently launched his blog/podcast Writers Comma Ice Cream — which premiered a few weeks ago (check it out).  This season’s topic includes what it take to be a writer and his interviews range

Writer's Comma Ice Cream Interview (photo by Howard Gunston)

Writer’s Comma Ice Cream Interview (photo by Howard Gunston)

from those in weekly writing clubs straight through to published writers. My interview with him will launched this week and you can listen to it on i-tunes or here.   You’ll hear us discuss what it takes to be a writer as well as why it is that I believe Howie will not last long in a zombie apocalypse and why on earth Ben & Jerry’s would ever retire White Russian Ice Cream (I suggest we stage a massive write-in on this!).

We’ve been discussing for some time now, what it means to be a writer — but also when do you tell other people that your occupation is writing? I struggle to answer this question.  Is it when I get paid to write?  Is it when I get published?  Or is what makes me a writer perhaps the idea that unlike most people who yearn to be writers, I actually write — on a  regular basis — constantly- WRITE.

But also, with confessing that you are a writer comes the following questions:

  1. So have you written anything I can see?

    Well that depends what you’re asking.  If your eyes are working properly, then yes, you can give me a pen now and I can write something, my name even and you can see it.  But you’re probably really asking (rather inarticulately or perhaps over politely) whether I’m published or if you can read my unpublished first draft.  If it is the first, I promise you, my introduction will always be, “Hi, I’m Carri and I’m a published writer.”  It may seem pretentious, but at least I’m getting it out of the way.  The second part will be, “You’ll have to go to a bookstore to buy my book, because I gave away the extra copy I usually carry around with me, hoping to bestow on someone I’ve just met.”

    Now if it is the latter and you’re asking to read my finished, unpublished manuscript, unless you’re an agent or a friend who’s opinion I value highly, my answer is a firm “No.”  It’s not to be insulting but there is nothing worse than a  complete stranger with little to no writing background telling you how you should write your novel. In fact, it’s like the worst workshop class ever. It’s also like handing over a new born baby to someone you don’t know — who hasn’t washed their hands before touching their delicate skin.  It’s immune system isn’t quite ready for strangers.

  2. What’s your book about?

    Simple question, right?  Wrong. If I’m a decent writer, it’s taken me several years to write my novel. You want me to summarize it in small talk so you can judge my credibility.  And yes, I should have a log line — a little movie trailer (which perhaps I will record on  my phone and hit the play button for each time I am asked this question), but I can’t tell you what it’s about precisely.  It’s like saying that The Lord of The Rings is about a ring, or that it’s about hobbits and a journey to save Middle Earth.  What about the Shire, the Fairies  err I mean Dwarves, trolls and orcs?  Yet, it’s also my job as a writer to summarize my years of work into an accurate yet interesting description of what it is.  But until I do that, I usually respond, “It’s a story about a boy wizard.”

  3. You know, I fancy myself a writer too…

    Do you?  Do you wake up in the middle of the night because two of your characters are angry with each other and they want to duke it out here and now?  Do you walk around in a daze for week trying to figure out why that one really well written chapter just isn’t working with the plot, or do you panic in realization that one of your characters is going to die and you have no power over it?…Or do you think writing is just an easy thing to do, you know if you ever sat down and actually wrote anything? I want to be supportive of ANYONE who writes — even if it is terrible — but without sitting down and writing, please don’t fancy yourself a writer.  Fancy yourself as someone who would love to write but doesn’t feel motivated enough to do it.  I understand — we’re all busy.  Somethings simply never happen. I’ve always wanted to play the guitar and yet, it hasn’t happened.  But let’s be clear, I don’t fancy myself a musician either.

    At a writer’s conference, I met a retired math teacher, who in his seventies was pursuing poetry.  I got up early everyday so I could sit with him at breakfast and talk about writing. I wish I had kept in touch with that man, because he was inspirational.  Just because you don’t have time right now, doesn’t mean you won’t have time later (although that’s a dangerous gamble).  He never stopped wanting to create art and it was in his retirement that he was able to pursue it.  And I fancy him a poet, because he wrote some beautiful poetry — because he sat down one day and picked up his pen.

    Also, everyone’s pretty terrible in the beginning.  I don’t imagine that you get to paint tportraits without having at some point drawn stick figures.

  4. Do you write Romance Novels?

    No, but if someone will pay me, then ABSOLUTELY. This question sometimes gets under my skin.  For me, love is kind of central to the human condition. Everyone is motivated by love OR the lack of love. Depending how they perceive this, they react differently.  I mean even in horror, isn’t the villain usually someone who either feels outcast from society (unloved) or has a skewed and perverted idea of what love is — but still — it’s love.  Isn’t a soldier who dies for their country or their comrades in some way acting out in love?  Didn’t the Hobbits do it for love damn it?  My point is that Romance has a lot of meaning.  Love can be unromantic.  Romance can be considered less legitimate writing. And once upon a time the genre of Romance was entangled in the Gothic genre.

    So which Romance would you like me to write, and how much are you paying?

Okay — that’s it for now.  Please listen to my interview. Let me know what you think.

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