Break the Silence: Telling Others that You’re a Writer

Today I want to talk about courage. There are a lot of nerve-wracking parts to being a writer: finishing a novel, letting others read it, sending it off to agents and publishers, seeing readers’ reactions to your baby (I mean, book).

There’s another daunting aspect of being a writer. It doesn’t affect everyone in the same way and it’s rarely mentioned, but it can be just as scary as any of the things listed above: telling others about your writing.

Until a few years ago, the thought of telling people that I was a writer, of revealing such a personal, vulnerable side of me, made my mouth dry and my heart pound. What would they say? Would they laugh? What if they asked to read my stories? And the longer I kept my writing a secret and hid it from the people around me, the harder it became to tell them the truth.

But here’s the thing: writing is such a big part of my life. In keeping it from the people I love, I was keeping myself—the true me—from them too. I wasn’t free to be who I was around them because I had to hide what I did, and that really put a strain on me. Have you ever felt like this before? If so, you’ll know it’s no way to live.

So what did I do? I told my friends and family that I wrote. It was scary, a complete step into the unknown, but I did it and I’m so glad I did. My fears didn’t transpire. They didn’t laugh, they were very supportive, and now I can talk freely about a very big part of my life.

If you’re still undecided whether or not to let others know that you’re a writer, here’s my advice to you: take it one step at a time. Here’s how I did went about it.

Go Virtual

You don’t have to go announce that you write to a family gathering. Start small.

My first step was to find a place to share my writing online, which let me meet other writers and get to know them. Sites like Wattpad, Authonomy and Booksie allow you to post your creative works and receive feedback, perfect if you want readers, second opinions and critiques. They’re also a great place to meet like-minded people.

In my case, having other writers to talk to let me express a part of myself I’d never spoken about before, and sharing my stories with others gave me more confidence, accustomed me to calling myself a writer, and worked as a stepping stone to the next stage…

Confide in a Small Circle

If you’re not ready, don’t force yourself in front of the family gathering just yet. Take things one step at a time. Try confiding in a small group or just the one person. Lead the conversation towards writing or jump straight in and tell your closest friends or family members about what writing really means to you. Let them know how important their understanding and support is to you and how you trust them enough to share this with them.

I did this about a year after I started posting my writing online. One of my friends actually saw my novel over my shoulder while I was writing it one day. Rather than try to hide it, as I usually would, I swallowed my nerves, told him about my writing and let him read some of it, which he was very kind about. I haven’t looked back since.

My advice: find someone you can confide in, even if it’s only one person. There’s nothing like being able to actually talk to someone about writing and the support they can offer is incredibly encouraging.

From there, if you feel comfortable with it, go on to tell others. Break the silence. If people ask what you like to do in your spare time, stand tall and tell them you write. It’s a part of who you are. Be proud of it and let others be proud of you for that.

~

Have you ever hidden the fact that you write from others? What was the main thing that held you back?

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11 thoughts on “Break the Silence: Telling Others that You’re a Writer

  1. In my first year of high school my art teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they left school, she asked us one by one, making us stand up to answer. I proudly told her I wanted to be a writer and she tore my dream to shreds – it didn’t make me stop writing, but it did stop me telling anyone I wrote. If I was ever asked again what I wanted to be, I’d shrug. My mother always knew since I was always in my room writing, and my closest friends, because I was always writing things for them to read, but not adults. I’ve been out of school for over ten years and it’s only in the last few that I’ve become brave enough to share with anyone and everyone. I guessed I feared telling people I was a writer and never getting anything published.

    • I know exactly what you mean! I’m a few months away from graduating university and people keep asking me what I’m going to do next. I told my parents about my plans to monetise my blog last weekend and they seemed very supportive of the whole thing, but it’s not something I’d tell other people about (at least until it’s earning me some money, anyway ;D).

      Best of luck with your writing, Rochelle!

  2. I really dreaded telling my parents and my sister that I was a writer for fear of what they might say about it and how hard it would be to get published….yada, yada, yada….

    I think criticism is easier to take from strangers than it is your own family.

    • Definitely. I think that’s the positive side to the anonymity of the internet–it makes it easier to take criticism, almost like it’s a buffer. Plus, we can find like-minded writers who share our dreams, which our families and friends might not understand. The trick is finding a balance between strangers’ and family/friends’ feedback when it comes to writing, I suppose!

  3. I’ve started sharing my writing aspirations with friends. Still, I’m always taken aback to hear myself refer to myself as ‘a writer.’ The biggest thing was reading my stuff aloud to my husband, who is a no-nonsense sort of fellow. Surprisingly, he likes what I do and is very supportive. That went a long way to building my self-confidence about sharing the fact that I write with others.

    • I’m so glad you have supportive people around you, Kate! There’s nothing like it :) When I was younger, I used to read my stories aloud to my sister before bed. She really liked them, which was great for my confidence. It also helped me to improve the stories afterwards too!

      Thanks for the comment, Kate! Best of luck with your writing :)

      • Thank you. :) Yesterday I took a leap of faith and printed off a few of my stories for my boss (a busy attorney) to read when he gets a moment. He has expressed interest in my writing, and is supportive of my aspirations. It is good to have people in your life who cheer you on!

  4. I think the other scary thing about telling people you’re a writer is you have to back it up in a way that’s not expected with other professions.

    If someone tells me she’s a lawyer, I don’t ask her when her next trial is so I can come and watch. I might ask her what kind of law she practices, but I don’t expect her to provide me with any other “proof” of what she does as a way to validate her work.

    But when you tell people you’re a writer, their first question is often, “Oh, have you written anything I’ve read?” almost as if to say that if they haven’t, then you’re not a writer.

    Never mind that that’s an inherently impossible question to answer–how in the world could I know what you’ve read, including my stuff.

    Never mind that what you write might be something they may never read because of genre, etc.

    Never mind that according to recent research, nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year (http://bit.ly/declinebooklover).

    Never mind that although I couldn’t find data to back this up, I bet there are a hell of a lot fewer people who read literary magazines, online or otherwise.

    It might not seem so, but I actually think this is a GOOD thing. Slightly depressing at first, but good because it motivates me to produce, regardless of who does or doesn’t read my “product” (although I certainly hope for the latter). It holds me accountable to doing that which I say I do. Otherwise calling myself a writer when I don’t write is, well, a lie.

    The other good thing–it doesn’t take much to write. See, I just did it. Easy peasy!

    • Totally agree, Kelly! I think writing is often seen as more a hobby than a profession as well, which makes non-writers take it less seriously than other jobs–and, at least for me, because I recognise that when I’m telling someone I’m a writer, I’m already on the defensive, as if to justify what I’m doing. It’s hard to feel confident about your writing when you’re worried others won’t take it seriously, but I guess it’s something we just have to overcome.

      Thanks for the comment, Kelly!

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