Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why I Don't Tell People I Write: A Sample Conversation

Every time I tell someone I'm a writer--you know, in person, not online--I get looks from the very impressed to the very disinterested. I generally don't tell many people I'm a writer because sometimes it's still hard for me to believe myself. There's this level of self confidence that I just don't have yet when it comes to announcing to people that I spend all of my free time writing books that may or may not see the light of day.

Just as I never know how the publishing industry worked before I began writing, most non-writer people don't know either. So I thought it would be fun to show you a sample conversation I have when I actually do tell someone I write.

Let's call the person I'm speaking to "Jane" and I'll just be me.


Jane: "Wow! You wrote a book? What's it about?"

Me:  *blushes furiously and stares at foot, cursing self for even mentioning it* This is where I fumble for at least fifteen minutes to describe my novel, trying very hard to make it sound interesting, but all the while sure I'm failing miserably.

Jane: *lots of nodding and smiling--or is that grimacing?* "Where can I get a copy?"

Me: "Umm...You can't get it anywhere at this moment. It's not published yet."

Jane: "Oh. When will it be coming out?"

Me: *more internal cursing* "First an agent has to agree to represent it. And after that happens, I'll probably have to work on revisions and then hopefully a publisher will want to buy it. And, well, if that happens, it will probably still be over a year before the book is available."

Jane: "Oh, huh." *levels of interest are seriously waning here* "That sounds like a lot of work, but it will all be worth it when you're rich and famous and have movie deals from it."

Me: *nervous laughter* "The whole rich and famous and movie thing almost never happens, but that would be nice."

Jane: *insert looks of confusion here* "I thought authors got paid a lot of money for their books?"

Me: *internal cursing turns into internal kicking of the arse* "Some authors do, but most don't. It's highly unlikely I'll make very much at first."

Jane: "Wow." *spots someone else in the crowd and grabs his attention* "Hey, Mark! Did you know that Cindy wrote a book?" *makes excuse to leave conversation as soon as Mark begins talking*

Of course, not every conversation goes this way. Some people get really, really interested and want to talk about it for hours. Either way, there are always looks of confusion and my guaranteed fifteen minutes of stumbling over my words trying to describe my book, but wishing I could just pull up the synopsis and read it out loud instead.

What about you? Do you tell people you write or do you mostly keep it to yourself as well? How do you handle it when you do tell people?


  1. This is great! Definitely sounds familiar! I go back and forth as to whether or not it's something I will mention. My least favorite reaction is: I don't know how you have all that free time with your children around! As if I'm sacrificing something by writing :/ But I have also had a few people carry on about it for quite some time- like the husband of a friend who writes as well. And I also throw it out there when someone makes it out like I'm selling myself short for being a stay-at-home mom.

  2. It gets easier when you can hand them a bookmark and go, "ha!" when they ask about it being published.

    The "ha!" can be from one of your characters in your head, though. You don't have to say it out loud. :)