15
May
09

Admitting to an infection of words

The day I got my agent was the happiest day of my life. When I got Matt’s message on my voicemail saying he wanted to represent me, I think I almost had a heartattack. I’m not just being rhetorical there, like my chest started to hurt and the room got kind of dark, but unrelenting joy pulled me back to the land of the living. (I told this to Lindsay, Matt’s wonderful assistant, when I called back, and Matt’s first words to me when he picked up the phone were “Don’t have a heart attack, we want you to write more books!” People, life does not get more awesome than that right there.)

So I had my agent, at long last. I had a party, I told my parents. A few months later Matt sold my book and we had another party and I called my parents again. In short, wonderful times. However, from the moment I got my agent until now, I’ve been in this weird limbo. My books are all coming out together at the end of next year, so, while I am published and frantically writing book 2 of the series to meet my deadlines, I’m not really published. This is a bump in the road when I tell people I’m an author, because the first thing they say is “Oh! Where can I buy it?” or some variation. (It was especially bad when I had an agent, but the book hadn’t sold. Now at least I can give them a publisher and a date as opposed to standing there going “Well….”)

This isn’t really a new problem, though. Maybe I’m the only one who gets this way, but have you ever tried answering the question of “So, what do you do?” with “I’m a writer” without feeling supremely uncomfortable? Like everyone who writes, I always wanted to, but I stopped telling people about it because saying “I want to be a writer” is like saying “I want to be an astronaut” or “I want to be in the NBA,” everyone thinks it’s impossible and does their best to let you know just how impossible it is, even if you’re eight. But with astronauts and basketball, people may still add the old “if you try really hard, you can make it!” angle. With writing, you don’t even get that. Probably because there’s no clear path most people see to being a writer. It’s just something impossible that happens to people who aren’t you. I’m a fast learner, and after one or two occurrences of this, I began to answer that I wanted to go into advertising.

This is the weird little dance I’ve been doing all through my life, through school, through college, even after college when I really was writing quite a lot. When I was in all ways except for the book contract, a writer, I never said “I’m a writer.” Because if you say “I’m a writer” to other people, they immediately assume miles of hardcovers with your name in glossy, five-inch printing at the center, and disabusing them of this viewpoint is unpleasant for everyone involved.

These days, however, I am a published author whose book just hasn’t come out yet, so why is it still so hard. I’ll be at home writing and the pesticide guy comes by to spray the house and here I am in my pajamas, so he gives me this “you’re unemployed, aren’t you?” look, and I want to shout “No! I am an AUTHOR!” But… I don’t. I say my job lets me work from home in the mornings, which is true, kind of. It’s not like I’m ashamed, I just can’t seem to tell people what I do.

Before, when I was unpublished, admitting I was a writer felt like I was admitting I was a silly, unrealistic dreamer. Now, it feels like bragging. Look! I did the impossible! Maybe it will get better when my book comes out and I can have something concrete (or, woodpulp, as the case may be) to shove into people’s hands, “Here! I made this!” I hope so. I worked way too hard for this to keep telling every plumber or chatty UPS guy that I’m a graphic designer.

Working from home.

Yeah.

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3 Responses to “Admitting to an infection of words”


  1. 1 Terri-Lynne
    May 15, 2009 at 6:38 am

    You know, I’ve only one thing to say to that. THANK YOU! But for the ‘now I’m a published writer whose book hasn’t come out yet’ part, I could have written that!

  2. May 15, 2009 at 10:05 am

    My books are all coming out together at the end of next year, so, while I am published and frantically writing book 2 of the series to meet my deadlines, I’m not really published. This is a bump in the road when I tell people I’m an author, because the first thing they say is “Oh! Where can I buy it?” or some variation. (It was especially bad when I had an agent, but the book hadn’t sold. Now at least I can give them a publisher and a date as opposed to standing there going “Well….”)

    THIS. I can’t effing wait for February 2010. -_-

    Though I’m lucky, I suppose; the area where I live (Brooklyn) is lousy with freelancers, so delivery guys don’t give me any funny looks when I answer the door in jammies or look like I just woke up from a nap (though I usually don’t nap; I apparently just look sleepy when I’m really in the Zone with wordcount). There are some advantages to being a writer in New York, and being perceived as part of the norm is one of them.


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