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Going Public With Our Writing

In the last post I went “public” with my book cover. I have to admit, it was a little scary to unveil it for everyone to critique. But I can't thank you enough for all of your kind words!

Many writers are very private about their writing life, often writing for years without telling anyone, except perhaps a few close friends or family members. This was true for me. I admit, I was a “closet writer.” (Read about it here.)

Many of my real life friends knew I “liked” to write, but the writing was relegated to “hobby” status, similar to gardening or knitting. But writing isn’t the kind of “hobby” that naturally comes up in conversations. We can exchange zucchini recipes, but writing techniques? Uh-uh.

When I finished writing The Preacher’s Bride, I told some of my close friends I wanted to try to get it published and that I was hunting for an agent. But I didn’t broadcast the news to the world. After all, what if I failed? The fewer people who knew, the better (or so I thought). Then if things didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have to do so much explaining.

I believed it would be easier to be open about my writing when I actually had more positive news to share, when publication was within my grasp.

But even with publication only months away, and now with my book cover “out there,” I’ve realized it’s still not easy. When I’ve kept my writing private for so many years and have down-played its significance in my life, I still find myself minimizing it, particularly with real life friends.

How do we begin to tell people about our writing, especially if we’ve kept it private for so long? Should we throw it into a conversation: “We’re doing fine. The kids are finally finished with all their hacking and fevers. Oh, and by the way, did you know I’m a writer and that I’ve got a book coming out in the fall?”

What I’ve contracted and what many of us face is a long-lasting case of Insecurity, with a capital “I.” We walk around paralyzed and speechless, battling a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and fear of rejection. Whether we’re starting out, well on our way to publication, or even beyond, we’re all susceptible to the nasty germs of Insecurity.

So, what is the antidote for the disease? How can we have more confidence to go public with our writing? Here are a few ideas:

1. Bring it up: Yep. How will they know if we don’t tell them? Especially, the friends we see less frequently. Most people start a conversation by saying, “So, how’ve you been lately?” Ahhh, the perfect moment to step out of our comfort zone. “Well, I’ve been pretty busy lately with my writing. . .”

A more subtle way to share about our writing is through the Internet. I have my book title, blog address, and other links in an automatic signature for all emails. I’ve had several real life friends “discover” my writing through that signature.

From time to time on Facebook, I’ll make a writing-related comment. I don’t do it often because I have so many real-life friends there. But when I do make comments, invariably I get the “I didn’t know you were a writer” reply which offers another opportunity to share.

2. Believe in ourselves: Instead of downplaying the importance of writing in our lives, we need to be honest about how vital it is. To those of us serious about publication, writing is NOT a hobby. It’s so much more. If we minimize it, then others in our lives will too. But once we respect ourselves as writers, hopefully those around us will follow suit.

3. Bless others: Often when I tell others I’m a writer, I’ll get a response like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I used to think, “What do they think? Getting a book published is a cake walk? Don’t they understand how hard I’ve had to work to get where I’m at?” The fact is—a non-writer won’t understand, not until they try it for themselves.

Instead, I use those occasions to encourage them to pursue their dreams, give them resources that may help, try to point them in the right direction, and offer to help in any way I can.

What about you? How public are you with your writing life? Are you battling Insecurity? Or are you gaining confidence, and if so, what’s helped you go public?

55 comments:

  1. I'm the opposite of private. Everybody at my work knows I'm a writer. And most of my friends and family do too. I don't talk about it a whole lot with anybody but close friends, but most people know. It is tough because the majority of the population doesn't understand. But why should they? I don't understand stuff I'm not involved in either. I really love your suggestion about blessing others...what a great response!

    The one thing I've noticed though, is that I'm much more comfortable discussing my writing with somebody who's read my stuff. I have close friends and family who reads my books as soon as I'm finished. I guess I feel more confident after they've read my stuff.

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  2. I'm open with my writing, only because I wanted some accountability. If I never made it public I was writing a book, then it would be easy not to finish it. I had incintive. I didn't want to lose face. And I am so glad I did, because it brought me so many writing friends that have encouraged me and taught me so much!

