Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ch 3.5 Owning the Writer Title

  
(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)

Ch 3.5 Owning the Writer Title
For a while, I've owned the title of writer, accepting it as a part of who I am, as much as the titles engineer or mom. These are all things that, once you become them, you do not unbecome them.

It was not ever thus.

Many writers struggle with owning the title of writer.

We caveat it - aspiring writer or pre-published writer - and reserve author for those who have completed a novel/published a novel/reached some milestone.

Before we have some tangible "proof" with writing "credits," we're embarrassed to admit to our friends and family that we're not just hobbyists, that we are serious about this writing business. Sometimes we're afraid we will be ridiculed or get the faint praise that people lay on dreams they think are doomed.

I was one of those writers.

I wrote for a while without telling anyone (other than my husband), like it was some kind of dirty secret I had to keep hidden under a rock. As if creating stories that stirred emotions (even if they were only mine) was something to be ashamed of.

Sad. I know.

The truth was that I was afraid someone would think it silly for a Ph.D. scientist to write love stories. Or that I was simply plain bad at it, creating only cringe-worthy prose (which was certainly true in the beginning, but that only meant that I was at the beginning).

My brother, the real writer in the family, quickly beat that notion out of me. He insisted that I needed to write, because creating something original had intrinsic value in the world. And he knew the soul-crushing fear that came along with sharing that act of creation with the world. He was my first true writer-friend that understood. Still, I resisted. Again and again.

The day I owned the title of writer was a surprise to me. I'd sent a manuscript to be printed at the local Staples, and when I went to pick it up, the Staples guy asked, "Oh, are you a writer?" My answer was out before I thought about it. "Yes. Yes I am." I was shocked after the fact. This acceptance of my writerhood had seeped in without my knowledge, a stealthy thing that snuck around my anxieties and preconceptions.

Which is why I was nothing less than stunned that none of this crazy was passed on to Dark Omen, my son who self-published his first novel at age 12. (He's now 14 and working on the third novel in his trilogy).

Shortly after we self-published his first book (for friends and family to enjoy), we were gathered for a family dinner, celebrating Grandma's birthday. Dark Omen's aunt had started reading his book and asked him that innocent question that young writers often get.

"Are you going to be a writer when you grow up?" she asked.

"I'm already a writer." Dark Omen paused a beat. "But, yes, I plan to continue writing books."

I high-fived him right there at the dinner table! Because he owned it in a way that I couldn't have imagined doing after finishing my first novel.

I learn things all the time from my kids. After dinner, Dark Omen and I talked. He was baffled as to why anyone would be embarrassed to say they were a writer. You see, he had attended one of the Writing While Teen workshops I had given at the library. He had taken the words I preached at that workshop and believed them. Then he echoed them back to me: If you write, you are a writer.

Exactly.

  
(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)

15 comments:

  1. Love this! I used to base my status as a writer on success, which I based on sales, approval, visiblity, etc. It took some time (and novels) for me to realize that status is based solely on WRITING.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! That’s the kind of Territorial Thinking I highly approve of. :)

      Delete
  2. This is so awesome. I love that your son owns it so proudly! You're doing wonders for his creative self already. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love it. How great it is to have your son relay your own words back to you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, I love your son's response! I struggled with that label for the 3 years between STARTING to write fan fiction and finishing my first original novel. I would tell people 'I write' but I never called myself a writer. It felt arrogant or something. Writer was one of those things like 'movie star' that seemed to need external validation or something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I’m glad you’ve moved past the need for external validation – that’s a really important step, one many people struggle with for years and years. This is actually something that some trad-pub authors get stuck on, I think – that if it’s not validated by a publisher picking up the story, they blame the story. Many (after being published for a while) know that’s not true. That there’s so many other factors that go into publication other than whether the story is good.

      Delete
  5. I actually teared up at the end of this lovely post. How proud you must be, how enviable I am of his clear headed self confidence. The last line especially touched me.

    Like you I wrote secretly, and although I have published a few stories and a novel, I still feel utterly fake and want to run and hide when anyone asks me about what I do. The world still believes that if you published your own work it is somehow worthless. I wish everyone would see it like what it is, just another way of self-employment. I have invested in a business and I make the product. Why is that so difficult for some people to understand?

    Anyhooo, thanks for another inspirational post. X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The world still believes that if you published your own work it is somehow worthless." Actually only some portion of the world still believes this. Mostly writers. Readers honestly don't care - they just want a good story.

      The proof? My bank account, and the bank accounts of many other self-published authors. This literally proves that my readers think my stories are "worth" something - exactly the amount they paid for it (and often more - I get a lot of comments/feedback about how it was worth more than they paid).

      So worry not what some of the world thinks - worry about finding the peeps who love what you create. It's for them that you are writing anyway (and for yourself).

      Delete
  6. I have a lot of fears about being a fantasy and science fiction writer. Mostly on the science fiction side, really. I don't have a PhD in science, nor do I want to. I love science fiction that leaves technology sort of mysterious, but focuses on what it does to society. But I feel like that's wrong, that I need to be the super hard science fiction writer. So I tend to brush off the fact that I'm a writer to avoid talking about it.

    But you know? I need to own to the fact that that's what I believe, most passionately by the way, that I'm called to write. Or that I want to write. Thank you for reminding me that I need to be brave and proud of my abilities. It's so easy to get wrapped up in fear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elisa - This SO resonates with me! I have a PhD in science and I STILL want to write the kind of SF that you're talking about - that focuses on people, not tech.

      I have a theory about why SF writers took a hard turn to the hard SF writing, and why that somehow meant you were more "serious" or whatever: technology became a THING. And suddenly you couldn't keep up with it. The Golden Age SF writers were writing in a time with no cell phones, no computers, and the moonshot was recent news. Then the technology revolution hit (and kept hitting) and the fiction writers couldn't keep up. So they stuck with what was "known" taking less fantastic steps forward and more incremental ones, and honestly, that's when I stopped reading it. I still can't bear to read a lot of what's out there, because it's so... inhuman (and not in a good way). What SF needs is a good dose of wonder, and injection of fearless wide-eyed amazement, and look at the future possibilities and what they mean to us as human beings.

      So PLEASE, please please please, write this SF that you're called to - not just because I want to read it. Because the world needs it to be written.

      Delete
    2. I agree with you wholeheartedly! And I really appreciate your support. I have a lot of insecurities.

      This rewrite I've been working on has taken a lot of mental stress because it's a science fiction with a not-so-hard-scifi premise. The main characters are genetically modified but in a way that definitely is more fantastic than anything. I have a hard time admitting that I'm working on a scifi novel at all, and then I get down on myself because who would write this crap? It's really destructive.

      Delete
    3. When stuff like that torments me, it helps to really face it. Name it. "This is me fearing that people won't take me seriously." or "This is my fear that someone will mock me for my stories." Then recognize that stepping into that space where we risk the disapproval of others is a sign that we're doing something brave. *applauds*

      Delete

Erudite comments from thoughtful readers