8/3/15, “So you’re a writer?”

Hi Everyone,

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!!

love, Danielle

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13 Comments so far
  1. Rob Scott August 3, 2015 2:20 pm

    Thank you, Danielle.

    Awesome words of wisdom.

    So looking forward to the release of your new novel, “Undercover”.

    Undercover — On-sale September 1, 2015

    A special agent who has lost everything. A diplomat’s daughter hoping to bury the past. After their paths cross in Paris, their lives are put in danger once more. Both will have to fight for their survival-and save each other … if they can. Two people-under pressure, under fire. UNDERCOVER.

    Wow. Can’t wait.

    Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind.

    Rob Scott
    Chicago, IL

  2. carol oliver August 3, 2015 7:06 pm

    wow, guess I have not written for a long while…I had to fill in all the above info….lol
    ok, its me from So. Calif….who has read, and COLLECTED all your Books, except the Childrens, and the Poems…cannot find them still, even when I frequent Antique stores constantly…its my life…but want to tell you, I really enjoyed Country…and I love,Love, Love when you write in San Francisco… you usually do)…love it…I know why…but the book was great…thank you…now looking forward to New Book…coming out…and Yeah!!so Happy its in Paris…Perfect…Thanks Danielle, as always.
    Carol..still wishing I can meet you someday….(with alllll your Books in my arms, from my Bookshelf..

  3. Axxcexx August 3, 2015 8:25 pm

    Thanks for those words. I wrote a novel 10 years ago and I have never told anybody about it. But I’m so proud of it and even thought after that I just wrote some kids books (spanish) I’ve never been published. So I’m embarrass to tell people that I’m a writer….:P

  4. Asavari Sharma August 3, 2015 9:28 pm

    Dear Danielle,

    Thank you for writing this blog. I feel a lot more confident as a writer now. It’s so difficult to be taken seriously as a “writer” and it’s something that really puts me off.

    Not anymore!! You inspire me!

    Lots of love,
    Asavari 🙂

  5. Danny Isaac August 4, 2015 7:42 pm

    Hello Danielle, I’m a writer of thriller novels, and I just finished writing my third book in a series. But its been hard finding an agent to represent me, as I keep getting rejections with beautiful statements regarding my work. Please what must I do to attract the right agent? Thanks, love VANISHED. It was amazing reading it.

  6. Antoinette Vella August 5, 2015 1:03 am

    A hearty thank you to all the writers that keep me very good company. My first love is family,second love is reading.

  7. Kimmi August 9, 2015 5:25 pm

    Inspirational post and I love the look of the new blog!

  8. Elaine August 9, 2015 5:25 pm

    Hi Danielle,
    Thanks for these wise words! I’m going to quit apologizing for not being published and enjoy the fact that I AM a writer. I always hear about the five books of yours that publishes didn’t want when you were first starting out…any chance you’ll ever publish them?
    Regards, Elaine

  9. Eunice Musgrave August 15, 2015 8:47 am

    Thank you Danielle Steel for restoring faith in the advice that you have given to all aspiring writers. I might not have quite reached my twilight years, but certainly have enjoyed the journey of writing….although not published. A dream all who love to write have……publication. The older I become the richer the tapestry from which to draw upon. For me it is like leaving a footprint in the sands of time. Eunice Musgrave.

  10. Jay Parfan September 4, 2015 6:03 am

    Wow!!! Thanks a lot, Miss Danielle, for writing this one. It really reads like a very wonderful sigh of relief for me, as always when I read and enjoy your books. I really hope the same thing for you in writing it. Your posts for this blog of yours are great and exciting every week, and it’s always nice to go back reading even the previous ones. And by the way, thanks a lot, for being the very first special angel who make me come to know and be very grateful for the author at heart that I always am, besides being a constant book reader. I hope you keep up your good works and doing great. Warmest greetings to you and your loved ones. God bless you all!!! 🙂

  11. Whitney September 13, 2015 4:47 am

    Thanks a lot danielle! Such an inspiring blog.this has given me a lot of confidence.am a young artist and writer,i’ve been drawing since the age of 5 and started writing at age 9.i gave both up for a while trying to be a teenager but i got back into both for two years now,now am 18 and i’ve figured out what i really want to do in life being an artist and a writer.those are the only things that have ever brought me true joy and makes me who i am.i really look up to you as a writer,i hope someday i’ll make it as a sucessful writer like you.thanks again for this blog post

  12. DIANE DARBY March 30, 2017 12:39 pm

    Write,Wrote,Written ,Writer …………Do people ask a politician if they are political and in what context. Do people ask an Artist if they are known for their art,i could go on .I’m sure there is a an element of sarcasm in asking a writer if they are published . So perhaps the question should be at what length have you written and on what subject .Once engaged ,the person may become interested enough to want to read something you put into Words .Words are powerful .Some people sing ,others dance ,it doesn’t mean they are good enough to be professional. let’s be realistic in our quest for greatness .A lovely analogy Danielle ,but if these commentators were destined on the path to greatness they’d use there common sense .
    With Regards Diane Darby UNITED KINGDOM EAST SUSSEX…….

  13. DIANE DARBY March 30, 2017 12:48 pm

    If i could offer advice ,it would be read and read between the lines as knowledge is power …………

    With Regards