The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress

The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Philabuster » 03 Jun 2012, 13:46

So far I have finished the first draft of my first novel and I'm barreling ( :D ) my way through my second. I also write short stories in between to help with writers block and just for a fresh change of pace in general.

My day job however is waiting tables and I always feel a little bit of guilt every time I tell somebody that I'm a writer. The conversation usually goes to, "Oh really? What have you written? What do you write?" When I tell them I'm actually a non-published fiction writer I always feel a little guilty calling myself a writer at all. Sure I write, I write all the time. Hell I'm writing this post right now! But since only a handful of people have really read my writing a part of me feels like a fraud.

Obviously it doesn't stop me from writing, I don't even really have the choice if I wanted to. As long as I know how to write that's what I'm going to be doing. But I'm not exactly convinced that I should be calling myself a writer even though that's what I mainly do with my free time. I have no formal experience, or education, and nothing substantial that I have my name on.

Anyone else battle with this "identity" crisis...or like my book is it all just in my head?
User avatar
Philabuster
 
Posts: 66
Joined: 27 Aug 2011, 12:47
Location: Philadelphia

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby polymath » 03 Jun 2012, 15:26

No eyebrows have raised from asserting I'm a struggling writer. Sounds like starving artist. No guilt. No fraud. No loss. No crisis of identity.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1800
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Gypson » 03 Jun 2012, 18:35

This is one reason why I don't tell many people that I'm a writer. =P I'm immensely private about my work, so being (kindly, and with good intentions) asked what I've written, what I'm writing, and if they can read it...feels intrusive.

The thing to remember that being a writer is not defined by being published. I am not published. I am not sure that I ever want to be published. But I am a writer. I've been writing novels since 1992 and will continue to do so my entire life.

Don't let it get you down. The people who view you as a fraud for not being a published author are probably the same people who don't know the difference between a writer and a person who likes to writer. But there is a difference. A big one. You are a writer. Be proud.

On a less-dramatic note, these people are probably also just making conversation with you. You tell them you're a writer, and they respond by asking a question about that. No ill intentions there. But if you feel bad about yourself when answering these questions, maybe try finding more positive ways to convey what you're doing. "Er, no, I'm not published" can make you look insecure. "I am not interested in publishing at the moment because I do not believe in sacrificing quality for success" (or what have you) carries a different tone.
Gypson
 
Posts: 49
Joined: 29 Aug 2011, 16:14

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Amanda Elizabeth » 03 Jun 2012, 18:53

I never really thought about it before. I have a day job (read: need health insurance) but if it comes up I tell people I'm writing a book (I don't really consider myself a "writer" yet for some reason). Of course, I live in L.A. where 99% of the population is a struggling "insert job here." I get more of a shocked look when I say I'm writing a novel (versus a screenplay). It's a unique concept out here :lol:
Amanda Elizabeth
 
Posts: 79
Joined: 21 May 2012, 22:16

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby cheekychook » 04 Jun 2012, 09:56

I've seen this issue raised a thousand times and it always bugs me. I think we all know people who say they'd like to write a book some day or that they could write a book if they decided to but they just haven't done it yet. These people are not writers. They may be some day, but in all likelihood, they won't.

Then there are people who do write. People who think about writing when they're not doing it, and do write whenever they have the chance. People who come to writing forums and read about other writers. People who feel the need to write. Who are, in some ways, writing even when they're not physically doing it, because thoughts and words of future stories are playing out in their minds. These people are writers. It makes no difference whatsoever if you're published or unpublished, if no one has read a single word or if tons of people have read your stuff---you're a writer because you write.

You know what the one thing is that all published authors have in common? At some point they were unpublished but kept writing anyway. Why? Because they're writers. They were before they signed the contract. They still are after.

Writing isn't an easy thing. It's often frustrating and aggravating. It can fill you emotions ranging from elation to total self-doubt. People who do it anyway, in spite of all that, are writers. I felt that way before I was published and my feeling didn't change one bit after I got published. Based on the statements in the opening post in this thread there's no doubt in my mind: you're a writer. No guilt necessary.
Image
http://www.karenstivali.com

Passionate Plume 1st Place Winner 2012 - ALWAYS YOU
Published with Ellora's Cave, Turquoise Morning Press & Samhain Publishing
User avatar
cheekychook
 
Posts: 685
Joined: 26 May 2010, 17:35

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby dios4vida » 04 Jun 2012, 10:24

I've felt this way a lot. I tell people I'm a writer when they ask and I think I've mastered the art of not cringing when they ask if I've been published, but beneath my confident expression I still feel awkward saying that I Am A Writer. Especially since I don't have a day job - I stay home all day and write books that no one's ever read before.

