Are You a Closet Writer?

I find it amazing the number of people who have admitted to scribbling poetry and prose in journals then neatly tucking it away from the rest of the world. Maybe they’re afraid that others might think it’s a waste of their time or they’re worried that no one will ever think their work worthy of publication. Who knows? Whatever the case I’ve had many people tell me that they once wrote a story or else they write regularly, or their mother or daughter or sister or uncle writes stories, usually adding that they have no desire to see their work published. Yet it is obvious that they have a innate desire to write or else they wouldn’t even attempt it.

Many years ago I was one of those people who wrote in secret. I believe I actually felt embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed writing, and that I loved the way words flowed upon the page, the images they conjured up. The truth was, I couldn’t begin to imagine not writing something down on paper even though it seemed a frivolous indulgence and, something that I really didn’t have time for. To be honest it seemed impractical. Would it end up being a waste of my time if I was never able to see my work in print? Back then publication seemed like a pipe dream. How could I possibley become a published writer? I was just too ordinary. I didn’t have good enough ideas. No one would ever want to read something I had written. Or so I thought.

I’ll admit publication isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy road to travel. And let’s face it, having your story out there in the world leaves it open not only to praise but to criticism as well. Praise is something every writer enjoys hearing. Heck, who wouldn’t? It’s like someone telling you that you have a cute baby.

I believe that we all have a creative side, and that we are born with a need to express this creativity. I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t create on some level. It certainly doesn’t have to take the form of writing. It can be knitting, sewing, scrap booking, painting, drawing, crafting, cooking, baking, gardening—-these are all ways of expressing our creative abilities. It’s an endless list. I find it curious that people will hide the fact that they are writing,but at the same time have no qualms showing off the latest sweater they knit or the scrapbook they put together for their grandchild. They send off homemade greeting cards without being the least bit self-conscious. So, why are these same people ashamed to admit they write? And why do we seem to place so much emphasis on words, worrying that they might not be good enough to share with others?

Like every craft, writing is something that we need to practice. The more we practice the better writers we become. Not only that, it needs to be our own, a story that no one else on the planet could write, from a perspective unique only to us. Pretty cool when you think of it like that!!

I sometimes wonder how many gifted writers are out there who are afraid to share what they do with the rest of us. How many scribble away in secret because they’re afraid they just aren’t good enough? And do they ever dream of what might have been if they only had the courage? I think one of the saddest things in life is allowing our dreams to die away to nothing because of fear. I think that’s why I always try to encourage other writers as best I can. We all deserve to have a dream.

So, what about you, are you now or have you ever been a closet writer? It’s confession time. Time to step out of the closet. Be brave. We won’t laugh…

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  1. This made me laugh because I started off as a closet writer too. I remember being embarrassed when my youngest son came home from school and said he’d told his teacher I was writing a book and she hoped to see what I’d written. Gasp, I can’t believe I sent a few chapters with him the next day. Looking back now, I realize how terrible my writing was. LOL. But I was 31, what did I know.

    Great post, Laura.

    • Thanks for your comment, Joylene. It’s comforting to know that the more we write, the stronger our writing becomes. Thankfully, we’ve all made improvements over the years.

      Glad you came out of the closet.

  2. I’ve always written with publication in mind. I’d rather someone tell me my baby was ugly than for no one to see it at all. On the other hand, I keep a lid on telling anyone what I do all day. Only my family, my critique partners, and my blogging friends know I write. I’ll even lie to keep from telling anyone I write. I’m so afraid they’ll ask what I’ve published. Until I’ve seen some success, I’m just a homemaker.

    • Aah! So, a semi-closet writer is it? I know what you mean, though Tricia. Sharing with certain friends and family feels safe because you know these people are not going to think it’s a waste of time. We need to have people who support our creative endeavors and strangers often times just don’t get it. They immediately want to know what we have published. But you could always make some up fictitiously fabulous title and ask them if they’ve heard of it!!! Then look all shocked and insulted when they say no.

      I also don’t happen to believe in the term “just a homemaker.” As far as I’m concerned there those words don’t belong together in the same sentence.

  3. …..So, what about you, are you now or have you ever been a closet writer? It’s confession time. Time to step out of the closet. Be brave. We won’t laugh…”

    Guess I was too dumb to be intimidated. Never gave it any thought – just started writing & kept goin’. Honestly – have never been motivated or hampered by opinions. Of course my ‘babies’ (boys now 33 & 29) were (& are) ridiculously good lookin’ – they take after their mother – so the ugly baby thing never came into play either.

