But a few weeks ago we discovered that I had some things to say about how to tell people you're an aspiring writer.
It can be tricky when people are hearing about your writing for the first time.
|Has anyone ever said THIS to an aspiring writer?|
But what about the opposite? What about those people for whom asking about your writing, perhaps even in a very polite and non-obtrusive way, is getting repetitive? What about the people who have watched you be an aspiring writer for YEARS?
I am thankful to report that in my experience, these people (probably because they know you well and hopefully love you at least a little) are rather nice about the whole thing. You've really got to give them credit for not outright telling you you're crazy.
But they're only human, so they CAN occasionally spring an unpleasant little routine on you. It goes like this:
"Let me know when you finish your book. Okay, let's be honest, IF you finish your book."
"Are you EVER going to submit something?"
"You know you actually have to stop being a perfectionist and turn it in eventually, right?"
|Because I have a soft spot for glaring quote misattributions...|
and this is a misattribution wrapped in a whole other kind of special inattentiveness.
Now, this is extra bad for me because I'm performing most of my learning curve on one novel. So, even if I've literally rewritten the thing twice since the last time I saw someone, I still get to tell them I'm working on the same book. (This method of learning the ropes can be done to great effect: See various novelists who took a punishingly long time to write their first book, such as Patrick Rothfuss. Here's hoping I don't take that long..... Uuuugghhhh....)
Maybe I should just lie and tell them it's a new project.
NO. LYING IS BAD. WE'VE BEEN OVER THIS.
Whether you spend a long time on a single project or not, the process of learning to write publishable and even excellent fiction simply takes a lot longer than most people can fathom. Especially if they don't get to see evidence of all the progress you're making!
So, some possible ways to react to the "You're never going to finish/make it/etc." routine:
Solution: Throw your drink in their face.
Drawbacks: Unless there's a lot going on that I don't know about, this is probably a gross overreaction. Extremely rude. Waste of said drink. Also you must have a drink to begin with.
Benefits: Nice and dramatic. Cathartic, probably. Splashy.
Solution: Try to explain to them why it's taking so long/that it often takes about this long for most people who attempt this/that you actually are making progress.
Drawbacks: They may not care or even have the attention span for this explanation. They might not believe you.
Benefits: This is what you would do if you actually wanted someone to be on the same page as you (no writing pun intended).
Solution: Actually show them some of your work, preferably over time so they can see improvement.
Drawbacks: You have to show them your work. Not everyone is cut out to be an alpha or beta reader. Some people should not even be granted gamma status. Fact of life. (This is not even about you getting helpful feedback; this is about their relationship with you.)
Benefits: This might be the best way to inspire real confidence that you're not just frittering away your life doing nothing and being a deluded perfectionist who agonizes over word choice six hours a day. (Do people actually do that? Just wondering.) I think Tyler-Rose has systematically given writing samples to people in her life and had good results.
Solution: Smile, laugh it off, and ignore them.
Drawback: They might do it again. Be ready. Also, you have to really commit to ignoring them. Like, don't just ignore them in the moment. Ignore DEEPLY. Recognize that they don't understand the situation and let it give you exactly zero bothers.
Benefits: This is the real-life option, guys. For the most part, anyway. They were probably kind of joking, actually. Chill out.
...or maybe mix a couple of those together. Like, drink-in-the-face and laugh-it-off. That would be a winner, right?
Before I run off to continue working on my novel (THAT SAME NOVEL YES THANK YOU FOR ASKING) ...ahem.... I should say that I am aware that failure to finish projects is, in fact, a real problem. You have to finish things. Period. The End. (<--Like that!)
Thinking something needs to be perfect before you submit it is also a problem. First, because you'll never submit it. Also, because, judging by the impression I get from people farther along this trail than me, that is not how publishing works.
But since there's no deadline on that first novel, it seems best to do quite a good job of it, even if it means a little extra pressure, frustration, and misunderstanding non-writers. This is complete speculation from me now, but I suspect that those three things never really go away.