Posted by Lynne
It took me a long time to assert my identity as a writer. Parenting articles placed in magazines or online, even a monthly column in a regional parenting paper, didn't quite hold enough weight to stake my claim.
Believe it or not, in the early months after Negotiation Generation sold to Penguin, I still felt others would perceive me more as an expert with a book than a writer. Eighteen days after my parenting book hit the shelves, my novel sold to St Martin's. And within minutes my definition of myself included writer.
As holiday gatherings begin to litter the calendar--with some having already taken place--I realize I'm a novice at declaring myself a writer, an author. My social repartee is stilted, my responses to the predictable questions and remarks weak and unpracticed.
At a recent party, I went on for ten minutes, giving a detailed retort to the comment: "You should get on Oprah." I explained the way it happens and how many people each year jockey for a coveted book pick. I lightly offered that getting on Oprah was as likely as getting struck by lightning.
Muse of this blog, the dear Carolyn See writes in her marvelous book, Making a Literary Life that writers must become adept at saying thank you for compliments and no kidding for anything else he or she doesn't choose to discuss at length.
While I've used both phrases a lot in the last few months, I still enjoy conversations about writing and publishing and do choose to have them in social situations. But I'm here to warn you about the trap you might fall into if you too wade into discussions unprepared.
What in the world would you say to the following--
I have an idea for a book. Maybe you could write it for me.
I've written a chapter of my book. Will you read it and tell me if it's good?
I only read happy books. Is yours a happy book?
Can you give me your agent's/editor's phone number? If she likes your work, she'll love mine.
Who will play the lead when your book is turned into a movie?
I know a writer who self-published. She's making a ton of money--why would you want an agent?
Lengthy explanations and oodles of education don't cut it in the face of these faulty perceptions, these comments that show a limited understanding of the muse and the marketplace. My answers are getting better day-by-day, because I don't feel an obligation to set things straight. I chat, I smile and I commit to nothing. I choose instead to offer resources. I recommend this blog and the ones listed in our links section to the right. I tell the emerging writer about books that changed my writing life, those that nurture equal parts inspiration and perspiration.
If the person I'm chatting with is truly at the beginning stages of the journey toward a writing life, he or she will do the necessary homework, put in the time. I'd be humbled to part of the process that encourages this writer to walk further down the road. Yet if the conversation is as important to the person as the ingredients in stuffed mushrooms, I've made it nothing more than it is--party conversation.
I've worked hard to be able to say I'm a writer. While I'm committed to showing other writers the way, I know it must be earned. Each writer must walk her own path--no kidding.
Care to share how you claim your identity as a writer, while at the same time chit chat about the writing life?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Posted by Lynne