Monday, April 9, 2012

Out of the Closet

Sometimes it's hard to admit what you want.

At least that's the way it was for me. For years I treated writing like a dirty, little secret. The thing I did in private and never talked about. Some people knew, my closest friends, my husband, but I begged them not to tell anyone.

And then a year ago I realized I was going to have to come out of the writing closet.

 Not only was I going to have to come out, I was going to have to sing the virtues of my writing far and wide. Post things on social media outlets, talk to book groups, own up to it in person when people asked me about it!!!! These thoughts terrified me. Literally, terrified me and caused me to lose sleep for weeks on end.

Which is odd, in retrospect, because for years I'd been daydreaming about being interviewed on the Today Show, front page coverage in the New York Times arts section or glossy magazine articles all focused on my amazing book. What my daydreams didn't take into account were the steps between publishing the first book and glossy media coverage.

I spent a lot of time before Losing Beauty came out thinking about exposure. The liklihood that my book would shoot immediately to the top of the NYT best seller list or receive unanimous adoring reviews was slim.

 I knew this.

But I also knew the chances were nonexistent if I didn't get behind my book, own up to my writing and let my fledgling attempt (which was not such a fledgling given the three "practice books" I wrote) out into the world.

The realizations in the not-quite-a-year since Losing Beauty has been released have come fast and furious. I realized I'm deeply uncomfortable with anything that is less than unqualified, unanimous success. In other words, I care way too much about what other people think. I realized I don't like to show weakness, in any form. And I realized I'm a complete and total control freak (okay, I kinda always knew that last one but the publication of Losing Beauty has underlined it with a black Sharpie marker).

Like I said last week, this month is about growth. I promised I wouldn't focus too much on my personal growth but all your comments and emails convinced me maybe my growth as a writer might be worth talking about.

On Wednesday I'm going to look more closely at my post-publication realizations. I'll tell you how I've come to terms with my fears, what I've learned and how I've grown. Hope you can stop by. Hope even more that these posts will inspire growth in each of you.


28 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What we expect in terms of what will happen and how we'll feel about it change between pre and post publication - a lot!

Rick Daley said...

I dream big but set my actual expectations low.

Emily R. King said...

Good for you for "coming out." It is important to accept who you are as a writer and not shy away from it. And yes, I need to take my own advice. Thanks for being a great example for me! :)

I look forward to your post on Wednesday.

Brenda McKenna said...

I'm excited to read more! I can completely understand your desire for unanimous praise, and the lack of control over things you love and let loose into the world (books, children) is terrifying to me, too. Thanks!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, definitely talk about your personal growth! I love learning about other folks going through what I'm going through. lol

Kristen Wixted said...

It is so hard to talk about--I find that all my writer/blogger friends know more about this side of me than my neighbors I see every day!

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, I think I should do a pre and post, post.

Rick, I'm very similar to you that way.

Thanks Emily! It's always hard to take our own advice ;)

Brenda, don't get me started on letting my kids loose. That's even harder!

Donna, thanks so much. Good to know it will be relatable.

Jenny S. Morris said...

There must be SO many things that you think are going to be one way, and they just don't turn out that way when it comes to publication.

I can't wait to hear about your journey.

Alison said...

Isn't it amazing? I"ve watched the meteoric growth of Losing Beauty over the past year. It has been a pleasure to see your book take off.

As a fellow writer, I can truly relate to the feeling of, "Holy Cow, I didn't expect THIS." I'll never forget the night that my book went live and I realized that people out there could buy my words and read them.

What a long, strange trip it's been!

Cassie Mae said...

yes, please don't be hesitant to share your experiences. Inquiring writer minds want to know them :)

Jemi Fraser said...

There is so much involved in this journey towards publication - and from everything I've heard - after it as well. I look forward to your posts! :)

Sabrina A. Fish said...

I volunteered as personal assistant for an editor at the conference I am going to in May. I also plan to pitch my book at that time.

I want to hyperventilate as I type this.

