Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Don't give up the day job, hen.

It’s been a month since I last blogged. How did that happen? Where have I been?
Well, I’ve been writing. I’ve been tearing through the first draft of a new novel I’m working on, and I’ve been learning my craft. I’ve been doing my Morning Pages every day as soon as my eyes flicker open (4:30am on workdays. Ouch). I’ve been clustering and journaling and plotting and spending all my time either writing or thinking about writing.
I’ve sacrificed my bubble of ignorance for observation; overhearing and capturing snippets of conversation that I find hilarious or disturbing.
The downside of observing others for research purposes, however, is the obligation to tolerate humanity. I despair! 
Overall, though, I couldn’t be happier with my progress at this point in time.

Nobody is immune from insecurities. So what am I insecure about this month?

Well, all this heightened writing activity has naturally had an effect on how I spend my days. Considering I don’t tell many people about my writing (you know, apart from the thousands of people who’ve read this blog), it would appear to most that I've either:

a) become obscenely lazy
b) become (even more) anti-social
c) developed a cleaning & organisation fetish

Let me illustrate this with a few conversation snippets.

A colleague asks: “What did you get up to this weekend?”
  • Me (internally): “Oh, just opening a few veins, bleeding on to a page or ten.”
  • Me (externally): “Oh, I just had a quiet one, I didn’t do anything, really.”

Mum calls me:“What are your plans for the day?”
  • Me (internally): “A few clustering & freewrite exercises, followed by a mammoth writing session”
  • Me (externally): “Oh, just rearranging my wardrobe and cleaning the windows.”

When disappearing from my desk every lunchtime (when for the last 5 years I’ve taken lunch at my desk), I'm asked: “Did you have a nice lunch?”
  • Me (internally):“It was wonderful. I managed 1249 words in 34 minutes.”
  • Me (externally): “Aye, it was alright.” (No further elaboration)

Why do I stop myself from mentioning my goal – nay, my purpose – in life? Because... people will act like you’re a weirdo, like you've just admitted to skinning cats for fun, if you do something as silly as that. Which makes them the real weirdos, really, but I remain silent nonetheless.

For me, telling someone you’re a writer is like telling a fellow Glaswegian you’re teetotal. You’re met with a glazed, confused stare. It’s beyond comprehension to many. 

In the “Start Writing Fiction” podcast from the Open University, author Michèle Roberts gives some sage advice: “Don’t tell the wrong people that you want to write, because they’ll mock you and laugh at you.”
So who are the “wrong people?” Personally, I consider that to be everyone who doesn't infact write themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I talk about my writing, to an extent, to my nearest and dearest, but I wouldn't hark on to my neighbours or colleagues about it.
So why allow myself to come across as someone I'm not? Why not just confess my writerly ways?
Because it was hard enough convincing myself that writing isn’t simply an act of self-indulgence, without having to convince other people too.
The more involved I am with my writing, the more precious it is becoming to me, and the more fiercely I will protect my right to write.
I’ve opened that can of worms before. In a more gallus temperament, I’ve spoken of my writing ambition to some "wrong people". It invariably created questions. Sceptical questions. “What, so you think you’re going to get published? Do you fancy yourself as the next J. K. Rowling? You’ll have to keep your day job, of course.”
Calm down, pal.
In order to explain your writing dream properly, you’d have to spend a hell of a lot of time talking about yourself. And I don’t care for talking about myself. I’d rather go and write about other people, to be frank.
Sometimes I wonder if it scares some people, seeing someone pursue their dreams. Perhaps it forces them to wonder about their own dreams; ones that remain unfulfilled. The path to writing is unique because you can’t really follow step-by-step instructions to becoming qualified (believe me, I’ve tried), like the way you can in another career like a mechanic or a midwife. Maybe this is why most people don’t consider writing as a real profession.
One of the most common attributes of writers, I like to believe, is their ability not to care too much about what other people think of them. Otherwise, they’d be too terrified to even think about writing, don’t you think?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sinister attitudes and ugliness. Perhaps people genuinely are happy for you and wish you all the best with your endeavours. Maybe everything I just said above wasn’t a reflection on other people, but of my own insecurities as a writer.
In that case, when better to divulge these insecurities than in my post for the Insecure Writers Support Group, hmm?
How is everyone getting on? Have you had any experiences of sharing your writing dream with the "wrong people"?

I shall catch up with all my fellow #ISWG writers over the weekend. Looking forward to it! x


Kyra Lennon said...

