Write on Wednesday-Coming Out of the Writer's Closet

None of my friends know I do it. My husband knows, but basically ignores it, considering it another amusing little project that takes up time and doesn't make any money. My son probably understands it better than most, and does it himself on occasion. What is this deep dark secret I'm harboring? Writing, of course. "You know the last thing in the world people want to hear from you," writes Carolyn See in Making a Literary Life, "the very last thing they're interested in? The fact that you have always wanted to write, that you cherish dreams of being a writer, that you wrote something and got rejected once, that you believe you have it in you - if only the people around you would give you a chance - to write a very credible, if not great, American novel." Every so often, I think about telling one of my really good friends that I write. Perhaps my friend Pat, who is all about "living your dreams," no matter what age you are. After all, she's nudged me out of my musical shell, taught me to step outside my safe box and take risk now and then. Surely she, of all people, wouldn't think I was silly, or worse yet, pathetic, for writing stories and poems, for hoarding private fantasies about publishing novels. Or my friend Millie, my "other mother" as I call her, who always props up my flagging confidence with genuine caring and pride, who simply grabs me by the hand and drags me into places I'm fearful of, assuring me with steadfast certainty that I can handle myself there. Wouldn't she pat me on the back with a hearty "good for you!" and say "I'm not the least bit surprised!" So why do I always cringe at the thought of admitting my secret aloud to these women, these "real world" friends? Why is it so easy for me to share my writing dreams with all of you, and not with the people who share my life on a daily basis? Part of it, I suppose, is fear of criticism, fear that they'll look at me, smile politely, and make some sort of "that's nice, dear," remark before continuing the conversation about next weeks rehearsal or last night's episode of "The Closer." That reaction would not only bruise my fragile writing hopes, but could actually damage our friendship. Perhaps keeping the writing secret is a way of protecting it. Hemingway said that talking about your work weakens it, diminishes the magic it develops as it gestates in your head. Carolyn See writes that "the wonderful thing about your inner life is that it's your inner life." All the while you're stuck in traffic, or sitting through boring meetings at work, or spending time with deadly dull relatives, you can think about this secret world of characters and ideas living in your mind. Still, I often feel a distinct urge to spill my secret. I'll have it planned out, waiting to announce when people ask "So, what have you been up to lately?" "Well," I'll offer, "I've been writing - stories, poems, even a novel." But when the moment comes, inevitably I back away. "Oh, the usual," I'll concede. "Work, some music stuff, taking care of the parents - you know, nothing new." Once again, I pull the writer's closet door tightly closed, hoarding my secret to myself for a while longer. So, how about you? Have you come out of the writer's closet to your friends and family?