Are you ever ashamed to call yourself a writer? I don’t mean consciously, but when someone asks you what you do, and I’m not referring to your nine-to-five job, do you shy away from mentioning your “shadow” career, only “admitting” it to your closest friends? Or when someone asks you “what’s new?” do you tell them you’ve just finished your latest chapter, or do you toss them non sequiturs? Do you answer your partner’s “What are you doing?” with “Oh, nothing,” even if you’re neck-deep into plotting? Do you consider your writing a guilty pleasure rather than a necessary part of your overall mental health? And most of all, do you write only when you can steal some time away from the “more important” things you have to do? Does any of this sound familiar? If it does then I have news for you: you’re seriously disrespecting The Work.
Easy for you to say, you may be saying. I have a home. A family. Kids. A job. A cranky spouse. Responsibility! Bills to pay! <Fill in this blank with your bitch.> I get it. I GET IT. I’m not saying you don’t have any of that. And I’m not denigrating it. You are. And why’s that? Because what you’re telling me is this “secret passion” you have is not important enough for the public. That it’s just some silly little thing you do now and then. And it deserves significantly less attention than your more respectable pastimes, such as checking Instagram on your phone, watching “The Walking Dead,” or hoisting a few on the deck (I may be persuaded to reconsider the last one). And that’s fine–as long as that’s how you really feel. Do you?
Truth be told, I used to. I hid my more creative bent from my friends and family, only indulging in it during what is known as “free time,” which could be exclusive of anything in the world from chopping wood to piloting the International Space Station, as long as it didn’t involve writing. But the thing was, I didn’t write any more or less. I still devoted an inordinate amount of time to my fiction; I just accomplished it after everything else “more important” was finished, even if I had to work late into the night. Then came the ultimate paradigm shift–I began to make money. Overnight my little hobby gained immediate legitimacy. Which forced me to ask myself, Does it take making money before anyone will take me seriously? A big resounding NO, and you know why? Because if I weren’t already taking myself seriously, I would’ve never been able to write well enough so someone else–someone like an editor–would consider my writing worth the risk.
You see, good writing doesn’t spring from your laptop by chance; it’s cultivated. It’s not enough to plant the casual seed and see if something will eventually come up, like so many random chimpanzees at countless random typewriters. It’s work. And if you are, indeed, a writer, my goodness! It’s nothing to be ashamed of!