I hope you had a good week, and that August is off to a good start. I’m hoping it will be peaceful. We’ve had something of a turbulent summer, which you know, if you read my blog about Sam Ewing 2 weeks ago, “Fallen Hero”. But we’ve had some really good family time together, which is the best antidote to the pains of ‘real life’. And I had a wonderful 10 day vacation with my 5 youngest children. I am always grateful for time with my kids, when they can spare the time from their jobs and busy lives. And in a few weeks, I’m hoping to spend some time with all my kids. So….onward….
In the comments to last week’s blog, someone mentioned that she was writing her first novel, and said that people were really giving her a hard time about it. And oh do I know that one. Somebody told me years ago that there are two jobs everyone thinks they can do, if they just had the time and wanted to: writing and photography. We all know we can’t be brain surgeons, or lawyers or nuclear physicists unless we study for it for a lot of years. But lots of people think they can write, and everyone takes pictures, so they figure they can do it, if they want to bother. And lots of people are talented writers and photographers, but it’s not quite as easy as some people think, and they might be surprised if they try it!!! (My father was a talented amateur photographer, who sold some of his photographs in later years, and let me tell you, that talent is not hereditary—–I can’t take a photo without cutting everyone’s head off, or get it in focus. Although one of my daughters is a terrific photographer. But I’m never going to win any prizes or set the world on fire with my pictures!!)
And one thing REALLY irritates me, a comment people always make to writers who are starting out. First, they ask you what you do. Then you answer, naively, “I’m a writer”. And the next question is: “Have you been published?” Wait! STOP!!! That is entirely beside the point. If you are trying to write a novel, or short stories, essays, poetry, a children’s story, or anything except a post card to your Mom from summer camp—-you ARE a writer. You are a writer BEFORE you publish, and you don’t have to prove you’re a writer by being published. That’s a snotty question. And I got that question all the time. I started writing when I was very young, I wrote poetry in my teens, and sold it to magazines when I was about 18. I wrote my first novel at 19, and by sheer good luck, I was published very quickly. But THEN, after my first book, I wrote 5 books that were never published. With my 7th book, my writing career slowwwwwllly lumbered to its feet and began to take off (at a snail’s pace). All my books were published after that, but it was many years before I became well known and successful, or even made decent money at it. My ‘credentials’ as a writer were somewhat established because my first book was published. But I was just as much a writer while writing the five books that never saw the light of day. While I was writing my first book, I read an article about a woman who had just published her first book at 92. My heart sank when I read it, and I thought, oh no….that’s going to be me!! But that woman who was finally published at 92 didn’t become a writer the day she was published, she was a writer for allllllll those years that she was writing, and hadn’t been published yet. Asking if you’ve been published is kind of a put down, designed to put you in your place. But rest assured, if you are writing and trying to write something you want to get published, you are already a writer!!! Don’t let anyone put you down and make you squirm or feel unsure of yourself, asking if you’ve been published, if you’re trying to write!!!
A lot of people have read my books or heard of me at this point, but sometimes I come across someone who doesn’t know my work. I’ve gone to two dinner parties in the last few years and found myself sitting next to someone who didn’t know who I was, and had no idea what I do. So I got the standard question eventually of “What do you do?” (I’m always tempted to say something outrageous like lion tamer, or mountain climber, or I train hamsters for the circus). But I was polite and said vaguely “writer”. And guess what, I got the standard question “Have you published” (I always chuckle a little at that….yes, I’ve published). I just said yes, I have. Then in both cases, they asked what I write, and I said I write novels. I didn’t offer any details, I didn’t want to be pushy about it, so I just let it go at that, but I was kind of amused that they had no idea what I do, or how much I’ve done it. And of course after the meal, someone told them, and they came over to me again, very embarrassed that they didn’t know. I always kind of like it when people don’t know who I am, that way they have no preconceived notions about me. But once again I was struck by that snotty question “Have you published?” Why? If I haven’t, does that mean I’m not a writer yet?? You bet I am, published or not!!
So for those of you who are struggling writers out there, trying to write your first novel, or an essay, or a poem, or whatever form of writing excites you—-if you’re writing, YOU ARE A WRITER, and don’t let anyone tell you, or imply, otherwise. You are a writer long, long, long before you get published!! So keep at it—–and if they ask you THE question about whether or not you’ve been published, be creative and wow them, tell them you just signed a 15 book contract. That should shut them up in a hurry!!! But above all, KNOW that you’re a writer!!!! Even BEFORE you get published. Have faith, and if you’re writing, I’m sure it won’t take you till you’re 92 years old to get published!!! To all you writers and non-writers, have a great week!!