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  3. Most know I write. Thing is, being a short-story writer, my work appears in small press, semi-pro magazines that can't be purchased through Barnes and Noble. Being a big deal mean Good Housekeeping and the like . . .

    Ah well, we shorty writers, that's our cross to bear.

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  4. I "went public" with my writing after I finished my first book. It was hard, but I decided that if I DO get published, I needed to practice not being afraid of it.

    And, wow, it's not easy! Sometimes I feel like people will think I'm bragging, or get annoyed with it. But then I remind myself that I listen to all of their musings about thethings THEY like to do, and they probably don't really mind listening to what's going on in my life too.

    But then other times, I sit and fret about it. La, it's a tough balance. I guess my hope was when I actually have something to show for it, it'd get easier, but now I'm afraid it's only going to get more difficult!

    Do you ever fear the whole, "Oh, can I have a copy of your book? Surely you can give a copy free to a friend..." thing?

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  5. I was a "closet writer" for many years, even after I'd had some stories published. And you're right, it is difficult to bring up in conversation. What I've found, however, is that my confidence has grown, especially with the publication of my novel last fall, and that self consciousness has disappeared altogether. When you're out there signing books and meeting people it's difficult not to admit you're a writer and to feel like one as well.

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  6. Because of you...I've tried to be more vocal (and confident) about my writing. I usually still end up wrinkling my nose and giggling about it. :) But I'm trying to work on that. I'm proud of the work and need to show that!

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  7. Absolutely! I find that experience to be true for me, too. Just this week a friend referred to writing as a hobby and I was so upset about that. Your article makes me realize I need to step out and let people know...especially those in my close circle. Good points, Jody!

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  8. Well, other than the people that follow my blog, very few people know that I write. To me, it's something intensely personal. I share it with the people I'm closest with, but not everybody. Now, if you follow me on Facebook, my blog is linked, and my status sometimes reflects my writing endeavors . . . but, most people don't even register those things. It took my oldest sister more than a year to connect the dots. My other sister figured out my dirty little secret because she saw all the writing books on my bookshelf. My partner, when we first began dating, happened to find a semi-completed manuscript. I told a few other people.

    I think the main reason I don't tell is . . . 'what have you published?'. Well, nothing yet, it's a long slow process and . . . So, it's easier not to tell. : )

    S

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  9. I'm a shy and quiet person, the one most likely to listen while a group of friends are talking... except when the conversation turns to writing. I let the cat out of the bag years ago, and never could stuff that critter back in, but I try to wait until acquaintances ask how the writing is going, before I let the floodgates down. :)

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  10. And I'm so used to telling people I see every few months (like the dentist), "No, not published yet...." that it doesn't really bother me anymore, because I can always follow it up with the joy I'm experiencing in the novel I'm working on NOW.

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  11. I'm pretty open about it, so most of my friends and family are aware of my writing endeavors. Sometimes they think I'm a bit crazy for attempting some of the things I do, but most of them support my dreams :)

    However, when it comes to letting people actually read my stories, I'm very self-conscious and only let a handful of people into that area. I'm working on developing more confidence, though! ;)

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  12. For the last 13 months, I have managed to announce to people that I am a writer. I'm not writing a book, but I am using my writing skills to develop my own business. People are surprised, and then supportive...but it took me years not to chop my own legs out from under me when I talked about my writing. I despise, truly despise, when people put the words writing and hobby together...but in the past I had no one but myself to blame. Now I insist on standing up and making people take me seriously.
    It is a little like "Field of Dreams...if you build it they will come" but it's more like if you say it, it is true.

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  13. I think I've treated it somewhat like you. It cracks me up when my one sister says, "If that writing thing doesn't work out..." like it's a weight plan. ;)

    She doesn't understand, though she tries to support. I love knowing I have found online support and a handful of friends/family members who are behind me.

    I think your #2 is an essential.

    People wear insecurity. God blankets over mine, thankfully.

