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.