Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do you Own It?

Okay, so, those of you following my blog for a while know that I often draw advice from deep, inspiring movies like Clueless and She's All That and Mean Girls--cause, come on there's some incredible wisdom in there! *coughs*

No really--there is! And one of my particular favorites comes from the fabulous Damien in Mean Girls.

You remember the scene. Janis tells Cady (played by LiLo in her pre-trainwreck days) that she's a 'regulation hottie'. And when she questions it, Damien tells her to "Own it!"

I always think about that--especially when it comes to writing. Cause...well...confession: I haven't actually told very many people that I write. 

And I know that may surprise some of you, given that I have this very public blog wherein I use my real name and talk all about, well, WRITING! 

But funny thing: very few people I know actually read this blog. Most of them don't even know it exists. I told myself I wasn't telling people about it because I wanted to force myself to get real followers, rather than making everyone I'd worked with, gone to school with, talked to or anyone with a tiny blood connection click the 'follow' button.  

But who am I kidding? It's mostly because it's SO awkward telling people I'm a writer. Because it always leads to THE QUESTION: 

Where can I buy your book?

And it just feels so lame to say, "um...well...um... *shuffles feet*....you...can't."

Even adding, But I have an agent doesn't help. Cause, sadly--outside the writing world--that doesn't mean a whole lot. (NOT that having an agent somehow makes anyone MORE of a writer than someone unagented.)

People have NO idea how hard it is to get an agent. Or how hard it is to finish a stinking book in the first place. Or how frustrating it is to revise that book. Or the torture of writing a query letter--or the dreaded synopsis. Or how SLOW publishing is--so painfully, agonizingly slow that even when you get the book deal it's months or years before your book hits shelves.

So most of the time, when someone asks me what I do, I talk about the boring day job and leave out the whole writing thing. And if they do know I write, and ask me about it, I tend to give a vague, evasive answer and change the subject very quickly. I definitely don't, "Own it." And I thought I was playing it safer that way.

But I'm not sure I am. Because in some ways it feels like I have two lives. One online, where everyone knows about my dreams and progress and struggles. And one offline, where I smile and nod and avoid questions. And the deeper I delve into writing, the more hours I spend on writing/revising/blogging and NOT telling people about that, the more I'm distancing myself from everyone.

So I'm...torn. Should I take Damien's advice and 'Own it' and open myself up to all the fun questions and lack of understanding and frustration that can come with it? Or should I continue keeping it my dirty-little-secret, waiting until I have a book on the shelves before I 'out' myself from the Writer's Closet?

What do you guys think? I KNOW you must have opinions, because I know I've read similar posts to this one. So please--share. What do you do? Do you Own it? Why or why not?


  1. I own it. It was hard at first, for the reasons you mentioned. But you know what? Too bad! I've worked too hard and too long to be where I am to NOT be proud of what I do. :)

    Owning it actually has made it easier for me to face those 'So how's the writing going?/Great, still no new news type conversations. By owning it, people understand that I am committed. No one, at least never to my face, suggests that maybe it's time to try something else, or refers to it as a hobby or that I should consider self publishing. Thank God. It's those conversations that I can't stand to have.

    So, it was hard to own it first, but once I did, it got a lot easier. Friends/family might not understand how I can do something for so long without payoff (as they see it), but that is their deal, not mine. This path isn't for them, but by owning it they absolutely get that it's the path for me. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. I think it's fine to own it. Don't be surprised though that many aren't that interested that you're a writer. I do know the feeling. Most people just know me for my day job or the writing part doesn't come into the conversation much, unless they're a family member or a few of my daughter's friends who occasionally ask.

    I feel like I have a whole different world too in the blogging community. So you aren't alone.

  3. I feel like I have an entire different life online as well! A few people from work follow my blog, those closest to me and my parents, but that's it. When people find out I write they ask me the same question. When I tell them I'm on submission, their eyes start to glaze over and I know there interest is gone. That's the point where you do want to explain the entire process and how hard it is!

  4. Own it, woman. Those are some of the people you're going to want to BUY your book someday...better let them get used to the idea of your being a REAL (as opposed to, you know, imaginary) writer now.