No disrespect to Michele Roberts, but I don't think that is great advice. In my humble opinion, all it does is make you wonder who the "wrong people" are and add to the insecurities.

It took me a long time for me to openly say, "I am a writer." It still feels weird even now. But for the most part, I try not to worry about being mocked. I'll do my thing, everyone else will do theirs - and if it doesn't work out, at least I can say I gave it my best shot. :D

Catherine Noble said...

@Kyra Lennon: Wise words :)

To be fair to Michele, her tone did sound a bit tongue in cheek, but I do agree with the sentiment, in a sort of "keep your cards close to your chest" approach that comes naturally to introverts like me :)

I lean more specifically to the "wrong people" being non-writers who take exception to people having creative endeavours. You know the type: "why don't you get a REAL job?" kind of people. I'm sure we all know a few of those!

You should proudly call yourself a writer, and a successful one at that, Kyra :) I can understand why you wouldn't agree with the more guarded attitude, as you have an extremely supportive nature :)

I'm sure most writers don't worry too much about being mocked, thankfully. Like I said, if they cared about what other people thought of their writing, they'd probably not go for it in the first place! x x

Dani said...

Your internal vs external cracked me up (out loud in fact). Its the truth tho. I've tried to explain it to family and they look at me like I have 3 heads.

Anne Mackle said...

I agree with all that you have said.As I've told you before I've only been blogging and writing for the past year and I don't think any of my friends understands how much it means to me. Thyis is my only real free day this week and I've been looking online for holidays all morning,now I am free to write my friend has just texted me asking what I'm doing. Do I say,"Oh I have a headache and I'm lying down" or be truthful and say, "I'm writing" I am becoming more secretive too as she would feel put out if I put here off because I was,"Just writing" I want a week in a cabin in the country all by myself to just write. Another thing is (on soap box) I get annoyed that my friends don't read my blog so when they asked for holiday photos I said,"Well if you had read my blog you would have seen them" Am I wrong to want some support? Great that you are getting on wth your book,hope it goes well.

Catherine Noble said...

@Dani: Glad it gave you a giggle :) so I'm not the only 3-headed freak out there, then? Yay! Hee hee.

@Anne Mackle: You're so right, it's hard to admit to wanting to write all day, because you feel like you're expected to do other, "productive" things with your free time like housework (pah!) and see friends, etc. Even if some people support you in your writing endeavours, they still believe it should come bottom of the priority list! None of my family or friends read my blog either, unless coerced by me. I think I actually prefer it that way though, to be honest, it makes me write with a bit more freedom somehow (I can't explain why, though!).
P.S. Your holiday photos are STUNNING.
P.P.S How amazing would a week in a cabin in the country all by yourself for a week to just write be? Sigh... that sounds spectacular!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good points, but I try not to say too much because people aren't really as interested in what I'm doing as I am, even if they're supportive.

Morgan said...


I love this post. I LOVE to talk about the writing world... but people aren't really interested, LOL... they don't... get it. They don't get that it takes time to get published traditionally. It's fine though, because all of YOU get it. ;) And this post was fabulous. :)

Suzanne Furness said...

Yes, yes, yes! I love your post and can relate to it whole heartedly. I often feel like I'm living a double life - my regular job (where only 1 person, who is also a good friend out of work) knows I write and then my writing life which is the rest of the time. Here I can BE A WRITER, not just dream about it. I rarely talk about anything to do with writing with anyone who doesn't!

Jackie said...

Such an awesome post!
I've found myself with that internal/external dialogue on a daily basis. :D

Christine Rains said...

Awesome post! I have trouble deciding who to tell I write too. Usually I don't say anything. I'm good at redirecting questions so no one thinks I haven't answered a single thing about myself! The writing community here is such a great support. I love it!

Catherine Noble said...

@Donna K. Weaver: That is a VERY good point. I wish people would realise this when they bleat on about their jobs or kids for half an hour without taking a breath haha.

@Morgan: Yay, thank you! Your enthusiasm means a lot to me :') What would we do without our wee supportive community?

@Suzanne Furness: A double life, that's it! It makes me wonder what else my colleagues/neighbours might get up to in their spare time (perish the thought haha).

@Jackie: Thank you! :) I'm glad I'm not the only one with the double dialogue haha. I might start making up theatrical external dialogue to keep myself entertained. "What am I up to today? Well, I'm just going to volunteer at the local zoo. They're looking for someone to feed the lions. Then I'll drop in at the ice rink down the road, do a bit of figure skating to work up an appetite for lunch." Sigh... how tedious my life is haha.

