Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Hi, My Name is Kelly and I'm a Writer

One of the hardest things for me is telling people I'm a writer. I know, you're probably thinking that I have a writing blog and an author website and I'm all over the place online. That's true. But when it comes to face-to-face interactions (at non-book events), I have a really tough time telling people what I do.

You can put me at a book signing or a school visit and I'll talk about my career until you beg me to stop. But introduce me to someone outside the industry in a normal everyday setting and I won't mention my job unless I'm specifically asked.

Why is that? I'm not in any way ashamed of what I do. I love my job. I couldn't ask for a better one. Yet I'm always afraid to tell people I write books because of two main reasons. First, I don't want people to assume I'm going to ask them to buy my books. You know that spammy author who can speak of nothing but their new book. Yeah, that's not me. Second, I hate when people ask me how well my books sell. It's like they expect that since I write I must be on the NYT bestseller list. Yeah, doesn't exactly happen that way.

What about you? Do you have a difficult time telling people you're a writer? What are some reactions you've gotten from people when you have told them?


44 comments:

  1. I do tell people I'm a writer (if they ask me what I do) but I always do so reluctantly because they nearly always say, 'so what books have you written?'. At the moment, my career writing is my plays, murder mysteries for fundraiser events. As soon as they hear that I'm not a novelist, they tend to switch off and get the 'not a real writer' look on their face. Hoping to remedy that with the novels I'm working on.

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    1. Oh no! That's awful. You definitely are a real writer.

      I more often get the "I have this idea for a book" response when I tell people. ;)

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  2. Gosh, I'm glad you brought this up. Just the other day, I ran into someone I hadn't seen in a long time and she asked if I was still writing. I shot out a brief answer and then completely changed the subject. It felt weird. Of course, my reasons at this time are a little different from yours.

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    1. I tend to change the subject too. I just don't feel comfortable talking about it with non-writers or people who aren't book bloggers.

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  3. When I admit to being a writer people look at me like I'm kidding so I very seldom say anything. Though, it's been over a year and my 3rd book is coming out and it's getting somewhat easier to admit it.

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    1. Having books out does help because there is something tangible for people to see, but it also usually prompts the question of sales, and that is not a fun conversation to have. I mean, when someone tells me they are an office manager, my next question isn't "How much do you make?" so why do people feel it's okay to ask me about my sales?

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    2. I'm evilly considering asking the next person who questions my sales, what their salary is. Oh…I'm SO doing it! ;)

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  4. My new boss asked, "Do we have any writers around here?" It was stuck in my throat and then a colleague goes, "Diane!"

    LOL

    It's different from your reasons. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed, it's just that writing for me is a personal thing just yet.

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    1. That's totally understandable. Oh, and I loved the nonfiction ideas you posted on your blog. Write them all!

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    2. Thanks! I just got back from a week long journey. :D

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  5. For me the dilemma is whether to mention it at all when I could just explain how I earn money (that is, through my administrative job for a non-profit). It's a question of identity. How do we want people to see us? I love literature and like to have my identity tied to that, yet it feels a little silly to identify as a writer first when I spend more of my time playing the role of an administrator.

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    1. Oh, interesting. I used to be a teacher and now I'm an editor in addition to being a writer. I do tend to tell people I'm a writer and a book editor in the same breath.

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  6. For the past several years, I have told people I'm a teacher and also a writer. That seemed to make it okay. Now I tell people I'm a writer and a recently retired teacher. I don't know why I have to add in that last part for credibility. But I do.

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    1. I do the same. I say I'm a writer, a book editor, and a former teacher. I think it does give a bit of credibility to add the teacher part in there.

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  7. YES! Oh my goodness, yes. It's usually my hubby who tells them, or my kids, and then I blush and answer their questions. I guess that way I feel like I'm not the one shouting about my own awesomeness...although none of us should hesitate to do that, right? I just wish I could hand them a business card and say, "Find all your answers online."

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

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    1. That's not a bad idea, Crystal. I do carry my business cards with me all the time, so it's a definite option. ;)

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  8. Not having a book out there as of yet, I don't really bring it up too much, but I do occasionally mention it in conversation, along with editing and photography, the last of which I find I can more easily talk about.

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    1. It's funny that you can talk about photography, which is also an art, more easily than writing. I wonder why that is.

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  9. I think that is an American response, Kelly. In France or Prague,etc., you see people scribbling or tapping away on a computer. It's understood they are writers. People write for a variety of reasons. You should be proud of yourself. Being a writer, any kind of writer, even a jounaller, isn't easy. It takes dedication to sit in front of a blank page and give.. blood, sweat, and tears. Let's all say it together.. we're writers!

