To Write or Not to Write (…what was the question?)

Both Elizabeth Berg (Escaping into the Open) and Carolyn See (Making a Literary Life) advise against telling people that you are writing a book. Why? Because then people will, of course, want to know what it’s about. It goes like this:

You: So, what do you do?
Me: Oh, nothing much – this and that
Mr. C: She’s writing a book!
Me: (argh)
You: Oh! What is it?
Me: just… a novel.
You: What’s it about?
Me: Um……
Mr. C: She’s really good!
Me: (sigh)

At this point my muse runs for its life and I’m going to have to spend the rest of the week coaxing it out of hiding. It’s a fact that somehow having to articulate what your story is about causes your brain to freeze up tighter than the Yukon River in February. And not just momentarily, either. It will freeze up and stay that way for days. Possibly weeks. When the muse runs away, self-doubt and insecurity rush in to fill the void. And insecurity is as hard as…(insert favourite cliche here.)

This morning I discovered a website for insecure writers. In fact, it’s actually called The Insecure Writers Support Group. How great is that, eh? Sounds right up my alley. Obviously I’m not the only insecure writer out there. There are apparently enough insecure writers to have their own society!

I haven’t spent any time perusing the website yet, but I’m sure I’ll need to do some procrastinating pretty soon, so I’ve bookmarked it. There are probably hours and hours of good procrastination-enhancing posts in there.

So, why am I telling you all this? Because words have power. How can I be a writer if I don’t call myself one?

(insert sound of crickets)

See what I mean? So I’m coming out of the closet. No more calling myself a dabbler. I’m a writer.

Scared Me: But Nita, how can you call yourself a writer if you haven’t published anything?
Writer Me: I figure you don’t have to be published to be a writer. Maybe to be an author…but not a writer. Probably some of the best writers out there have never been published. But then, we’ll never know, will we.

Truth be told, I actually have been published. I published an article in a couple of bellydance magazines that no longer exist – years ago – back in the dark ages. So far back that it doesn’t really count. Yeah, okay…lame. I know. But if I did it once, I can do it again. And maybe get paid next time.

What have I done so far to establish myself as a writer besides hiding in my house, writing? (Or procrastinating about writing?)

Two small things I did yesterday:

  • I set up a twitter account (nitacollinswri2) so that I can follow other suitably writerly folk and start building contacts. (so far twitter is a big black hole with nothing in it. I need my son to come home for a weekend and teach me how to use it)
  • I set up a new email account from which I will be able to send and receive writerly email.

Also, (Very Important!) I decided that I am going to use up one of our precious Air North tickets to fly to Whitehorse to attend a publishing workshop in November. Here’s the workshop blurb:

Cynthia Good, former publisher of Penguin, and literary agent Ron Eckel will present a 2-day workshop at the Whitehorse Public Library in November. Participants will get a rare insider’s perspective on how to get published from two of the top professionals in Canada. Ron and Cynthia will critique query letters, discuss Canadian publishers and literary agents and help writers develop a marketing plan.

Whitehorse weather can be dicey in November, so I hope it will be cooperative and conducive to opening the cabin for a week. Otherwise I’ll be couch-surfing.

Is it too soon to start learning about query letters and who publishes what and how to go about getting published? …And a Marketing Plan? What? Eee Gads, I haven’t even got a completed manuscript yet!

Scared Me: How can you spend that much money (money you can’t really afford to spend) just to fly to Whitehorse, just to go to this workshop when you haven’t even finished your first manuscript yet? Are you crazy? There are going to be real writers at that workshop!
Writer Me: I’m a real writer, too. And when I do finish the book, at least I’ll have a better idea of what to do next.

Scared Me: Aaaaaaaaak!
Writer Me: Aaaaaaaaak!

Have I left anything out?


Okay. As soon as I finish my tea, I’m going to take Sammy out for a walk. And then there’s a quilting project I need to organize. And laundry to fold. And that website to browse.

Ha ha, just kidding!

As soon as I finish my tea, I’m going to take Sammy out for a walk. And then I’m going to open up Scrivener and get to work.


  1. I have proof you’re a writer – and a darn good one! go to the workshop and enjoy, then tell me lots about what you’ve learned because I do wish I could join you!!!

  2. Yes, you are a writer! Enjoy your time at the conference at Whitehorse. I hear conferences are such a wonderful way to connect with other writers and feel inspired (and perhaps feel overwhelmed at everything too?) Someday I will be attending a conference. Maybe 2016. Hm…

    Btw, I follow a blog called Query Shark. Very helpful analyses of real queries. I’ve been writing and editing my query alongside my manuscript. It helps me focus on the meat of the beginning of the story. Now, if I can just get the rest of my story focused!

  3. Congratulations! Taking the next step on your journey of life, very exciting! I hope you will continue blogging, I so enjoy reading your posts.

  4. I think I’m a writer – yet all I write is posts on a blog and lots of emails and documents for work. And who could resist Whitehorse in November 🙂 I’m heading for Newfoundland for three weeks myself….

  5. Your taking some really important steps when it comes to being a writer including arguably one of the most important steps which is just labeling yourself as such. Your at one of the best phases of being a writer (at least that I’ve gone through): the point were there’s no turning back and that’s a good thing.

  6. Your post made me smile. I believe you ought to go to Whitehorse. Yes, it’s never too early to learn about query letters and submission guidelines, and all the other things you need to know when that finished manuscript is ready. In fact, knowing those things can help to guide some of the direction your writing takes. And you’ll know what to look for when your characters take over your book – what will be worth emphasizing to an editor. This is from people who KNOW how it all works. Why wouldn’t you want to go and pick apart their brains? Maybe there will be published authors there, and maybe not. Definitely there will be others in exactly your position and you can network, and find support and give support – and maybe have someone who cares about what you tweet. =)

    Develop some answers for those who ask what your book is about. Things like “Oh, I don’t want to jinx anything by telling right now.” Or “You’ll just have to buy it and see,” wink, wink. Or “It’s a scholarly work, an expose of the mind.” Well, that’ll confuse them, especially if you say it as if you completely expect them to know what that means! LOL Just make up anything. Chances are good they aren’t going to remember when your book comes out that it isn’t the 1890s romance set in Texas during the civil war, as you told them two years before. =)

  7. You write…therefore you are a writer. You write a blog don’t you? So you are a writer. You are working on a manuscript, right? So you are a writer. I called myself a writer first, I now call myself an author because that’s what I am. You will be too. Sometimes you need that excitement of a workshop to really get you motivated. Good luck! 🙂

I'd love to hear your thoughts!