    ~ Wendy

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  14. I guess for me it has always been, "don't ask, don't tell." Because then there is that NASTY little question that always rears its ugly head. "Are you published?" Then when you begin the long answer to that question, 'Well, not yet. It is a long process. Blah, blah, blah." They kinda look at you like you're a loon. =)

    But I am beginning to come out of the closet. Thanks to all my writing friends. I just look forward to that day when I can say, "Yes I am published. Check out my books at Amazon or Barnes and Noble." *grin*

    Super fantastic post Jody. I hope you have a most wonderful weekend. =)

    Side note. I see that my word verification is dieter. STORY OF MY LIFE!!

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  15. I was a closet writer up until a few years ago when God prompted me to start sharing about my writing. By sharing about my writing, I've been able to minister to others about God's graces and the gifts He gives us.

    I'm just now getting to the point where I can talk openly about my novels and characters with family, especially hubby. He's been helping me with research for one of my characters.

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  16. I guess for me I don't tell people I'm a writer because it sounds so vague and others don't know how to respond.... then awkward silence.... then I have to jump to another topic or joke to cover it up..... :O)

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  17. I'm very much like you, Jody, only many steps behind. Very few people know I write. I hardly ever talk about it because I don't really have a lot to tell (YET). I was outed at one point, so there are friends who know I write, but no one really brings it up unless i do first, which I don't. I NEVER mention anything about writing on Facebook, unless I'm commenting on one of my writer friends' posts. Never about myself. After several friends found out I write, it's fun to mention things to them every once in a while, but for the most part I'm still in a closet.

    By the way, I'm still giddy over your book cover!

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  18. Great post:) This info has been so helpful. It's been great fun sharing this journey with you!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  19. I'm so with you on this, Jody. I have my writing circle of friends that I am open with, and then my normal friends and coworkers that I'm starting to mention things to. My husband has been a great buffer. He's not afraid to whip out the photo of my cover and show it around the office. Knowing that he is proud of me, makes it easier for me to be proud of myself.

    Although that brings up the flip side to this issue - balancing self-confidence with the humility necessary to honor God. It's a tightrope walk, and I pray about it constantly.

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  20. I'm open with my writing, just as I am with everything in my life. But I am Insecure with a capital "I." That will probably never go away, even though I do gain more confidence in my writing as I go along.
    Karen

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  21. Battling Insecurity? I’m bathing in it! The blog-o-sphere knows. Does that count?

    I did put an link at the bottom of my email a month or so ago to let my friends discover it for themselves as well.

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  22. If I were in your shoes I wouldn't mind telling. In my unrepresented shoes? It makes me sound like a hopeless pipe dreamer, which I totally am but does the world need this info?? One day I'll shout it from the roof tops. I can dream right?

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  23. I commented on your awesome book cover, but I guess it didn't stick. So - awesome book cover! Woo!

    I struck up a conversation with someone at the bookstore who was browsing the middle-grade table. I ended up giving her my card. Think I'll start doing more of that.

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  24. Love your book cover. I've gone public about my writing. Some days I regret doing that, and others I'm glad. Kind of depends on how it's received. If someone asks in a snarking kind of voice how my book's coming along, I know they don't really care, that they're rubbing in the fact that I haven't polished it yet. However, there are others who ask sincerely and then I feel good again.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  25. I've been entirely too private with my writing. Outside of wife, no one else saw it until my writer's group in Nashville about a month ago. Even then they only saw one chapter. :)

    I'm working on being more public with it.

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  26. I'm sharing more than I thought I would. My husband normally beats me to the punch and tells everyone! He even passes out my blog site!

    I love his enthusiasm.

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  27. Hi Jody -

    I guess I'm cautious with some people and open with others. If someone views my writing as another "phase," I generally avoid sharing.

    As with other areas of life, I try to be sensitive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. It spares me a lot of pain.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  28. I'm pretty in your face and public. Blame my Southern genes, my chatty mama, my teaching experience (I mean, if you've toiled to excite baseball cap-wearing, pants-sagging college freshmen about Klimt, what's the deal with the ordinary public?!!!

    Your book cover IS extraordinary. Praise God that He will use art to His glory. And you go, girl!!!

    Patti

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  29. I saw another new book cover posted somewhere after I saw yours and I had this thought:

    I like Jody's better because that person/woman looks REAL to me. the other cover was a gorgeous, airbrushed model and I just could not relate.

    anyway, that was my thought for whatever it's worth.