  5. Own it. Why hide away part of yourself? And those "so, where can I find your book" moments can be awkward sometimes, but I just explain that editors take a really long time (like, months) to get back to you and then it takes another several months to make requested changes, and then another several months to get together things like cover art before anything can get to the shelves. And then I say that my work is sitting on a few editors' desks (which is true, and which also sounds good to laypeople) and that I'm working on another project while I wait to hear back from them. People usually leave impressed after that.

  6. OWN IT!!! Seriouly! You are a fab person Shannon, online and in RL...Writing is such a huge part of YOU...so own it girl, CLAIM IT!

  7. I completely understand your fears. Your book isn't out yet, so you can't hand it to someone and say, "SEE IT'S FOR REAL!"

    When I tell people I write, the next question is "when's your book coming out?" I normally laugh and say, "Oh it's on my hard drive, it's just a hobby to keep me from robbing 7-11."
    They normally look at me and take a few steps backwards... maybe I should work on my laugh.

    I've been telling my students that I write so they understand the importance of editing.

    I think you should own it, but take your time with it. Wait until you feel comfortable. Have a tee shirt made, "Yes I write- No, I don't know when my book is coming out. But when it does, you better buy it, bitches."
    I think that sums it up nicely, don't you?

  8. It's not really that different when you own it. Except for how you will feel about it. It will be better for YOU. But really, you'll still be kind of chopped liver to the rest of the world....and this is a good thing. It's a wonderful reality check. Unless you are a FAMOUS writer, people will only know your books, but not your name so much.

    So, I vote for own it, because you need to be true to yourself.


  9. Personally I try not to tell people I'm a writer. Being a writer is a hobby, being an author is a job. You're not an author until you're published.

    I just don't like to get into the awkward conversations. Like you mention "where can I buy your book", or even "oh, can I read your MS?"

    No, sorry, I'm deep in a freaking POV change re-write, it's not even close to finished, and won't make a bit of sense until it's been through 3 or 4 revisions anyway.

    Only other writers really get it.

    But that's just me. If you choose to own it I know you'll do it fabulously.

  10. Oh I really think that you should Own It!!

    Once people know what your real passion is and that you've gotten as far as having agent representation and are running a writer's conference then here's hoping all awkward questions will fade away!

    take care

  11. Own it. We all strive to be a writer in everyone else's eyes, why not in our own? I think that talking about it and sharing your journey helps your own psyche about writing, so that itself makes it worth it to own it.

  12. I definitely own it - but I've been a freelance writer for ten years now - so it's not that far out of the norm of my scope of work! So I just tack on the end that I'm an author :) I don't think anyone's ever asked me where they can buy the book - they just ask what the book is about!

  13. Do whatever makes you feel better about yourself and your writing. I know that sounds like a cop out answer but it comes down to what's best for you. This business is tough enough and there is so much you don't have control of - so much that can get you down. But you have control over this decision. So if talking about it even to people who don't get it is something you want to deal with and it somehow strengthens you, go for it. If it's going to add to the already multitude of difficulties of being a writer, then don't. Whatever you decide, we're all behind you 100%!

  14. I don't own it yet. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that! It makes me feel bad when people ask those inevitable (and awkward) questions. I'd much rather focus on my writing and getting where I want to be without feeling bad about it!

    But you have an agent, so you should start owning it! That's a huge accomplishment!

  15. OWN IT! Of course, I struggle with this too. I can't even say what genre I'm writing in. In part because I'm still exploring that, and in part because when I say YA Paranormal Romance I either get rolled eyes or "like Twilight, huh?"
    But we should be brave and proud

  16. Cause, sadly--outside the writing world--that doesn't mean a whole lot.

    I get this all the time at my *other* job (you know, the one that pays regularly). All they want to know is "is your book published yet" and "where can I buy it once it is"?

    Ugh. There are a select few outside the writing world, though, who don't balk when I say I'm an author. In fact, I heard myself say to this person the other day, when we were talking about the spelling rule for "i" and "e" after "c", "I work with words for a living, and I still get it wrong sometimes."

