Writers Anonymous

by limebirdkate

As a kid and as an adolescent, writing was my escape. I suffered from major social anxiety. I wasn’t one of the popular kids in school. I didn’t date. I was an average student because I was afraid that being too smart in school would alienate me further from the few friends I had. At home, I sequestered myself in my room, sought privacy in the apple tree, always writing, always imagining.

As time passed, I became more obsessed with writing. I took as many writing courses as I could, read all kinds of books, dreamed of being published. But I didn’t talk a lot about my writing, because I didn’t fully understand my relationship with it. Was it just a hobby? Was this a pipe dream? Was I even good enough? I didn’t know. Part of me was too insecure to discover what my writing self was made of. The other part of me couldn’t not write. Blend the two together and you get a half-assed writer.

I started believing I was a terrible writer, and I had no business trying to pursue my dream. But I couldn’t stop writing. Then, I felt guilty for writing. So, I told myself how awful I am at writing and that I should stop. But I couldn’t.

See the vicious cycle??

I am a writeaholic.

Like an alcoholic hides booze, I hid my writing and pretended I was someone else. I found a full-time job, took up new interests, turned my focus to other parts of my life, and soon the few people who knew of my pathetic dream stopped asking what I was writing. They thought I gave it up. But I didn’t. I was sneaking my stories.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, suffice it to say I finally got smart. By hiding my writing, I realized I was self-sabotaging, making it easy for all the naysayers to cluck their tongues and chant ‘told ya so.’ Making it easy to keep that scared little kid scared. At first, I thought I had forever damaged my writing self. But after some major soul-searching I knew that I could continue to write and pursue my dream to be published. I just had to stop making it a problem.

I have made my peace with writing. I no longer hide it, and I now have a healthy, respectful relationship with it. But I must handle it carefully, because when I put too much stress on writing, if I have too much at stake with writing, I fall apart.

I am a writeaholic, and I have been writing healthfully for 10 years.

How about you? What’s your relationship with writing?


60 Responses to “Writers Anonymous”

  1. Great post Kate! I have a troubled relationship with writing. I’ve always been a ‘writer’, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, but lately I seem to have lost my love for it. Everytime I go to start writing I just can’t seem to get into it. It feels like everything that I do isn’t good enough. So, we’re having a trial separation, writing and I. We’ll see how it goes! xo

    • I’m in the same exact place Beth, and don’t know what to do to get the spark back, or if I even want it back. Have I said everything I need to say? Do I even have anything to say??

    • Beth,

      I think that happens to all of us, at various points in our lives. I have come to believe that our creativity, and our energy for it, can get over-tapped if we’re not taking care of it properly. I also believe that if we don’t first and foremost write for ourselves that too will stress our creative spirit. When I remembered how much I loved to write because of how happy it made me, then I was able to put it into its proper perspective. The publishing part of it, or at the very least, the public part of it, can only happen successfully if we do it for ourselves first.

      You’ll figure it out soon. 🙂

  2. Sincere and poignant post. For me, writing is my guilty pleasure, the lover I have to keep secret from others, for fear they will think me a bad mother, neglectful wife, won’t take me seriously enough as a businesswoman etc. etc. It’s the one thing I feel comfortable with, where I can be brave and utterly myself, even though I am sometimes shy and lacking in confidence. So, yes, I am still trying to get out of the ‘pathetic’ stage, even though I know that for me it is valuable rather than pathetic.

    • Absolutely, MarinaSofia! How can we justify writing over spending time with our loved ones? I struggled with that for years, until I was able to find a balance that worked as well as I could manage. (Writing at 4am is an example!) The lack of support makes it even more difficult. There are simply some people who don’t get it. I finally came to the conclusion that instead of trying to prove them wrong, I need to prove to myself that I am on the right quest — and enjoy it as much as possible.

  3. I make a living from writing, so I’m lucky to be able to use my creative writing in a way that benefits others by bringing them business. I am fortunate that way.

    • Hi Eagle-Eyed,

      Yes, you are one of the more fortunate ones indeed! To be able to make a living from writing is a writer’s dream, but extremely difficult to accomplish. Best wishes for continued success to you!

  4. I was always told in school and college English classes that I was a good writer. But I never felt the urge to really set down a story until a few years ago. Ignorance is bliss, and I happily wrote down the words as they came. Since the day job involves a ton of writing, I knew the importance of editing and research. So I started reading about writing and kept writing contently, only just beginning to recognize the true height of the mountain before me. When I garnered a round of “passes” from agents and found this fantastic community of writers through blogging, the reality of how far I still have to go struck home. Now, there are still days when I think I can improve my storytelling and do this. But there are others when I wonder if I should concentrate on encouraging others who are stronger and more driven. So I think the best description of my relationship with writing is, “It’s complicated”!