The idea of putting my work out there and facing rejection is expected but completely terrifies me.
I am definitely interested to read what you have to say about your experience.

Hart Johnson said...

I first came out as a writer in fan fiction, so that was OUT there. In fact I STILL have much of that readership--fabulous, encouraging friends. But when i started my own real novel, I was indeed slow to admit it. Which was prbably good--took me more than 2 years (and 4 years later, it STILL isn't edited properly)

I think you're doing great!

Nicki Elson said...

I'm looking forward to your upcoming posts - I definitely relate to everything you've said here. I think by nature most writers aren't built for the wide open world of every changing social media, yet here we are...

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I think it's perfectly natural to care about what other people think, especially because there's always at least one or two people whose opinions matter to us. I haven't been published yet, which is one of the reasons I've kept my writing life a secret; I don't tell most of the people in my life that I keep a blog, take fiction writing classes, or that I am working on manuscripts for two novels. But the other reason that I've stayed in the writing closet (and I love that phrase, by the way) is because, like you said, I feel nervous about how people will react to my writing. But you're right in that eventually we all have to let our writing out into the open. And I will...eventually. :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm looking forward to reading your posts this month. I've had short stories and nonfiction published, but my first novel comes out this summer. I'm more than a little antsy.

Jo Schaffer said...

Glad you came out. Your writing is awesome. (=

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

I will be sure to read this string of posts. I understand your pre-publishing nerves. I empathize with living in the writer's closet, and the thoughts of shameless self-promotion nearly paralyze me with fear. Thanks for a very candid post, Johanna!

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

What you're saying is so interesting - I can't believe you kept your writing activities to yourself for so long! But I love the way you write and I am going to look into your book.
Johanna - don't hide that bright light of yours under a bushel basket! Get on out there and SHINE!

Johanna Garth said...

Jenny, so true!

Allie, thank you so much!

Cassie, I'll do my best ;)

Thanks Jemi!

Sabrina, hyperventilation is something I can relate to!

Thanks Hart, your success and writing always inspire me.

Nicki, absolutely. Writers are shy!

Neurotic, I think everyone experiences those nervous pangs about sharing their work.

Carole, that's so exciting! Congratulations.

Thanks Jo!!

Teresa, can we just agree that shameless self promotion is sooo painful!

Cathy, thank you so much!

jenny milchman said...

I'm glad I know you, as a writer and a friend, and believe me, with your talent, you have nothing to hide!!

My blog today references the same thing--the time when I was failing left and right and didn't want to admit I'd ever written so much as word...

Julie said...

Oh yeah, that'a toughie... and I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY!! Why do we cringe telling people we're writers?? I think maybe in my case, it was because I didn't feel like it was a "real" job... that people wouldn't take me seriously. But THEN... I had an epiphany...

How can I expect OTHERS to take my writing seriously, if I don't take MYSELF seriously?

Yeah. After that, I started owning my writing. It was VERY intimidating at first... but then I got used to it! So what if SOME people think its just my "passing fancy"... my "closet" friends know better! Haha!

Great post!

Angela Cothran said...

That first step is the hardest one. Really! It gets so much easier :)

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

Awesome read :)

So great you are coming out of the closet. Being a writer is awesome :D

Rachel Morgan said...

It's difficult not to care what other people think. And of course it's perfectly fine if they're all thinking good things, but it's when people think bad things that we seem to care even more!
The post you're planning about your post-publication realizations will be a good one, I think.

Julie said...

I can understand what you mean, I'm still in the closet with a lot of people about my writing goals. Of course, if they looked at my blog they would know but it's not something I talk about as I don't want to be discouraged by nay-sayers.

This was an inspiring read. I'm looking forward to learning more about your growth!

Tamara Narayan said...

Yes, tell us more. It's always fascinating to hear about the publishing process from the "after" point-of-view.

Melissa Bradley said...

I have a hard time setting high expectations for myself. I need to get over that if I'm ever going to be able to have bigger dreams. Thanks for sharing this. :)