    My mouth dropped open in shock, but she didn't even bat an eyelash. Probably because she's read my short fiction in print, but still. It was weird... cuz I don't actually "make a living" off of it yet.

    It's easy to make excuses, but we shouldn't be afraid to own it.

    And regarding the agented vs. unagented, I think the "agented yet still unpublished" writers get a little more respect form those of us without an agent because we know how big a step that is and how much work it entails. Don't sell yourself short. :)

  17. Own it. Seriously, Shannon - OWN.IT. You are very good at what you do and you work hard to get/stay that way. Be proud of what you do, and then one day you can announce, "Okay, people, go buy my book now!" :-)

  18. LOL, I feel like I could have written the above post.

    I'm not afraid to own it, I'm just afraid to make a big deal about something like getting an agent, when my friends and family don't really get what that means. I hate trying to explain how slowly publishing moves as an industry, and what a big deal having a lit agent is when she hasn't actually sold the book yet.

    None of them even know about my blog (some know it exists, not where to find it though). Honestly, I don't want them to know about it.

    When I finally have a book with my name on it, then I'll own it. And I'll wave it in people's faces. Until then, I'll stick to talking about it on my blog. ;)

  19. The rare times that I own it, people seem to be impressed. I double Shannon O'Donnell's comment!

  20. First of all I would like to say you were totally freakin' awesome as moderator on the WriteonCon live chat last night!

    But as to 'owning it', when I first starting writing again, I told my closest friends and they looked at me like I was crazy. Of course, they were encouraging...the entire time they were giving me those pity looks.

    My family is very encouraging and so are all my online friends so that helps tremendously. And you are right, having an agent means nothing to someone who does not understand the process.

    I still tell people I am close to that I write but I won't start telling strangers until I have a book deal and a pub date. Then, watch out! I WILL be that person that babbles in the checkout line...at the gas pump...and of course, the book store.lol

  21. I love all the comments on here, but I agree that you should OWN it! Writing is a long, hard, dedicated thing and there shouldn't be any reason for other's not to know what your passion is. Besides, you don't want to distance them. It might be awkward at first, but it will smooth over. If my husband can own his love for playing the card game, Magic the Gathering, than I can certainly tell people that I spend almost all of my free time writing :)

  22. I would say that I DON'T own it, but I really wish I did. I'm actually a ridiculously shy person practically crippled under this handicap. And the whole idea of opening myself up for people to look at me with "the look" that says you're not really a writer until I can buy your book on Amazon terrifies me.

    I just don't like the idea of people thinking I'm not a real writer, so I refrain from telling them.

    Once you do learn to own it, please share with me! I'd love to get the confidence.

  23. Well, I will say this. I loath the thing where I tell someone I write and they go "Oh, have you published anything." Me - "Not yet." Person - "Oohhh." Their eyes glaze over and they generally meander off to someplace else.
    Not always the case, but has happened. It's difficult when they don't know the challenges. ;)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  24. OWN IT!
    I agree with Lisa (because I can read her comment while I write mine). If the listener hears you aren't publish, an awkward silence ensues. The last few times someone asked, I jumped right in with my story! I might as well practice pitching it, right? I don't know what friends expect me to be writing but I always laugh when I tell them my story is about alien body snatchers and one of them is the main characters mom. The different reactions is hilarious!

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  26. I don't own it as of yet. It's a very small circle who know I write. I once 'owned it' and was led into a lengthy conversation about how I should visit publish America. Another time I was told I should just let them read my MS because we both knew I would never really get published.

    Can you feel the love? That's why its hard for me to own it right now. However I see great things sparkling on the horizon. I can't wait for them all to come to fruition. I'd quite but all that damn hope keeps getting in the way. ;)

  27. Aww, it's hard b/c aspiring writers live in a different world from everybody else.

    I guess I pretty much own it, though I do a lot of conversation-shifting when they ask, "how's your writing going?" simply because I know they only want a short answer. Most people don't ask that question hoping to hear how many words you write a day or how many queries you've sent recently. They just want to know if you've finished a book, started a book, or sold a book. And even then, they're like agents. They want a two-sentence pitch.