    • Hey JM,

      You have been on a roller-coaster journey already. So few writers actually approach their journey with such forethought and poise. I think we best know we’re writers when we continue writing despite the rejections, emotional upheavals, and doubt. 🙂

      Complicated, indeed!

  5. Reblogged this on Evie Gaughan and commented:
    During a recent online writing workshop, a member of the public tweeted the question: Can someone who is chronically shy make it as a writer? Both of the literary agents being interviewed said that they each had a client who was extremely shy or socially anxious and that, because their writing talent was exceptional, the publishers made allowances for them. This, despite the fact that nowadays, publishers really expect their authors to sell themselves, as well as their books, through signings, tours, interviews, readings etc. But perhaps, the digital revolution is changing all of that. Blog tours, social media and video logs are all means of connecting with your audience without having to leave the house.
    Still, it made me wonder, how many authors out there have taken to writing, firstly as an escape, and then found themselves the exact right fit for life as a writer? We all know there are hours of solitude involved and anyone serious about writing has to sacrifice their social lives – so perhaps the writer’s life is perfectly suited to (for want of a better word) shy people?
    Unlike the following post from Limebird Writers, I was extremely sociable in school and college and went on to work in great big multi-nationals abroad. However, social anxiety struck me in my late twenties and changed the focus of my life completely. I re-discovered my relationship with books and a secret desire to write, which would have seemed a pipe dream to me up until that point. Now I’m a published author and couldn’t imagine my life any other way.
    So as Kate asks, what is your relationship with writing?

  6. That’s an interesting way of looking at it Kate. I would say I have a complicated relationship with writing too. I’ve dabbled in it on and off since I was a child too. I’ve had some success with competitions and publishing (magazine articles), but I’ve never given it my all, not really. My confidence in it gets so easily knocked, if I write something that is really bad, I straight away decide that I’m a bad writer, not just that it’s that one piece – I can’t separate my writing as a whole from that one bad piece at the time, you know? I’m much more comfortable writing non fiction things like my blog, and at work I write a newsletter and website copy, and reports, plus my essays on my course; all those things are where I am more confident in my writing, and yet fiction is the one that really sparks my excitement on the odd occasions where I feel I got it right.

    In terms of the issue around feeling guilty doing writing rather than spending time with our family (or whatever), I kind of resolved that in my head a while ago by accident – my daughter (14) wanted me to help her with something, and I asked that she let me finish writing my blog post first and she said “Is your blog post more important than me?”, and I said “Of course not, but life doesn’t work like that, nobody can go through life only ever doing the things that are the most important to them. Our lives are varied – we spend time doing things that are highly important, things that are less important, things that we really want to do, things that we really don’t want to do, things for other people, things for ourselves. Our lives are a complex mixture of all those things.” Maybe it wasn’t exactly worded like that, and maybe I said it in a ranty irritable way at the time, but it actually helped me feel less guilty to see it in that way, and it seemed to help her feel less slighted too.

    • What an excellent argument Vanessa, and very true! I’ll have to remember it.

    • Hey Vanessa, yes yes yes. I have never given it my all — and I don’t know where to begin. Sure, querying lit agents is a good start but then I always find an excuse to step out of that. Then I take an extra job “for pocket money” and there goes that couple of hours where I could put forth effort into my writing. There’s always something that I allow to get in the way of full-out making it happen. Even though I can publicly talk about my writing and where I’m at with it, I’m still stuck at that very last step.

      I know one blogger who took a year off from her job just to work on her book. She took a risk — she didn’t have a lit agent or an editor or anything lined up, just her and her belief in her book. And guess what? A lit agent picked her up. That’s when faith works. 🙂 I think though to get to that point, we have to have a healthy relationship with writing. So, I’d like to think I’m on my way.

  7. Your posts have this way of making me write long, too-personal replies, and then deleting them because they go too far into intimate (and often foul-mouthed) territory, Kate. 😀

    So, all I’m going to say is:

    Hi. I’m Mayumi, and I’m an addict.

    • Hey Mayumi,

      I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment or not. 😉 Actually, I do know — it’s a compliment. Foul-mouthed or not, I like hitting nerves so feel free to write that comment anyway.

