Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Is Silence Really Golden?

So here's a writerly question. For those of you who have gotten published, do you ever feel like some of your friends actually don't want to read what you've written?

Don't get me wrong, I have several friends who are VERY supportive and good about reading my fiction on the very rare occasion that it's published, or notice my day job writing and comment on it and maybe congratulate me, but lots seem to shy away from the stuff that I write for my day job, which is pretty easily accessible. And some seem to shy away from all of it, altogether.

Has anyone encountered anything like this? It just seems weird to me. I don't know, I guess being a writer doesn't mean everybody you know should read what you write. I suppose I don't go watch my friends who, say, participate in bike races, race all the time or whatever. But sometimes I just get weirded out, and sort of feel like if I tell people about something I wrote, I'm being arrogant... or they're afraid I've written something about them... or something. Maybe it's too personal.

I kind of feel it's a dumb question (not to mention maybe egocentric, since it's not like many people demand that I participate in the things they do, like I said before), but a question nonetheless.

Thanks for reading,



Blogger Jen said...

This is a touchy subject, but I'm glad you commented on it. My experience is a little different, since I don't write as my day job, but I'll relate anyway. The first couple of times I was published, everyone was very enthusiastic and read the stories, but after that, the congratulations stopped. I eventually stopped e-mailing people about subsequent publishings (just linking them to my blog, which many of my friends don't read, anyway).

I think, for others, it might be that each new achievement is still a lateral move for me, like a tennis player who keeps winning regional tournaments but never draws a seed for a grand slam. I think if I published a book or did something "greater" than having a story published in a journal that people would be more impressed. I think in society in general there's always an expectation of forward progress and not much recognition of repeated achievement.

I think it's also tough on your realtionships with friends who also write. I have a friend who I feel like basically has stopped communicating with me because I've entered this other realm of "published author." I may be wrong; they could be avoiding me for other reasons all together, but I have noticed a correlation. It's tough, because you want to be proud of your achievements (especially considering how many rejections we get) but not come off as having a big head. By the same token, you also want your friends to be gracious and supportive and enthusiastic of you, as you would them if they were getting published.

9:12 AM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Phew, I'm glad you're glad. I do feel like it's touchy but it's something that does occasionally bother me.

I think you're right on all points. I guess a lot of it does sound lateral, until we get published somewhere they recognize (like, "The New Yorker" would likely incite more of an outpouring at this point). I guess some of these less-well-known mags, people are gonna be like, so? I'm not sure that all people understand how hard it is to get published -- so they don't understand why it's a big deal when we make the announcement.

And yeah, for friends who do write, I'd like to think it shows them if they keep trying, they will probably get somewhere, but maybe sometimes it just sounds arrogant.

Speaking of your blog, don't forget to post when your stuff goes live! :)

7:43 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

Jen & Litblitz: I've noticed the same thing too and so have other friends who write. Hell, my friends don't read my blog either.

I have one friend who doesn't write but she got a small article published after someone in Toronto contacted her as she was an "expert" in her field. She doesn't realize what a wonderful achievement that was to get something in a country-wide magazine. I asked her to forward me a copy or tell me even what magazine it was but she never did and I forgot to pursue that.

Also, as Jen was saying about the idea of making a big jump as opposed to a lateral move: I sometimes introduce myself as a writer and I always get immediately asked what books I've published. When I tell people I've only published a few articles, they change the subject.

Next time I am going to say "The Life of Pi" and tell them about my Booker Prize sitting on the mantel: "Yeah, it's like the Oscar and I polish it every afternoon between my cigar and brandy sessions. Oh, there was this big ceremony and I got knighted and everything. Nothing too spectacular really."

I would love for my friends to read (and genuinely like) my stuff but I know many of them don't read the sorts of things I do and hence the sorts of things that have influenced my writing.

8:07 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

LOL, Maktaaq! I like that idea, telling people you wrote Life of Pi and that you won the Booker Prize. Whee!

Seriously, I do think that that's probably the only thing that's going to make tremendous sense to most people. And without having been involved in the years of sending stuff to magazines, I have to say it's hard to understand.

And it's also true that tastes in reading probably make a difference, as you say... If somebody usually reads the newspaper or Tom Clancy books, they probably won't be too interested in our fiction!

Oh, and yeah, most of my friends don't read my blog. Again, not really interested in details of reading and writing. :)

8:15 PM  
Blogger girlzoot said...

On a different note, one of the problems that comes up for me, is the voracious need for my firends to see themselves in what I write.

My publishing is limited, and damn near non-existent, but if they see a glimmer of something that might have happened that they witnessed, then of course I've warped it beyond reason into something and they want to know why.

Fictionalizing my view of life by taking small moments and blowing life into scraps of moments makes people pick things apart when it comes to my writing. I get a lot of "I had no idea you saw me that way" or "That isn't what happened" or my absolute favorite "You're remembering it wrong".

If I have even a kernel of something truth my friends and family assume I'm writing everything true to life, and this is where I lose them as an audience and often times as a support.

Do you ever have that problem?

3:30 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Hi girlzoot, you're right, that is yet another aspect of the same topic. Interesting... it kind of reminds me of that song, "you're so vain, you probably think this song is about you," ha...

But seriously, I do have a few stories where, like you say, I have taken a scrap of life and turned it into something else... what might have happened, what could have happened, but didn't. I suppose those rare instances I do face the danger of having the person who's the loose composite coming at me with rage. It hasn't happened yet, but I guess I'd best steel myself for it.

And oh yeah... I had a horror short story where there was a roommate... NOT modeled on my roommate... but I wondered if some people thought it was supposed to be her. It was a concern but no one came right out and asked. I guess most importantly, she didn't think it was about her.

11:45 PM  
Blogger girlzoot said...

I think the place that I saw it brought up the most in a writer's life was in a movie I saw a couple years ago with Alan Cummings and Jennifer Jason Leigh (who co-wrote) called The Anniversary Party.

Everyone thought everything he wrote was exactly what had happened in his life. It led to several little running gags in the film that paid off well but was obviously a subject of obvious discomfort for both.

Which begs the question, do you ever think of an audience when you write?

1:38 AM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Oh, I should rent that movie, that sounds interesting.

I think I'd be lying if I said I never thought of audience. I think I always do, even if unconsciously. Thinking of specific audience, like my friends who might misconstrue, I never really change what comes out... well, wait, sometimes I do. But ultimately I suppose if I didn't think of audience I might be free of some of the fetters that hold me back, too.

8:28 PM  

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