@Christine Rains: Thanks :) Ahh you crafty devil, I redirect questions too haha :) It really is a good support, isn't it? Our writing journeys would be a whole lot different without it, I tell ye!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

When I was writing my first book, the only one who knew was my wife! I didn't want to get the odd comments either. Even now I almost never mention my books or writing to my co-workers.

Lorinda J Taylor said...

I'm puzzled. I got a notification in my email saying I had subscribed to your blog, but I don't remember doing that. We are Twitter followers, however. And now that I read this post, I think I will subscribe, if I'm not already on there, because this post really struck a chord!
I started writing way back in 1969 and wrote without publishing (tried but no luck) until 1983. I never wanted to tell anybody I was a "writer" because they would always look at you funny, and they would ask, "So what have you published?" When I would say, "Nothing," then their expression clearly would indicate, well, then how can you call yourself a writer? It makes you feel like a fraud.
But then I started up again in 2000 and a year ago I decided to self-publish. I've now published 4 books and finally I feel justified! I can proudly call myself a writer! So all you have to do, Catherine, is get published somehow, and you, too, can proclaim yourself in public, without feeling ashamed!

michelle said...

Non-writers simply don't get it!! So I don't even waste breath trying to explain. It's futile.You might as well be a three-horned, one-eyed monster with the kind of looks you'll get from most people, if you share your writerly aspirations with them.
It's simply incomprehensible to the average non-writing-man-in-the-street.
That's just my two cents worth. LOL.

Donna B. McNicol said...

I had to read your internal/external conversation to my hubby. He puts up with my writing sprints and supports me. I'm fortunate that since I'm retired, I don't feel I have to either hide or justify my writing. I do worry that the final result won't live up to everyone's expectations but it will be what it will be.

As to taking time off to write, good for you! I need to do that more often and forego the social media.

Maria said...

Love your post...I can so identify with all of it! The problem is once you step outside the asylum that writing one understands you.

I wouldn't say I hide my writing, and I don't justify it, but I don't openly tell people either, because I have fallen into telling the 'wrong people' too.

Some folks are shockingly rude about it. I'll leave it there.

I echo what Suzanne has said about feeling she is leading a 'double life' being a writer. Sometimes its no bad thing though...being able to escape to the other side. ;-)

David Stewart said...

There is an inverted snobery towards writers in those with 'real jobs'. I usually declare it as a hobby and play it down - privately I can then work on whatever ambitions within writing I like.

Sb Phoenix said...

Excellent post! I think we've all endured that lingering look that follows the statememnt "I am a writer" at one point or another.

I don't tend to keep it a secret, but I don't go out of my way to talk about it - mainly because I suspect (or know) that my close friends and work colleagues just don't care that much. To anyone who isn't a writer the notion of getting published/selling a script seems like a wild and unachievable dream. As already stated a lot of people (in my opinion at least) are envious of any creative spark, perhaps because they themselves have not got any, or failed to achieve their ambition/dream or goal.

Tricia Golledge said...

Loved your post and i expect its resonate with lots of writers out there i've had the opposite experience.
My nearest and dearest pulls a funny face when i say the W word and the minute i sit at the computer theres always tidying/ironing/quality time as a family/rows. Yet i've bumped into old friends of an evening who immediately ask me how my writing is going and what i up to!
So i think what i am saying is why not admit it to all and sundry, you have the confidence to write, be confident about telling folk and if they sneer or slag you off well, they'll end up as victim in your next very successful book, which will eventually be filmed by Spielberg and starring Gerard Butler

delooze zoo said...

Hahha Catherine! It was like you just pulled episodes straight out of my head...Your Internal vs. external especially...soooo many times I've doen the same thing! According to what I say to people sometimes, my house should be stunningly spotless!!!

This year I took a bold step and listed on my FB page as a profession: Writer. I actually felt a bit queasy doing it, and dithered for days about whether or not to leave it there for everyone to see.

Why do we feel guilty, like we have to justify it? If I was into scrapbooking, or painting, or clog dancing, I wouldn't feel like I had to ...(ok, maybe with clog dancing I still would!)

I AM A WRITER! there I said it.
Now you do feels good!

Jamie Burch said...

Yikes! Luckily I haven't had any negative responses from others about my writing. It can be frustrating when I haven't made any progress and they're asking how the book's going.

Hope October is proving to be a great month for writing. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Catherine Noble said...