      From one addict to another, happy writing.

      • I think what I really took issue with, here, was the implication that my work is invalid or worthless for the fact I may not want to pursue traditional publishing avenues. Now, that may not be the post’s intent at all, but it was my gut reaction.

        I grew up lower-middle-class, and, while my sister and I never truly wanted for anything – we always had food and a roof over our heads – it was impressed upon us at a very young age that we had to be practical. Any dream that didn’t contribute to putting money in our pockets for the next meal or rent check was meant to stay just that: a dream. My family encouraged us to imagine, but underlying that quiet love was always a mute if ever-present warning: the frivolous grasshopper starves in winter, while the hardworking ant gets to enjoy comfort.

        I used to show my stories to my family, and they’d say things like, “Why don’t you try to publish? You could make a lot of money!” But…that’s not important to me, not for my writing. Some artists want to pursue art as a career, and that’s awesome. But, some of us write or paint or make music to create and share simply for the joy of it. We weave a story and put it up on the web or pass it around to friends because we like it and we want other people to be able to enjoy it, too. We want to reach other people using our art because it brings us joy, and joy becomes greater the more people you share it with.

        I want to keep learning and growing, with my art as with anything for which I hold any amount of passion. I want to become a better artist, because I want to be able to share better stories. It’s not about career or money, for me. I already have a career. I already make a decent living. My love is for telling stories, and I’ll tell the stories I want to tell. If I publish a story on the web or pass it around to friends and other people find and share the love I have for that story, great! If not, f*** ’em. It’s my story. If they want a different plot or different characters or a different ending, they can write their own story.

        So, maybe my not caring about ARCs or writing for the genre or how to perfect a query letter does make me a half-assed writer. But, for me personally – and this really is just me personally – my life is too short to spend it stressing on what other people might want from my stories, when I can spend my time making stories that bring me my own unfettered joy.

      • I get you, Mayumi. No, that wasn’t my intention at all. This post was more about how we sometimes approach writing in negative and unhealthy ways, and how that impacts our feelings towards our writer selves. I don’t think the end result (whether or not we want to be published, etc.) has anything to do with that at all. I think that even writers who write for the sole purpose of enjoyment can have an unhealthy relationship with writing. In fact, I think this is true for any art form, because it is so deeply personal.

        I think it’s really easy to take our anger or frustrations out on our writer selves. Writers in general put a certain expectation on themselves to write a story that someone else would want to read — otherwise, even those of us who don’t plan to go the publishing route wouldn’t ask for critiques or show our work to family and friends.

        That’s all I was getting at. I don’t think writing is worthless or invalid if we’re not planning on publishing. But I do think we have to treat our writer selves better if we want to be writing at all. 🙂

        Thanks for coming back to talk about it…!

  8. Anyone who has read my blog will know that I stayed away from writing for years (thanks for that Mr. Robinson!).

    But, once I got started again (on poetry at first) the few people who saw it liked it. That gave me enough of a boost to carry on. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love poetry and I love writing poems, but, for me, it didn’t really click until I went back to my fiction. Now, I see myself as pretty good, give me a prompt and I feel that I should definitely be able to come up with a story on it. Sometimes it stalls. Sometimes it fails. But sometimes, just sometimes, the words fly onto the page and, when I read them back, it’s like they were written by a real writer!

    Which – I guess – I am.

    • Dennis, I love it when I read something I wrote and think that I did a great job. And how neat that you were able to segue from poetry to fiction and find your real passion. I’d say that is an interesting journey.

      I could hear 50 negative comments and one positive comment on my writing, and it’s the positive comment that keeps me from giving up. All I need is to hear one nice thing, and I get back to the story.

  9. Great post, Kate! I am also a writeaholic…and finally deciding that I have as much right to the dream as anyone else. Write because you love to and no one can take that away from you…it’s between you and the pen and paper (or computer as the case may be)…

    • Yes, write because we love it. It’s so important, just like anything else in life. The things that are the most worthwhile are the hardest to come by — how often have we heard that sentiment? I keep that in my head when the writing isn’t so hot…

  10. I have a similar background. Reading grabbed me first, then writing little stories I hid from everyone. Later school took over, then life and parenting. Somewhere in between I began scribbling in notebooks, feeling alive again. Alas, too many years under the bridge and at retirement I decided, if not now, when? I’m an addict and I don’t care who know it. 🙂

  11. The question of being addicted to writing doesn’t apply to me. Why? Because I’m not a writer! Yes, I fiddle with blogging but only at the level of a daily post since July 15th 2009. Yes, I fiddle with my own recollections. The only reason I’m a NaNo contributor this November. But most certainly not a writer!