    I get your point though – ya just gotta be who ya are n’ let the chips fall.

    • I wouldn’t say you’re dumb at all, Dave.. Some people simple have more confidence that others. Confidence is a good thing. To be able to set your goals and just do it without anything holding you back is wonderful. I actually would have been surprised if you had admitted to being a closet writer at one time.

  4. (When I read down the list of comments before starting mine I smiled at all the familiar names. It’s wonderful how the blogosphere has drawn us into a community!)

    And yes, I guess I qualified as a closet writer but only when it came to writing fiction. Creating a magazine article doesn’t take up the amount of time that novel writing does and when someone mentioned seeing an article and said, “I didn’t know you were a writer” I would just give a generalized response and not mention the novels-in-progress. I think, like Tricia, I shrunk from dealing with the “what books have you published?” question. For a long time I also devalued the time I spent writing them, believing that people would think it was time-wasting. After a few years of receiving income from my articles, however, my attitude changed. As I took my efforts more seriously, I found I didn’t care what others thought of my “frivolous” writing. Now I’ll admit to writing novels but I still tend to add a quick “but haven’t anything published yet” comment to forestall the question. :)

    • I agree about the fiction part, Carol. You’re right. I do know some people who think reading fiction is a complete waste of time. But I’d guess that these same people do not see the importance in having dreams and allowing yourself to enter make-believe worlds even for a small time. Sometimes we just have to escape. Don’t we? I know some people who, when they hear I write fiction, automatically think I’m speaking of science fiction for some reason.These same people profess to not liking fiction because it’s unrealistic!

      I think some people see more value in nonfiction articles for whatever reason. It’s good that you take your fiction writing more serious these days. It does take time to build confidence, unless you’re like Dave and have confidence coming out of your ears. Most of us aren’t that lucky.

  5. Hi Laura,
    I think, in some ways, I am still a closet writer. I don’t talk much about what I have stashed away, but when I feel something is completed — then I do like to share that with someone who might .. maybe .. possibly .. be interested, or at the very least care about what concerns me. Is that pride or is it excitement about what I have written and wanting to know others’ reactions to it? Maybe both.
    I have felt most of my life that I am the odd one out … the ‘black sheep’ .. the different or strange one, but now I think that is okay. I don’t mind being me anymore. :)

    As for fiction, I wonder if the same people who do not read it because it is unrealistic watch movies or television programs. How much of what is dredged out of the imagination for those venues is realistic?

    Oh well, not to fear. There are far more people with wild imaginations making good money from it than we know, and there is always room for one more. :) Just to be creative enough to write a great story is a wonderful thing, in my opinion – fiction or not. Maybe someday someone will see that in what I write. My motto: “I live in hope.”

    Currently I am reading more than I am writing, except for starting to put together the next issue of my newsletter. I am enjoying making my way through four books which I can do because I am finding my attention span is shorter than it used to be. :) (I don’t know if that is a good thing.)
    Oh … and two of those four books are fiction.

    • Hi Lynn,

      I think it’s good for us to have confidence in our writing abilities without the confidence to submit our works they simply won’t get published. I’m sure that putting your newsletter together has helped build your confidence. There are people out there reading your words! It’s a great feeling isn’t it?

      Reading and writing go hand in hand and sometimes we need to be spending our time reading. I went through quite a few books in January. Now that I’ve slowed down in that area I find I’m ready to settle into other productive areas. It’s a balance.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lynn. Your comments are always most welcome!!

  6. I was bold as a child and wrote many “books” and then, for many years, I wrote mostly in my head. I would occasionally write down a poem or short story, but shared them with only one or two people (not family) and certainly never tried to get published. It wasn’t until all my children were grown that I attempted to write a novel, which I finished, but then put aside. Now, I write openly … those often, I question the wisdom of that. :-)

    • In some ways writing seems like a very private thing for me and I know that’s because I’ve never shared anything I was working on with anybody. But being open about your writing, I think, is a good thing. It helps build your confidence and you’ll need plenty of that when you’re eventually out promoting your novel!!

  7. those = though (I hate typos!)

  8. I was until I starting running low on fear. My husband and some of my relatives are still closet writers, and I’ve learned not to push them. The saddest part for me is that my husband’s fiction writing in on my level, and he has an amazing idea for a novel that I want to see in print. I can only hope that he’s working on that novel when I’m not looking.

    • Hopefully one day, Ann those you love will finally come out of the closet. One would hate to think of what is wasted by those who don’t have the courage to share their work.

  9. chezjlb

     /  February 20, 2010

    My name is Joyce and I’m a closet writer. That felt good!


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