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  30. So much of what you said about keeping your writing mum applies to me. I'm so not private about my life but when I started to write years ago I saw myself as totally inadequate - I was living in Cleveland - this girl from the hills of WV - and even my accent brought gales of laughter. I wasn't about to tell my city friends that I was interested in writing - when friends popped over before I'd answer the door I'm hide all my writing materials and how to books. Shortly after starting, though, I sold an essay to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper- which everyone in my neighborhood read. That more or less announced what I was doing. My dream is to publish a novel now. I'm still working on that one though I've sold short stories and articles. Thanks Jody for succinctly telling the story of many of us. Blessings!

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  31. I hesitate to tell too many people because I know the next question is "What have you written?" And they mean published and I don't have any fiction published so I always stutter and don't know what to say:)

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  32. I was definitely a closet writer, too, Jody. In the last year or so, I've made a gigantic-for-my-introverted-nature effort to grasp opportunities to share this side of me with others. It still rattles me a little, but I'm getting better at being honest about how huge a thing writing is in my life.

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  33. It's hard. I had a hard time telling people I knew about the Susie publication. One of my friends really did it for me. I posted it online, but she actually told people.

    Have a great weekend!

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  34. Everyone around me knows I'm a writer. My problem however, is that I feel bad telling people about it. Too often I feel like I'm bragging, even though I haven't been published yet. Since I've always tried to maintain a semblence of humility to some degree, I really dislike anyone thinking I might be trying to broadcast my magnificence to them. I'm weird I guess. Great thought-provoking post though.

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  35. I went public about my writing from the beginning. I'm one of those people who needs the support of others, and have I ever received it! My family, relatives, church family, friends, and writer pals have been a tremendous source of encouragement.

    I dread the day I have to write acknowledgments for my first book, because I know the publisher would frown on the number of pages I'd need to list everyone. Paring it down will be tough.

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  36. I'm terrible. I don't keep the fact I write a secret, but I always follow it up with a hasty, "I'm not published yet," as if that somehow disqualifies my work! Sigh. Someday I'll get it all figured out!

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  37. Thank you for this post. I am just starting to let the world know that I love to write and I am writing a book. I kept it in for so long. I battle insecurity constantly but I'm gaining some confidence as I go. I think having someone read what I wrote helped me become more confident in telling people my "secret".

    The cover to your book is beautiful. I look forward to reading more about your journey beyond the release.

    Take Care!

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  38. Wait...it doesn't get easier? *grinning but cringing too*

    I'm extremely private about it but my wonderful, outgoing husband has told several people so once in a while I get questions. I'm always nervous to answer them, but no one has ever made me feel like what I do is just a hobby. So far friends and family have been intrigued. That's a blessing for me. :-)
    When I do have a book coming out I'll definitely be taking advantage of my husband's motor mouth. Heeeeehheeeeee!

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  39. I find it much easier to talk about other people's work than my own. Just today my dentist learned (through my daughter) that I have a couple of books out. He asked me what they were about and I gave the 'blink-blink' 'stammer-stammer' reply. Ugh!

    Sometimes I think it is difficult for Christians to talk about their writing because we've been told from the cradle to guard against self-promotion.

    It's a fine line between promoting your book and promoting yourself. So fine it's often blurred.

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  40. I'm sort of public about it, in that I don't hide it necessarily, but I don't talk about it often with family members, and on Facebook I don't post writing-related status updates to my family, only friends/writers. Some of my family members are just annoying about it, and I get tired of all the questions about when I'll submit, when I'll get something published, will I put this or that or this other plot "thing" in my novel because they think that would be a fantastic idea. Honestly, I can be impatient all by myself...I don't need them hanging over my shoulder too. They're trying to be supportive, but it ends up just annoying me. It won't stop once I get published, but I'll deal with it again then.

    And very few people at work know I write. The thing about co-workers is, if they know you're a writer, they tend to think you're writing at work every time you're typing. Not good. So I keep it quiet there, though as I said, anyone could google me at my writing sites are right up there at the top of the search, so it's not hidden.

