Rowling and Meyer: Writing in Secret
By D.L. King http://dlkingwriter.blogspot.com/
Closet writing. It happens more than you think. Just like an undercover FBI agent hiding their veiled career, many writers cloak their work as if they were planning a covert operation instead of writing a novel. It sounds humorous, yet many writers write in secret and this phenomenon is worth some investigation and discussion.
So why keep your writing to yourself? Why not share your excitement from the start and proclaim your envied position as an artist? The answers are fairly straightforward:
1) Creativity is very personal and often artists are shy and delicate creatures.
2) The artist’s life is easily misunderstood by the general population.
3) Many artists wade against an opposing societal current that treats with derision not only the content they’ve chosen but also the very nature of their profession. Writing fiction isn’t your typical 9-5, and by many, isn’t even seen as work.
Furthermore, creativity can be a fragile beast, a beast that needs nurturing. That nurturing can be provided either internally or externally, depending on the individual’s needs, but the beast is demanding and must be fed. And coming to terms with the ramifications of art is something every writer must face if they are to succeed. For some it is a fast process of self-acceptance, but for others it can be a slow and agonizing evolution.
One of the initial hurdles of this progression is overcoming self-doubts. Or the: ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘This business is tough.’ ‘What will so and so think,’ phase. Then comes facing outside obstacles: “Writer? Is that why we sent you to college?” “Good idea, but I think I read that story before,” etc. But with an internal battle already waging in the mind and because there can be many more forces that hamper creativity than foster it, many beginning artists shy away from exposing themselves to outside judgment for fear their sensitive vision may crushed.
Take for example two of the bigs: Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling.
When Meyer was writing Twilight she didn’t tell anyone, not even her husband. She would simply sneak off to the computer and go into deep cover mode.
“I was really protective and shy about it because it’s a vampire romance. It’s still embarrassing to say those words — it sounds so cheesy,” she confessed. “It’s not like I was going to tell him (her husband) that I was writing this story about vampires, because he was just going to be even more perturbed.” (http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2007-07-12/news/charmed/2/)
The person who finally broke Meyer’s silence was her older sister, Emily Rasmussen, and Meyer ended up sending her sister the manuscript piece by piece. Rasmussen fell in love with Twilight and encouraged her to find a publisher.
And then there’s J.K. Rowling. For years Rowling was also a closet writer and not many people knew of her literary endeavors. Not even her parents. When one of her pupils discovered she was writing a book, Rowling felt embarrassed and tried to trivialize her writing. “I think I said, ‘No it’s just a hobby.'” http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/0700-guardian-hattenstone.htm
She also once told a friend she was writing a novel, and the friend’s eyes glazed over. “I think she thought I was deluding myself, that I was in a nasty situation, and had sat down one day and thought, ‘I know, I’ll write a novel.’ She probably thought it was a get-rich-quick scheme.” http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/0700-guardian-hattenstone.htm
But as the story goes, she told her sister Dianne about the concept of Harry Potter. And Dianne is said to have instantly loved it and became a huge supporter and finally encouraged J.K. to send the manuscript to publishers. “It’s possible if she had not laughed, I would have set the whole thing to one side,” admitted Rowling, “but Di did laugh.” (http://www.famous-women-and-beauty.com/j-k-rowling-biography.html)
So…confession: Personally, in the beginning, I didn’t want to tell people that I was writing either. I was on the cusp of quitting before I even started, thinking that I’d never accomplish anything, and that most everyone I knew would assume I was on some silly venture.
If anyone needed some external nurturing, it was me. So, like Meyer and Rowling, I only told a few people whom I knew would respond with nothing but support. And that was key. Knowing that someone is cheering you on, whether it’s yourself or someone else, kindles that flame of self-confidence. So that eventually you can step out your door and say: “Hello, world! I’m a writer!”
Later, in addition to telling those first few wonderful people, this gave me enough assurance to join a critique group. And having that extra anchor was fantastic, as the group, too, knew the writer’s plight. There were some bumps on the way as some people gave me the evil-critical-eye. But it wasn’t long before I was known as “a writer.”
As Thomas Dreier once said: “The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are.” To see this principle in action, one of the greatest ways to find out what you’re projecting is by examining the gifts you receive. As I started to tell more people about writing, going to classes and conferences, and meeting with editors, etc., I noticed that for Christmases and birthdays I started getting more bookstore gift cards and books on writing/grammar.
But finally the ultimate present I received was a pair of earrings in the shape of matching books. I was shocked and closed the box. The giver wondered if I didn’t like the gift, and I told them: “No, I do, but why did you think to give these to me?” (Silly, I know.) They furrowed their brow and said, “Uh, because you’re a writer, duh.” I scratched my head and smiled. “Oh, I guess I am.”
From that day on I was able to put my secret-agent-writer-FBI-badge away and like Rowling and Meyer, acknowledge those first few supportive people who nurtured my artistic endeavourers and built my confidence sky-high.
As an avid writer by day and werewolf by night, D.L. King is a YA and picture book writer currently querying literary agencies for representation.
Keep an eye out for D.L. Her ideas are fresh and I think we will be seeing much more of her in the near future!