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    1. I love your attitude, Brenda. And I think I need to travel more. ;)

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  10. This is really fascinating, Kelly. I have a really hard time with saying that to people, too. But I think my reasons are different. (Do you really think people are expecting you to bombard them with 'Buy my book!!'? I see it online a lot, but I don't think I've ever had someone try to hawk their book to me in real life!)

    I feel like EVERYONE thinks they are a writer, so sometimes when I say I'm a writer, the conversation turns into, "So am I! I've been working on my novel for seven years and..." I don't want people to think I am a hobby writer. I am a writer for my living! So that is why I find introducing my profession a little uncomfortable.

    Brenda's so right though!

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    1. Yes, I get that too, Kiersi. I've been cornered with the "listen to this idea I have for a book" more than a few times. ;)

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  11. I can SO relate to this. I'm weird about my writing. Even when someone asks me, "What are you working on now" I feel weird talking about it. Like it's personal or something. But I was invited to an event a couple of weeks ago where I had to talk to a bunch of school librarians about my books and I just chatted away. I guess part of it is that we don't want to seem like we're bragging? And the question about how well our books are doing does seem personal. I don't ask other people how much they made last year!

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    1. Yeah, at book related events or talking to book industry people, I'm fine. That's totally different. But it's awkward talking to people who don't know the industry.

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  12. My response usually is, I'm a writer, but I'm trying to find something practical to pursue because I know I can't make money writing. I try to throw it off like it's a hobby when it really isn't. I can't seem to own up to the fact that writing is one of my career paths, the main one.

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    1. I hear you, Auden. I always throw in, "I'm also an editor for a book publisher" because that sounds more like a "real" job to non-writers.

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  13. I've always had a hard time telling people I'm a writer. Before it was because I wasn't published yet and felt like a fraud. Now that I am published though, I still don't like to tell people I'm a writer when we're face to face. Part of me feels embarrassed. Why? I have no clue! Maybe it's because I'm not some big seller. I'm also shy, so doing this makes me feel odd.

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    1. Me either. I can't seem to get over this.

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  14. Kelly, I couldn't agree more! I despise the "how are your books doing?" question, and I also get this a lot: "Oh, you write books? I don't have time for luxuries like reading." It is so rude and frustrating! But I used to get that when I was a preschool teacher too. "Oh, you work at a preschool? Are you looking for something better?" Grrrr!

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    1. Wow, how don't people see that's just rude?

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  15. Mostly the people I'm close to(friends and family) know I write. Everyone else I sort of keep it close to my chest, and they just know me as a bank teller(which is such a fun job, I just can't stand it...) ;)

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  16. I don't really tell anyone I'm a writer unless they ask what I do. And then I actually love saying I write Children's Books because most people I've come across respond very positively.

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  17. This is interesting. I've never seen this kind of reaction in Finland. I guess it's because our country is so small that it's really, really hard to get a book published. People don't even expect writers to make a lot of money here. Almost every Finnish writer has another job they do for a living.

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    1. That must be nice to have that kind of respect and understanding as far as how difficult this industry is.

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  18. I do get jittery when people ask what I do and I tell them I'm a writer. Their reactions are always an excited 'Ooh!' and I find myself watering their impression down. I don't know why, but maybe I feel like I don't deserve to be called a 'writer,' who must be someone who has won awards, is tied to a big publisher etc. I've got to stop this sheepish behaviour.

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    1. Don't think that way, Claudine. You are definitely a writer and you don't need to water down any excited responses. You deserve them.

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  19. I don't mind talking at conferences or other areas where there are writers, but outside of that I hate telling people I write. Someone is bound to put their foot in their mouth by telling me that I should write the next Harry Potter (because that's the only juvenile fiction they know) or ask me awkward money questions.

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    1. Same here! I know exactly what you mean, Medeia.

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  20. I wonder how unemployed and under employed actors feel... and that's most actors.
    Most working and published authors are not on the NYT lists. But it is what we do. write.
    I never admitted I was a writer until I had my first traditional contract. Then, after replying to what-do-you-do question with the truth, "I'm a writer," I got a where I can-I-find-your-books question...
    And that was bookS, plural.
    So I get the touchiness of it, outside of authorly events.

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    1. I think it's tough for non-writers to understand how difficult this industry is. They don't know, and so some questions that may be innocent come across as hurtful to the author.

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  21. I can understand how you feel. I think a lot of people have an idea of what a writer's life is like and they feel they can ask very personal questions (like- how much money do you make). I do tell people I am a writer if they ask or it comes up in conversation, but otherwise I keep it to myself in face to face interactions.

    ~Jess

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    1. Same here. I think I might ask the next person who asks about what I make what their salary is. ;)

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