Thank you for all your lovely comments, everyone!

@Alex J. Cavanaugh: If only your co-workers knew what an absolute legend you are, in the world of writing!

@Lorinda J Taylor: It must be serendipity :) I'm glad my post struck a chord with a seasoned writer such as yourself. Feeling like a fraud has been prevalent in my writing journey, thus far! Well done on publishing 4 books, that's quite an accomplishment! I do indeed hope to become published myself one day soon, by hook or by crook, I tell ye (and hopefully one day by demand...)!

@Donne B. McNicol: I envy your retirement haha! I hope your husband enjoyed the internal/external conversation :) I can imagine taking a break would be hard for you, you're one of the busiest bees I've seen on the social network!

@Maria: Haha I know... us poor, misunderstood writers. I suppose we should just get used to it! Sorry to hear you've been the subject of rude behaviour (how bloody dare they? Names and addresses, please...), people can be rotten. I totally agree with you and Suzanne... escapism is the name of the game!

@David stewart: You're right, inverted snobbery and complete narrow-mindedness, at times. How did it become such a taboo subjects? Did the wonderful art form fall subject to one too many lousy deadbeats, masquerading under the guise of being writers? We'll never know...

Sb Phoenix: Thank you! That's what I was saying to my other half last week: "look at all the books in this library! If they can all do it, why the hell can't I?" You'd think witnessing other people going for their dreams would inspire people to kick start their own shelved goals, instead of wanting to drag you back down so they don't have to think about it. Unfortunately that happens in most aspects of life, not just writing!

@Tricia Golledge: Hahaha I love your take on this! Do you know what else? When Spielberg is directing our blockbuster novels, all these "wrong people" will start to spring up from nowhere, saying "I ALWAYS believed in her work. We all KNEW she would make it" *snort* I shall keep this little daydream on standby!

@delooze zoo: I'm glad it resonates; I feel less weird now! Tell me about it, if my Mother could see my washing pile...
Good for you, re: the FB profession page! I can't wait to summon up the balls to do the same :)
P.S. Clog dancing, eh... spectacular! haha :)

@Jamie Burch: In a way, I'm glad nobody asks me too much about my writing progress. Despite investing so many hours towards it, I still feel like I've made no progress, whatsoever (although it has graduated from feeling like I'm going backwards, but still...). Thank you! Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? I still haven't come up with an idea, which is both terrifying and exhilirating!

Lorinda J Taylor said...

I don't know if I'd call myself a "seasoned writer"! ;-) But I have written a lot of words. These days the publishing part is easy if, like me, you go the self-published route. It's the promotion and publicity that bugs a person. How do you convince people that these books won't simply either bore them or waste their time? How can you convince them that this particular bunch of words is exciting and absorbing and thoughtful and maybe even unique, and genuinely worth reading? Aye - there's the rub! (You do have to believe in what you write and not let yourself get discouraged when your stuff isn't selling.)

Catherine Noble said...

@Lorinda J Taylor: Very wise words. I know a lot of writers who enjoy the marketing side, and are extremely good at it. I haven't had the opportunity to try it out myself yet, but I've also seen plenty of authors burn themselves out from too much marketing, which in turn takes away from their future writing time. There's no two ways about it though: self-publishing is fabulous for giving writers freedom from the dictatorship of traditional publishers! I think right now is a VERY exciting time in the world of publishing, where boundaries are shifting all over the place :)

Lorinda J Taylor said...

Right about the dictatorship of professional publishers! I had an exchange the other day with somebody who is publishing with a noted publishing company, and he was saying he would like to have footnotes in his novel explaining some of his technical research on the 13th century, but he was pretty sure the publisher would jinx that idea. Well, I have footnotes in my "Labors of Ki'shto'ba" series, and I didn't have to get anybody's permission!

Misha Gericke said...

Yeah I get that too. Lots of gnashing of teeth ensue. I try to remind myself they don't know what they're talking about. :-)

Amanda Saint said...

Ha ha - if I had a pound for every time someone has said the JK Rowling thing to me I would be as rich as her! I used to feel really self-conscious saying that I'm a writer but over the last couple of years its worn off. I think you're right that it scares people to see others chasing a dream. I am officially obsessed with writing (and reading) and I think all my friends think I'm a little bit mad. But that's OK, because I think we're all a bit mad! Anyway, I hope the month of writing went really well for you. You should read David Gaughran and Talli Roland's blogs - they are two self-publishers I met earlier this year who made me change my mind about it completely.

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