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  41. Jody - I'm very much like you. I tell family and friends, but I downplay its importance in my life. I suspect it's that self-defense mechanism you talked about.

    By the way, missed Wed's post but LOVE your cover! Very interesting to hear all the details they brought in, like the ruffled clothes, etc.

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  42. I've had several magazine articles published and now I've written a few novels, but until I created my blog in 2008 I tended to keep the two efforts separate -- the unpublished overshadowed the published and unless I became "an author" I didn't consider myself a real writer.

    It's taken a while to accept that if I write then I am a writer and that if I don't respect what I do I can't expect anyone else to, either. I'm a private person so speaking out is never easy but I'm improving.

    Maybe one good outcome of the slow publication process is that it gives us time to grow. :)

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  43. Wonderful post, Jody! I am somewhere between private and public. I've shared my writing dreams with some and kept them from some. I'm getting there. :-)

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  44. Great post, Jody! Thanks for the 'going public' tips. It can be so awkward! Having articles published here and there has helped me to be a bit more open with people about my writing.

    BTW - I'm having a book giveaway over @ Life Lessons. Come check it out! God bless!

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  45. Great post! I so suffer from the Insecurity. I think mine's more like INSECURITY. All caps.

    But I do tell people. Everyone at my day job knows. They ask me about it. I just went to my accountant and we talked about it.

    And then I went to B&N and talked with the salespeople about genres and books and agents. It was so fun!

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  46. I used to be very shy about telling people I write. Now, I am a lot more open about it, but I don't go around telling everyone I meet, either. It's amazing how much positive interaction I get with people. Not one person has yet told me that I was wasting my time or that it was a silly thing to do.

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  47. Definitely need to start believing and being less shy.

    BTW - love the cover.

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  48. The love of my life wishes I kept my writing a secret, or at least wishes I'd used a pen name. Probably too late.

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  49. I'm very very new to blogging and I only just found your site. It is fantastically helpful to wanabe writers and enormously encouraging. Thank you so very much. I feel just as excited for you about your new book as you do :) Heart-felt good wishes with that.

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  50. Jody,
    Thanks for this excellent post. I am fairly mute about my writing. For years, I was totally mute - until I attended a women's event, accidently met the speaker, and was propelled into the writing world. It's a long story, a great one really, one where God opened doors and I walked through them (instead of running away).

    I usually call myself a "speaker who writes", rather than "a writer." Then 2 weeks ago, my pastor used the book I'm writing as part of his sermon, and now the cat is out of the bag and down the street! I suppose God knows I needed to be accountable, and now I have a whole congregation to be accountable to!

    I thank you for sharing your journey and providing such wisdom along the way. You're a blessing.

    Susan

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  51. The reason why I went public with writing is the support network I got through other writers.
    Blogging has also helped me.
    I will write. I am a regular contributor to a website,(Mormon mommy Blogs) *not my own* every month.

    I am so excited to be sharing my writing. Baby steps, baby steps for me.
    Thanks for this wonderful post!

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  52. Hi Jody!

    Thank you so much for this post.

    I can relate to the insecurity you feel. I had been a closet writer for over 20 years.

    In January of this year, I went public with my writing and my goal to write a book by the end of 2010 because I felt that would force me to finally do it.

    To my surprise, I have received a support from some very unexpected places, learned tons, and I've met a bunch of wonderful people in a short amount of time.

    I'm glad I made the decision to be open about my writing, but I will admit I do nearly hyperventilate at times.

    I finally put a big sign on the wall right in front of my desk where I work that says "I am just as good as anyone else!" It's working so far.

    BTW, I love your book cover and I truly enjoy hearing about your journey!

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  53. I tell anyone who will listen that I'm a writer, and I battle Insecurity every day. It's never boring in here.
    :-)

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  54. I think I've treated it somewhat like you. It cracks me up when my one sister says, "If that writing thing doesn't work out..." like it's a weight plan. ;)
    work at home in india

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  55. Just read this post from 3/8 and wanted to comment: I didn't even tell my husband I was writing at first. Eventually I started telling people that I was writing, and the more people I told, the easier it got. Now I'm introduced as, "This is Kara, she's writing a book and trying to get it published, isn't that awesome?"

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