I think a lot of it is that some people don't believe we're serious about it, or instantly believe we can't be good at it, because we aren't published. Like only those who are really committed and good writers are Published - if you are Not Published you cannot be committed nor a good writer. Which is, of course, baloney.

Or maybe that's just what we believe other people think. Who knows.

My husband is actually the one who convinced me that I should be proud that I'm a writer and that I need to tell people that. He says it doesn't matter that I haven't been published. Being a writer is a huge part of who I am, and I shouldn't hide it just because I haven't broken into the insanely competitive business of publishing yet. So when people ask if I'm published I say "I'm working on it!" with a big smile. Because I didn't say I was an author, or give any claims that I make a living from my writing. I just write. They're the ones who mentioned publication.

I don't know if that helps, but at least you know you aren't the only one who's had this particular identity crisis!
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
User avatar
dios4vida
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: 22 Feb 2010, 14:08
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby trixie » 05 Jun 2012, 08:12

Oh, man, Philabuster, welcome to the club!

I sometimes struggle when admitting I'm a writer. Just typing out that last sentence makes me shifty-eyed and I wonder if I should delete it before someone sees and says, "Yeah, but you haven't published..." When did being a writer become part of an "If, then" statement? If you're published, then you're a writer? That's RIDICULOUS.

Screw them. I agree with what Cheeky (and really, everyone here so far) said. If we're not writing, we're thinking of writing. We're constantly trying to learn and improve. We're always looking forward to the next chunk of time to write. It may have began as a little hobby that we kept as a closely-guarded secret, but over time and with practice, we've become WRITERS.

You know how I know that? Because I have 3 manuscripts that I can show you or anyone else. I have physical proof that I'm doing it. I might not be published, but I'm SO MUCH MORE comfortable walking the walk now than I was a year ago. It's amazing what happens when you start to take your craft seriously--everyone else follows suit.

I write books. I blog about writing and reading. I help my friends by reading their sections. Even if I'm not "butt in chair" banging out words, I'm constantly working on my craft. To wait until we're published is like a Double- or Triple-A baseball player who is waiting for the call to the Big Leagues NOT calling themselves an athlete.

You and I and everyone else who comes here to improve our craft: we're writers. Let your freak flag fly!
(And by freak, we all realize I'm not calling names or anything. I'm just going with pop culture alliteration...)
trixie
 
Posts: 311
Joined: 04 Jan 2011, 10:35

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Sommer Leigh » 05 Jun 2012, 10:16

I think there are two types of writers: Type 1 are writers who write and Type 2 are writers who make it their second job.

One type generally enjoys putting in some quality writing time now and then. They believe they've got talent and the industry will benefit from their unique voice. They usually have a regular day job/career, though some maintain a serious, romantic, tortured artist lifestyle. Life gets busy sometimes, they've got friends, family, and a life to experience, so weeks or months can go by without having written much. They think they'll publish some day, but they'll wait until they finish something before they worry about researching the publishing part, and they rarely finish anything. They usually come in two flavors - the people who genuinly enjoy writing but aren't basing their whole life on getting published, and the people who majored in creative writing, have read all the classics, look down on genre fiction, and spend more time looking the part of the tortured writer than actually being the tortured writer.

The second type doesn't make many new friends because they don't have time because they are too busy writing and researching and being involved in the industry. Also they are broke because they don't have a separate career, just a job, and they've got books to buy in their genre and conferences to go to this summer. For that matter, they know all the major conferences and follow them online when they can't go. Sometimes they worry they aren't talented enough and sometimes they think they are. Everything rides on eventually getting published, one way or another. They don't necessarily finish anything either, though they probably have a lot more anxiety over that fact.

Writers generally know which type they are. Or their friends do.

The outside world, however, doesn't understand there is a distinction. They either lump everyone into the "all writers are hobbiests, some are just luckier than others," or "all writers are tortured assholes wasting their time in coffee shops with empty notebooks and lattes."

They never lump anyone into the "this is a career and we have to work hard at the talent and the industry and deserve respect for all the time and energy we've put into doing this thing that makes us miserable as often as it excites us."

It is my experience that when you tell people you're a writer who don't understand how much you sacrifice to become a published writer, you end up with reactions that can be fairly devestating. To the outside world, anyone can write and those who get published are just lucky.

I'm generalizing, but still. I'm not wrong.

Writing is hard. Creating is hard. Anyone who doesn't think this is just wrong. It leaves you mentally, emotionally, and physically war torn. The process can be as devestating as it is euphoric. Only other artists will ever understand that.

