I was a "closet writer" for most of my adult life. I spent years crafting books, but I never told anyone about my writing pursuits other than my family. They knew of my secret life and the hours I spent on my lap top making up stories, but that's as far as it went.
I think many writers have an underlying fear that keeps them hiding in the closet, especially before publication. We're afraid to tell people about our writing endeavors because we think then we'll have to prove to them we're good enough. We dread hearing THE question, "So . . . what have you published?" And we duck our heads in shame and mumble, "Uh, nothin' yet."
We scramble to explain why we spend so much time writing when we're not published. After we get embarrassed often enough, we decide we'd rather NOT tell anyone about the passion that pushes us to write. We know we'd keep writing even if we never published, but most people just don't understand what drives us.
So . . .we head to the closet. It's easier there. No pressures, no awkward questions, no raised eyebrows. We plop into our swivel chairs, sigh a solitary but serene breath, and revel in the pleasure of our secret writing life.
Of course, we have to come out of the closet sooner or later . . . at least if we hope to see our work published.
I came out of the writing closet several months before the release of my first book, The Preacher's Bride. I figured I needed to start giving hints to friends that they'd soon pass by my book at Barnes & Noble.
The full length article in the Sunday paper spotlighting my first book and my writing journey "outed" me too. And pretty soon, everyone around town knew. Yes, it was incredibly awkward at times. And yes, I fumbled over my explanations of what I was doing and why. I battled the guilt of hiding an important part of myself from those who could have supported me. And I fought the frustration of well-meaning people not understanding how difficult the writing journey really is.
Now after the past several years of being out of the closet, there are times when I'd like to retreat. I still get questions that are difficult to answer. Some friendships have grown cold due to the disapproval of my writing career or my books. And still other friends don't know what to say around me, so we don't talk about my writing much.
No matter where we're at in our publishing journeys, we'll experience times when we want to tuck away in our safe, secure writing closets. I've learned that sometimes it's okay to hide away. And sometimes it's not.
When it's not good to hide in the writing closet:
In hindsight, I realize that I needed to be proud of who I was as a writer. It's a huge part of my life. I had nothing to be ashamed of, even when I wasn't published. After all, many of my friends have passions too (for quilting or running or whatever), and no one ever looks down their noses at them.
As writers, we should be able embrace our passion, enjoy it, and spend time on it with a confidence that comes from knowing we're doing what we love and are gifted at.
There will always be awkward questions from friends, perhaps even condemnation, but we can't let our fears and insecurities push us back into the closet. If we hide away, we should do so because WE want or need to . . .
When it's good (even healthy) to head into the closet:
There will be times when it's healthy for us to close ourselves away from the outside world and just write. When I think back to those years I wrote in private, I realize I shouldn't have been afraid of what others thought. But I also see the good that came from not having all the distractions that going public can bring. I could write in solitude and really focus on my stories and becoming a better writer.
Let's face it, there are a lot of distractions bombarding the modern writer, especially with the invention of social media. Good critique groups, writing friends, and the abundance of writing advice—while all good—can eventually distract us from what matters most—just putting our butt in the chair and writing.
Whether it's online or in real life, sometimes we need to hole away, let the noise fade, and remind ourselves of what's truly important in the writing life . . . just writing.
What about you? Are you a closet writer? What was the reaction of family and friends when you came out? And are there times when you ever go back in the closet?