Slowly I began to push open the door.
Since I finaled in a national fiction writer's contest and then acquired an agent, my writing career has expanded and the closet has grown cramped. I know I can't wait until my book is on the shelf at Barnes & Noble before I start telling people I'm an author. But at what point do I share the news that I'm a writer seriously pursuing publication?
I can't hide in the closet forever, especially because I've learned how important marketing is for new authors. I would have to learn to promote myself and my books at some point. Why not start now?
So. . . I told my hair stylist of eight years. She combed her fingers through my hair and asked how much I wanted cut. And that's when I sprang out of the closet. I needed a fresh cut for the photo shoot I was having, because I'd finaled in a writer's conference and needed to send them a picture. After a moment of silence, she said, "I didn't know you were a writer. Why didn't you ever tell me?" Along with my guilt came her embarrassing questions about what I was writing and when I'd be published.
Then. . . I told my photographer friend. Of course I had to let her know why I wanted a photo shoot. After all, I not only needed a picture for the contest but also for the book proposal my agent was sending to a publishing house.
And next. . . I had to tell a couple of girlfriends why I couldn't join them for a family barbecue. Because that was the weekend right before my book proposal deadline and surely they knew I'd be working day and night until I had it ready for my agent.
The closet door opened wider and wider and wider. With each situation, I'd wipe the perspiration from my forehead, unstick my tongue from the roof of my mouth, and straighten my shoulders for the next encounter.
Yes, it's been incredibly awkward at times. And yes, I've fumbled over my explanations of what I'm doing and why. I've battled the guilt of hiding an important part of myself from those who could have supported me. And I've fought the frustration of well-meaning people not understanding how difficult the writing journey really is.
For better or worse, the closet door is all the way open. I've stepped out. And I can't go back in, ever again.
But, strangely I'm breathing the fresh air of freedom--the freedom to express who I really am. I have more room to stretch my arms and legs and move with the confidence that I am a writer.
What reactions from others did you experience when you opened the closet and stepped out? And if you haven't opened the door yet, what reaction do you dread the most?