    And then there's the other reason we hesitate to tell ppl we're writers: Shannon Messenger said it best on yesterday's WriteOnCon live chat. "Then they might want to tell me how THEY want to write. *yawns*"

  28. I totally pulled a Peter the other day when someone asked if I was a writer and said no. I'm not sure what I think that litmus test is for reaching true "writer" status, but I know I haven't reached it. I'm sort of like you, I think I have to have achieved something and THEN I can talk about it. I can spring from the head of Zeus like Athena as a fully-formed writer. Right? That's how it works, isn't it?

  29. Oh, Shannon, I feel your pain.

    I'm kinda in the same boat as Emily. Painfully shy. I've kept my writing separate, even though I use my own name. (Sometimes I wonder why my non-writing friends haven't put two-and-two together by now.)

    Every time I think about announcing to all my friends and extended family that I write, it makes me want to vomit. That's why I'm so terribly grateful for the online writing community. These wonderful writers in various stages of being published "get" me and I can discuss all the successes and failures knowing they truly understand. I'm sure I'll tell everyone someday, maybe after some more success stories, but right now I'm not in any hurry.

  30. Pretty much everyone in my entourage knows that I've written books and am trying to get published. I have no problem outting that info. The question I hate the most is 'so what is your book about?' Describing my books makes me feel incredibly self concious. Like I'm a crazy person revealing one of my many delusions. Anywhoo- I would do a little of both. Out the fact that you've written a book and it's out on submission. But only talk about it in depth with those who sincerely show interest...that's what I do anyway:)

  31. I totally say OWN IT!!! I know a lot of writers who don't (so you are certainly not alone) but I have always owned it.

    How will people ever know what a slow and difficult industry this is, if we writers don't share that information!!!

  32. For me, I'm at a point where I can't really say I'm a writer. I mean, I am, but I'm still trying to figure out right where I fit in. I'm a writer, I'm a gamer, I'm a nerd, I'm a dancer (of the sporadic variety), and I don't know what I'll be five years from now. I'll still be writing, I know, but I don't know what it is that'll 'define' me, so to speak.
    But I'm always in support of owning it. Case in point: I knew this girl in my cultural studies class who wants to major english. I asked what she read, and I found out she's a writer too! If either she or I had shied away from the question, we'd be missing that new bond we have. :)

  33. Oh, I own it. I own it up and down the street. I have for about 18 months now. My colleagues at school celebrated with me when my book made it into ABNA. Then 9 months later when I signed with my agent. Then a few months later when the book sold.

    I've owned it for a while. When people ask me where to buy my book, I would (and still do) say "Oh, it's not out yet. I'm looking for an agent." Or "I'm revising for my agent." Or whatever. There's no shame in that.

    And yeah, regular people don't get it, but they never will. The don't get why it takes 18 months to publish either, or why you're not JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, retired on the beach.

    So you own it anyway.

  34. I don't know if owning makes that much of a difference to anyone else. I own it. Everyone I know knows I want to be published. Yet out of 100 followers I know 3 in real life. I still hardly talk to real life friends about writing, because they still don't get it. And I still lead one life online and one in real life.

    The only thing that will probably change if you announce it, is you.

  35. I say own it! I recently signed with my first agent, and for a little while was (other than to my family, close friends and my squealing self) keeping things on the DL. I felt like there would be too much explanation involved about where I was in the publication process, and that it would be awkward. Then, I asked my lovely agent if it would be all right to let my blog followers know about her. She said that after the contract was signed, I could tell anyone I wanted.

    Oh, I realized. I could. Something about the person responsible for my current excitement giving me the okay to tell the world if I so chose made realize that writing is truly a part of me. Where I am in the publication process is also a part of me, and if people ask what I do, I'm going to tell them, awkwardness and explanations of what an agent actually does be damned!

    Forgive the rambles. You have something to be proud of! Not just the final product, but every step you take on the journey toward getting there. I've found that even if people outside the writing community don't understand where you're at, they'll be happy for you, and intrigued by something that can feel slow from the inside but is outwardly very exciting.

  36. You should definitely own it! When they ask the inevitable "Have you been published?" question, just smile and say you're working with an agent to make it the best it can be. People are always fascinated by writers, I've found.


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