Personally I believe that if you write, you're a writer. If it makes you feel better, you can draw the distinction between published and not published with the term author, but whatever. Symantics. If you write, you're a writer. Few people are going to appreciate or understand this career choice of yours, but don't feel guilty if they don't. I have published friends who are still treated as if they are only exploring their hobby. Don't tell people if it's easier. I don't tell most people because it's just easier, but I'm not ashamed of the fact. I'll talk to people about it if they really care to listen.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
 
Posts: 1624
Joined: 02 Apr 2010, 20:07
Location: Omaha, NE

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Philabuster » 05 Jun 2012, 11:49

trixie wrote: To wait until we're published is like a Double- or Triple-A baseball player who is waiting for the call to the Big Leagues NOT calling themselves an athlete.


I love this line!

As much as I enjoy the craft of writing I don't think I would still be doing it if it weren't for support from other writers. Seriously...you guys rock!

I seem to struggle with "being a writer" every day, even on days where I don't write. Scratch that - ESPECIALLY on days I don't write. Sometime's I'll sit down and bust out three thousand words like it was nothing. Other times I can't crank out a sentence. It only gets worse when I pick up a book of an author I really enjoy, because than I'm like "Oh, this is what writing is supposed to sound like."

I only really started concerning myself with being called a writer recently when some friends I work with started introducing me to people as "the writer" That's a pretty big introduction for me, and it's usually followed by, "what do you write?" I feel like they're always disappointed when I tell them that I mainly write fiction short stories and unpublished novels. Just once I would like to tell them, "Oh yeah, I just wrote a novel that's going to inspire a generation. It's getting published in seventeen different languages and Oprah already selected it as her book of the month." But then again, I'm not so sure I'd want to say it so they could hear it. I think I'd rather say it because it was real.

Thanks for the advice/support guys!
User avatar
Philabuster
 
Posts: 66
Joined: 27 Aug 2011, 12:47
Location: Philadelphia

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby polymath » 05 Jun 2012, 12:31

The milestone of past writer generations was to publish the next Great American Novel. I don't like the "American" appelation for what's only a country. America is a hemisphere, not a single country. Most U.S. Americans don't see eye to eye with me on that thought. Other Americans, however, approve wholeheartedly.

Anyway, when asked what I'm writing, I say, "The next great global novel."

"What's it about?" is the next intelligent question.

"Human inhumanity to humankind."

"No, really, what's it about?" Ah ha! Curiosity!

"I like portraying the misunderstood villain of a piece. I'm working on a First Contact Tableau that went horribly wrong for the antihero-villain-protagonist and illustrates tragically human inhumanity to humankind."

"That doesn't give me enough detail."

"Wait for the book." I won't reveal my A-material to anyone until publication. Why prematurely spoil the mystique?
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1800
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby writersink » 07 Jun 2012, 05:13

I feel weird calling myself a writer too, but you have to admit it does sound cool. "She was a struggling writer, living in New YorK." Sounds like a romantic comedy (although I'm not living in New York.) I hate it when people get interested, and ask what it's about, because how do you sit and talk about butt kicking aliens in the middle of a coffee shop? It feels all kinds of wrong.
writersink
 
Posts: 166
Joined: 31 Oct 2011, 09:30

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby dios4vida » 07 Jun 2012, 21:01

writersink wrote:how do you sit and talk about butt kicking aliens in the middle of a coffee shop? It feels all kinds of wrong.


Actually, I think that's the best place to start talking about butt kicking aliens. :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
User avatar
dios4vida
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: 22 Feb 2010, 14:08
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Hillsy » 08 Jun 2012, 03:42

I just tell them I'm a misanthrope.....solves a whole raft of problems.

.....course largely I didn't want to talk to them anyway.....
User avatar
Hillsy
 
Posts: 303
Joined: 09 Dec 2009, 02:33
Location: Gravesend, UK

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby Claudie » 08 Jun 2012, 08:32

Wow, I think I'm one of the only people who has no guilt at all about it. Then again, I'm 22. People don't expect me to be published. They expect me to be working at it. I feel guilty admitting I haven't progressed much, though, and a bit bad when they ask me when I think I'll be published and I have to answer "could be anywhere from 3 to 15-20 years".
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla
Claudie
 
Posts: 707
Joined: 09 Jun 2010, 12:57
Location: Quebec

Re: The guilt of being a non-published fiction writer

Postby BevS » 08 Jun 2012, 17:07

Philabuster,

Great question to ask. I tell people I am a writer, that I have never written fiction before and I am on a steep learning curve. I don't feel guilty about learning...it is one of my passions. I have written non-fiction but I am discovering that is really different from fiction!
BevS
 
Posts: 4
Joined: 08 Jun 2012, 16:52

Next

Return to All Things Writing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 6 guests

cron