The Secret Lives of Writers

“If a story is in you it has to come out.” William Faulkner

I’ve heard many times that we all have a story inside us. I’m sure you have, too. When my very first short story was published, and it came up in a conversation with  a friend months later,  my friend said, “They say we all have a story inside us.” I guess she wasn’t very impressed or else thought it was a one time thing that would never be repeated, that it was my ONE and only story. At the time I shrugged the whole “ I’ve been published” thing off, made out that it was no big deal. But guess what? It was a big deal to me.  Although I was secretly pleased with myself, I was certain no one else gave a flying fig. My friend’s reaction was proof of that. The whole truth was I felt very self-conscious about the fact that I was writing.

Yes, I was a closet writer for many years. I’m sure some of you are as well. I remember those days when I could not speak about writing to anyone without feeling a bit strange. Today, I know that strange feeling was caused by not truly believing I was a writer. I thought I was following a dream that would never become reality because truly great things would probably never happen to me. I was just too ordinary. I remember feeling as though I was keeping some well-guarded secret from the rest of the world, protecting my privacy, holding fast to who I was because no one would even care or understand my need to write.

But the secret finally came out as most secrets do, especially those secrets that niggle away at you, never letting you quite forget that you’re a keeper of a secret that will eventually become known.

I often wonder what my life would look like today if I had not let that first story out as Faulkner says. Would I have found some other outlet for my creativity? Or would I have become a cranky middle-aged woman who despises her life and everyone in it?

I believe that we all are here to bring new creations into the world. We shouldn’t think that our contributions are any less important than someone else’s. We will not all paint a Mona Lisa, or invent a telephone, computer or write a Harry Potter series.

Surprise! I’m not J.K. Rowling. I’m Laura Best. I can only create what is inside me to create. I can only use the talents and skills that have been given me. I can only write the words are in me to write, express myself in a way that only I can. Bitter, Sweet will never sell a million copies (nor, I’m sure, will any of my future books and that’s okay) but that won’t stop me from letting my stories out into the world. Because the secret’s out, and now that it’s out I don’t care who knows.

If we create for creativity’s sake then what is there for us to lose, what is there for us to keep secret?

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  1. Laura, you speak for many of us. I was a closet writer, sharing my stories with few people and being self-conscious even with them. Is it that we think writing fiction is the greatest ‘job’ in the world, one we don’t deserve because we’re normal, or do we think others believe it’s not a ‘real’ job (aka construction worker, store clerk, plumber, ect.)?

    Pat yourself on the back for persevering. Jobs that are out of the ordinary are for ordinary people, too. We just have to believe.

    We may all have a story to tell, but we all don’t tell it through words. That’s reserved for a select few: us! Others tell it through paintings, skulptures, bridges, gardens and children.

    From the moment you put pen to paper, you write. When you craft those words into stories, you’re a writer.

    • I think I shared my first writing with my oldest sister. There was initial enthusiasm that eventually dwindled away as the months and years went by without any of my work seeing print. I’m being honest here, it’s difficult for people to be enthusiastic when you haven’t anything concrete to show them, when that dream is still in the dreaming state.

      I agree, there are many ways we can tell our story.

  2. We all have a story to tell, and there is someone out there who wants to hear it. I so wish I had stories of my ancesters, would be so much easier than digging through genealogy which gives us dates, not stories.

    • Stories from our ancestors would be quite wonderful and yet it seems, that each generation comes along, says the same thing, yet fails to write down their story. If only they realized that it is the story that is important for us, not simply the way they tell it.

  3. Once again, Laura, you touched on a topic that resonates with us all. I still have trouble saying I’m a writer and am almost apologetic about it. I downplay my achievements and don’t promote myself nearly enough. I always dread the question “So what do you do?” Like you say, no one else is that impressed about being published except for writers who have struggled for years perfecting their craft. Only they know the struggles and the commitment that has gone before and still goes on.

    I still enjoy writing my stories and blog posts. I am content creating even if I don’t become rich and famous with a bestseller. It beats the heck out of housework! heheh

    The main thing is that I AM A WRITER and need to remind myself of that daily.


    • Thanks Cathy. I’m glad that something I’ve written has resonated with you. Yeah, the “what do you do?” question. For many years I would tell people about my “regular” job and not mention my writing. Sometimes when I got up the courage to mention the writing I noticed some of the people seemed a bit uneasy.

      You keep doing what you’re doing, Cathy. You’re a writer, you know it, and that makes me smile. :)

  4. Nicely put. Your words speak for most writers. There are always exceptions, but I’ve never met any of them. We fear, we hide, we dream, we write. I think it’s marvelous that we all this this one thing in common. Bravo to you for living the dream, Laura.

    • Thanks, Joylene. One would think that after a time our confidence level would be very high, and while we seem to have a certain amount of it, it seems to me it doesn’t take much to shatter that confidence. It is good to know we are not alone in this. :)

  5. This is so true for meeting all goals actually. You have to articulate them, even if people don’t take you seriously. Until I actually talked about my goal to be a published writer, nothing much happened. So glad we all ‘came out of the closet’!

    • I agree with you, Darlene, that putting our desires out there can help get things going. There’s a time for us to let others know what we do, that it is valued, and absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t talk about it.

  6. “If a story is in you….” Works the same way for sculptors.

  7. I’m glad you wrote “Bitter, Sweet.” It was an enjoyable read, a good story.

    • Thank you so much, Patti. I’m glad you enjoyed my little book, and I AM glad I wrote it, or I say that it wrote itself.

