Sunday, 13 July 2014

Closet Writers: Why Are We in the Closet?

I recently discovered that the world is full of closet writers. I didn't necessarily think I was alone, I just didn't realise how many of us were crammed into this closet. We're everywhere.

But now I'm stepping out of the closet, so to speak. Just like I did with my paintings, I've decided to come clean about my sneaky little habit of writing when no one is looking. I know, I know, how sneaky is it when I'm blogging for the whole world to see? But I'm not just talking about my blog (which, incidentally, very few friends and family even know about....but I'll get to that!), I'm talking about a few other homes for my words.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I always wanted to write a book; I just never knew what to write about. Back then, I didn't doubt my ability to do it. In fact, it wouldn't have occurred to me that I couldn't do it. I just lacked content.

As the years went by, the desire was still there, but it was pushed dismissively to the side. I had bigger fish to fry. I had a career and a social life for starters. I travelled and I found the one and I got married and I had children and we moved houses and I simply ignored that inner voice calling me to write something. Anything!

And then I became aware of a really big change that had taken place inside my own head. I no longer lacked content. I realised that I had content, I had ideas. Heavens above, I even had some time. What I didn't have now was confidence. How could I write a book? I've never written a book before. I'm not even a writer! Somewhere, somehow, over the space of 15 - 20 years, I taught myself that I couldn't do it. And for me, that was a much bigger hurdle to overcome than not knowing where to start.

After years of discussion (procrastinating) with my husband, I finally took the first step and completed a course at The Australian Writers' Centre called Writing for Children and Young Adults. It was such a great experience and it kick-started my first project, a children's novel. Of course, that was nearly three years ago and that unfinished project has been on hold for at least two years, but hey, I started it!

The reason it's on hold though (apart from hitting a major flaw in my plot that stopped me in my tracks) is that I started a different project, this one aimed at young adults. I was really enjoying the early stages of this book when I became overcome by the need to start yet another project. When will it end?!

So now, with two unfinished books on the back burner, I am well and truly embedded in a chick-lit novel that I have been writing for around 2 years. Given that my writing is squished into sporadic, tiny snippets of free time, I often go weeks, months even without looking at it. And reflecting on that, I'm quite happy knowing that I've churned out over 42,000 words of this story and really enjoyed doing so.

Why is it, then, that my fellow closet writers and I are so secretive about this business? I think there are a few reasons. Some people purely want to write and have no desire at all to share their writing. Some are afraid of the pressure that will follow as well-meaning friends and family ask how their book is coming along. There may be an element of shyness or embarrassment or a preference to keep it under wraps until there's something tangible to show for it. For me, I think it's been a combination of all of those things but I admit that fear is probably the biggest. What if I never finish a book? What if I do and it's just plain awful?

What if? What. If. These two words have severely interfered with my life. For a long time. And stepping back and looking at my fears logically, I can answer my what-if questions. If I never finish a book, my life will simply remain as it is. If I finish a book and it's awful, I can rewrite it or rejoice in the fact that I wrote a freaking book! That's it. That's the fallout from my seriously consuming what-if paranoia. I may as well be scared of broccoli.

Do you have a secret hobby?