Monday, October 11, 2010

What's your true identity?

We've talked about this before, but something happened to me last week that made me want to talk about it again.

For the unpublished writers: Do you tell people you're a writer? And for the published writers: Do you tell people you write romance?

As many of you know, I work on the copy desk of a large regional magazine. Last week, I was working with one of our writers on a rather challenging story--the writing was exquisite, but the editor kept changing his mind about the concept. As we expressed our frustration about various things, she whispered to me "You know what has really helped me? I've started writing a novel..." (I was thrilled to hear this because she should. She's a brilliant writer.) Words spewed from my mouth: "Oh that's fantastic! What's it about? What publisher are you targeting? How far along are you? I'm going to send you some great agent blogs that contain a wealth of information. And here's my list of 'dream agents.' You know, you really have to be careful because there are so many scams..."

And then I saw the look on her face, a look that clearly said "What in the world are you talking about and how did you know all this stuff?" I got quiet and said "I've written a book too. Well, actually I've written six. I write romantic fiction. Nothing's been published, but I do have a manuscript with an editor at Avalon right now..."

The biggest smile broke out across her face. "JoAnn, that's WONDERFUL! I had no idea!" and we launched into a discussion of characters and writing habits and scenes and publishers and agents and all those other topics writers love to talk about.

The next day, on my desk, I found a card and little silk bag containing three tiny silver hearts. The card said "JoAnn, just remember your true identity is romance novelist. The copy desk is just your cover!"

What's something special someone's done for you that affirmed your true identity?

22 comments:

Christine said...

What a wonderful friend to have working with you undercover! I love this story. My cover is stay-at-home mom and corporate wifey. My true identity is romance writer. I tell more people now that I write romances. I embrace it. But just as with being a SAHM, being an unpubbed romance writer brings about as much respect. Ugh. But I persist because I love to write stories about people falling in love.

Good luck with your submission. Crossing fingers and toes for you!!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Isn't it great to find kindred spirits in unexpected places? I sometimes have to push myself to tell people what I'm doing, but the occasional good result has prompted me to keep telling others.

I met a writer--similar to your coworker--who has been writing for years, but has no network or knowledge of the fiction publishing business. She was excited to find out about the groups and support available out there. I met her while stuffing envelopes at my son's school.

Recently when I volunteered again to provide hearing screenings for the kids, I met a SAH dad who is trying to break into the newspaper comic market. Different business, but similar trials.

I'm slowly learning to not worry about what others think of my calling. At least I'm doing *something*. ;-)

Good luck!!

Callie James said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing!

Unfortunately, I haven't had a confirmation like that to validate I'm following my true calling, only that writing is the one thing I love to do, no matter how frustrating it can be.

Heather said...

Great story! It is hard for me to tell people in my professional life (legal field) about what I'm doing. Every waking moment is supposed to be dedicated to the law (and billing). A select few are "in the know" - it was how I found out one of my favorite lawyers to go up against was also a playwright! Best of luck with your submission!

JoAnn said...

Christine -- I, too, love writing about people falling in love. And happy endings. I love writing happy endings! Thank you for your good wishes. :-)

JoAnn said...

Thanks, Gwen! And I know what you mean about telling people. I used to keep it a secret because I was afraid I would be perceived as a failure if I didn't get published. I know better than that now. :-)

JoAnn said...

Callie, without a doubt, writing is your true calling! The fact that you love it is certainly one form of validation. I mean, come on. :-) Who on earth would put up with this kind of stuff if it weren't their true calling!?

JoAnn said...

Thanks, Heather! I'm sorry all your time has to be billable. :( I hope that when you are able to sneak writing time you're able to truly escape from the law!

Lisa said...

What a great story. I always feel a bit like a fraud saying that I'm a writer. I think it's still too new for me to really own it, even though I've been writing in one form or another for ages.

Chris Bailey said...

Yes, this speaks to me! Undercover is definitely easier for the pre-published. I'm a recreational tennis player--the one who never has the time to go to lunch because I have a secret tryst with my laptop.

A couple of months ago, I won a free 10-page critique. I sent my novel's new opening, smug in the knowledge that it was my best work ever, and received some insightful but head-slap-stunning editorial comments. When I related to my husband how crushed I felt, he said, "Yeah, happens to me at work, too."

If you read between the lines, that was commiseration--and I felt validated and supported in the struggle.

Jeanie said...

Lawyer by day, writer by night. While I enjoy my day job, I LOVE my writing! While I find satisfaction in a job well done as a lawyer, the law has never been a passion for me like writing. And I am PROUD to be a romance writer. It's what I read and what I love to write. Validation has been gradual for me. I've been at this 15 years. I'm not sure when I realized it, but I AM a writer. It's been a slow process.

Cari Hislop said...

I've always found it hard to say, "I am an artist." I always feel like I need to quantify that statement with proof. I find it even harder to tell people, "I write romance novels." I'm getting better, but I almost always blush which probably leads them to assume what I assume they assume. Not good! Thankfully I'm getting more comfortable wearing my writer's hat.

Esther Shaindel said...

What a wonderful story! And a wonderful friend, too!

I dabble in writing, and I started saying I'm a writer after I read about how saying you're a writer without qualifying it with "Oh, just in my spare time" or "but I'm not published" makes you feel more like a writer and then gets you writing more. Well, it hasn't really worked for me, since I have almost no spare time (and what spare time I have I like to spend reading other people's finished stories rather than my own lousy-in-comparison works-in-progress!) but since I find I express myself best through writing, I still call myself a writer!

M.V.Freeman said...

I love this blog...I thought it was glorious.

I have told people I write, I am no longer hiding it. I work at the moment in one of the most humbling positions I have ever been in. Writing-it releases the creative part of me..and feeds that part of me that I need-the one that loves to see the characters come out on the page. It makes me feel like I can do something.

Joann, how lovely and wonderful about what you shared.

Thank you.

Carla Swafford said...

What a great story! Everytime I read one of your blogs (or books), I'm impressed how much you say with so little.

I've been telling people the last few years, but it took years of writing before I admited it to anyone.

JoAnn said...

I know what you mean, Lisa. It was a long time before I felt comfortable telling people.

And I love your choice of words -- "really own it" -- a perfect description. You are definitely a writer! :-)

JoAnn said...

Chris, we've all been there! What a sweet hubby to recognize and acknowledge that this is your job. That's awesome.

JoAnn said...

Yea, Jeanie! Passion -- we gotta have it, don't we!

JoAnn said...

Cari, I know exactly what you mean. The term "romance novel" has developed such a stigma, thanks to the ignorant hoi polloi. I try to say "romantic fiction" instead. It may not make any difference, but at least it makes people think a little first instead of giving me that knee-jerk brow waggle!

JoAnn said...

Hi, Esther! You have every right to call yourself a writer--expression through the written word IS writing. (And here's to more writing time!)

JoAnn said...

Mary, thank you for your kind comments. That's one of the things I love about writing -- the escape. I could not have made it through my sweet mother's last illness and her passing if I had not been able to write. And whenever I feel my day job trying to suffocate me, I take a break and turn my thoughts to my WIP. Kind of makes everything else a little easier to bear. Hang in there!

JoAnn said...

Hey, Carla! Thank you for your sweet words. Have you moved into your awesome writing space/studio/office yet? I think you should call it an office -- writing is your real job, customer relations is just your cover. :-)