“I’m writing a book,” you say, and then immediately tense, inwardly cursing your loose tongue. You wish you could plug your ears against the inevitable question, but nothing can stop it…
“Oh really? What’s it about?”
The loaded question. The one that can’t be answered unless the asker is ready to commit a full hour to listening. The one you, oddly, don’t really want to answer.
It was because of this question I rarely talked about my writing when I was a teenager. Or, if I did, I’d write it off with a muttered, “Oh, just random stories.” No mention of the words fantasy, sword fighting, or imagination would cross my lips for fear the listener wouldn’t take me seriously. When I did get pressed to admit I wrote fantasy, I’d still try to dumb it down with, “Not the type that has magic or dragons or anything,” even though I gobbled up every book with magic and dragons.
Is this something other authors struggle with? The romance writer staying silent for fear of being lumped in with gas station paperbacks and half-naked couples on cliff tops. The speculative fiction author avoiding book-talk for fear people might think he/she is too much of a daydreamer and detached from reality. Or the historical fiction author who is embarrassed because people might hear the word “historical” and think “boring.”
In a world where judgment is practically synonymous with conversation, it can be tough to admit your passions, stand by your pursuits, and speak boldly about your story. For me, I didn’t really start to find confidence until I met my husband who loved my writing before we even started loving each other. With complete pride (and no permission from me), he told more people about my book and stories than I ever did. I finally had to accept it and a glorious freedom came with that acceptance.
But I still couldn’t talk about it. Not like he did, anyway. Not even to publishers or editors unless I spent a full 12 hours psyching myself up for the encounter.
Not long after my husband spread word to the world that I loved writing, I met a fellow author, Micah J. Chrisman–a fantasy author. The moment anyone asked him what he wrote, he launched into an elaborate explanation without a moment’s thought. Not just that, but he did this with exuberance and unmasked excitement. Not a single person who asked about his book could doubt Micah’s love for writing and love for his stories.
At first, I envied his confidence (in a wistful way.) Then, I realized, it just took a bit of determination on my part to emulate this. The best part was, talking to Micah incited me to talk about my writing too, without the weight of self-consciousness.
The next writer’s conference I went to, I determined to be confident like I’d watched Micah do countless times. I determined to be proud of what I’d written, like my husband was. With every one-on-one, I stepped forth with a deep breath of determined, albeit sometimes forced, confidence. That conference, I received three requests from publishers for my novel, A Time to Die. Two months later, I was contracted with Marcher Lord Press.
Sometimes, it just takes an example to remind us…this is our passion. And it’s worth being confident about. I hope to be a similar example for other shy authors out there. What I’ve found is, when I’m actually brave enough to talk about my writing, people are genuinely interested. Proud, even, to know someone they consider “ambitious.” The support is there, waiting, for every single author out there.
How about you? Do you struggle with embarrassment over your writing–or your passion in general?