  8. So glad you overcame that closet-writer mentality, Laura. You have a real gift, and we’re honoured that you share it with us.

    • Thanks, Jodi! Your so sweet, and I didn’t even have to bribe you with that Mars bar I’ve been hanging onto for a special occasion. :)

  9. fivecats

     /  October 5, 2011

    I agree we all have that creative side – it’s a matter of discovering it and constantly working at it as a craft. Whether it develops into being published, or to have that special show, is not that important. You’re doing what you enjoy.

    I like the new format – was it an easy transition?

    • Creativity does take work. Even when there is talent there, improvements can be made regardless of what form our creativity takes.

      Glad you like the new format. I just previewed new themes on wordpress and when I found one I liked I activated it. The press of a key. All the widgets I’d added worked out good on this theme. Some themes don’t seem to accept everything that was on the old blog. I’m not sure yet if the Feedjit will work properly or not, but it’s not that important a thing. WordPress has great stats.

  10. Thank you, Laura. I’ve really been struggling with this.

    • Linda, all writers have their confidence shaken from time to time. Being published doesn’t mean we’ll never be rejected again. Also, like you, once my book came out, I felt this need to produce the next one. It really stifled my creativity for a time. Now I’m back!

  11. Nice. I’ve used that WordPress theme before – if you look around, there are a few options for the background, I think, that are a little lighter?

    • I might try going a bit lighter if that’s the case. I think the brown goes well with the book cover. I’m such a lover of green, but I’m trying to get out of that rut. My Dalhousie blog, of course, is green..

  12. Nice new look!

    This is especially interesting to me, because it’s the complete opposite of my own experience. I’ve been “out of the closet” from the time I was five years old. I told everyone and anyone who would listen that I was going to be a writer, and by the time I was a teenager, it was expected of me. People tried to give me money to write their essays for them. :)

    I was always positive that I was destined for great things. I don’t know if it’s better or worse to believe in yourself early on and find that success still takes a lot of hard work and time, or to not expect much and be pleasantly surprised.

    • Some people are “out of the closet” right from the start, Holli, although I don’t think it’s all that common. (I may be wrong here.) The fact that you were filled with confidence right from the start, I think is simply wonderful. But yes, it still is a lot of work. Hang in there tough, you’re getting there. :)

  13. Writing comes from the soul and it does take a while to build up the courage to put your soul out there. I was a “secret” writer for a long time and in some cases I still am. I put a few things out to public view, but a lot still stays locked up in my hard drive until I’m ready to release it into the wild. :-)

    • “Writing comes from the soul and it does take a while to build up the courage to put your soul out there.”—C.B, I think that’s a lovely way to put it and quite accurate. Although writing feels so private when we are actually doing the writing, it gets shared with many. A real contradiction.

  14. I like the new look, Laura. It has a rich, leather-bound-journal, literary look to it.

    I’ve often thought most of us don’t really know what it means to be a writer. After all, we write our way through school, taking notes and examinations, we write resumes, send letters, doodle on grocery lists, and never consider we’re doing anything unusual with our pens. Maybe it’s when we let our imaginations take charge of our writing, or we begin putting down words dredged from our souls, that we morph into real writers.

    I wonder why we keep our passion for writing a secret at all. Nobody hides that they knit, or that they garden, even if what they produce doesn’t equal the quality of work others might produce. Do we believe writing fiction is too trivial or too frivolous to indulge in? Or do we believe we’re not worthy to aspire to an activity claimed by big names on a Best Sellers’ list? Isn’t outing the secret more about our own attitude? Believing we have the right to pursue whatever activity brings us personal satisfaction?

    Oh, goodness! Somebody — quick! — knock me off my soap box! :D

    • I totally agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve asked these same questions and wondered why the answers are. When you said “Do we believe writing fiction is too trivial or too frivolous to indulge in?” I think, for me, you might have hit it. I grew up in a family/community were hard work was thought to be an admirable thing,. The harder you worked, the further you got in life, and the more people respected you. Except, what many non-writers may not know or appreciate is the hard work involved in writing. It’s just not physically hard.

      I loved you on your soapbox, Carol. LOL!

  15. Well said. Really.
    It feels AH-mazing to say. “I’m a writer.”

  16. I think what Faulkner said is true but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to let the story come out. it’s a long process fill with disappointments and false starts. I don’t think J.K. Rowling was always J.K. Rowling, perhaps she too kept her writing a secret, unsure of what others mights said.

    hope you’re having a lovely autumn.

    • Finding that place where the story exists can be very challenging, I agree. Even once we’ve found that place where one story exists, the next one can be be just as challenging. Most people are not over night success. Often times we hear only about the success and not all the hard work they had to go through in order to find that success.

  17. A friend sent this to me yesterday. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs
    Not bad advice, is it?

    • This is a terrific quote, Heather, and thanks for posting it. Following our heart and our intuition is the best way to make our dreams reality. It is wonderful advice.

  18. You hit on a great point Laura. I very much agree with you, and I see it applicable to so many things in addition to writing. Hidden talents, I call them. For many, it comes down to the issue of time…not enough of it…to fully express these talents. For others, it’s fear of expressing the talent and not having it be accepted. For still others, it’s just plain old laziness or not being introspective enough to realize there are hidden talents within.

    • Many of us do have “hidden” talents, not just writers. It is a shame that we feel the need to keep our talents a secret from others. You’re right about all the reasons people keep their talents secret. I know people who fall into everyone of those categories.


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