  12. It took me a long time to talk openly about writing a book. Very few people even knew I was writing one when I started 10 years ago. Like you, I kept it quiet. One obviously can’t do that once the book is published, so once the cat’s out of the bag, time to start proudly proclaiming it, I guess. Good for you for owning up to your craft. Not sure why it takes so many of us so long to do that!

  13. Oh my gosh! That’s me! Great post!

  14. That last line made me smile. This is why we need these writer support groups. 🙂 I’m probably not addicted enough to writing because life keeps getting in the way. But I’ve always been a writer and because of that I’ve always been a little crazy or vice versa. It seems impossible to separate the two.

  15. Great post Kate. An the term you applied to it seems very apt. I used to write with no desire to be published. Journals of poetry, I only let a few people know existed. I wasn’t secure enough to expose my writing to the world. It took years before I ventured into fiction and found the strength to put it out there. For me, it was a crippling back injury and the knowledge that my salvation–an artificial disk has a limited shelf life. That propelled me to live harder and more than I did before. As if I had an internal clock ticking off the moments of my life.

    • Serious injuries like what happened with your back usually motivate us towards our goals or dreams. We start to see everything from a different perspective, and even though the cause isn’t joyous, the results can be, oh published author, you. 😉

      • Definitely changed my perspective on things and led to life altering choices. It’s hard to explain leaving a great career in NYC to eek out a meager living as an author. But it felt like something I had to do or regret for the rest of my life. 🙂

      • Spoken like a true creative spirit! 🙂

  16. You are spot on. Can I join WA with you?

  17. Sensational post.
    I understand writing this way: It owns ME. I’m a slave to its orders, so . . I might as well enjoy the march.

  18. Ooh, I’m with you on this Kate. I was a closet writer my whole life. When I started this blog a little over a year ago, people I knew were kind of rolling their eyes, presumably expecting something godawful. Then they found out about the books and raised their eyebrows.

    At the end of the day we write because we are writers. Nobody will ever feel it the way that we do. And that’s OK as long as we keep doing it for the love.

    • Yes, Britt, the blog is a big one! There are still members of my family who have no idea I blog. I never told them for the same reasons you bring up, and so I guess in effect I’m still hiding my writing.

      But, what’s important is that we’re writing, We’re talking about writing, and calling ourselves writers. (For me, a couple of years ago, that wasn’t happening.) And we’re totally doing it for the love, so we’re on the right track finally. 🙂

  19. I was also the shy child who was a closet writer. Like you, I wasn’t sure if it was a hobby or something else, I certainly didn’t think I could make a living from it, though I had a compulsion to do it, so I became a librarian instead! It took me a long time to be able to call myself a writer and though I still feel a little bashful talking about it I think that confidence comes, maybe with age, maybe with life experience.

    • Hi, Andrea —

      Closet writer — awesome. And so true. I think the choice to become a librarian is a great way to stay connected to writing but apart enough where you don’t feel like you’ve just signed a death wish. 😉 I only recently started calling myself a writer, and it took my son’s observation to knock that sense into my brain. I think we all reach the understanding in our own time, and yes, confidence is a large part of it.

      Thanks so much for swinging by!

  20. Nice post, Kate!
    I never was a writer, but a few years ago I woke in the middle of the night with an insistent urge to write about a specific incident in my life. It would not be satisfied until it was on the paper. I hid that paper for years and managed to squish the writing bug until 3 years ago.
    I’m finding my way with it now…not sure where I fall yet.

    • Personal experiences are usually great incentives to start writing. Journaling is a part of that, although, journaling wasn’t satisfying for me. I was much happier hashing out the problems of my imaginary friends. 😉

  21. Hi Kate,
    Great post! and something for me to think about. I honestly never really thought there would be a writer hidden in me..and I still have my doubts as of today 😉 I once had a diary when I was child but I didn’t really have a close relationship with it. My true writing voice came to me only a couple of years ago after a few meditation sessions during a course I took at that time. I suddenly somehow felt the urge to write down some of my insights, thoughts and personal perspectives on life. Sometimes this urge felt so strong I literally found myself at the side of the road taking quick notes in my car so as not lose touch with the inspiring energy at that moment, and I would write about it later but only in a personal notebook.
    The thought of actually publishing some of my thoughts and personal experiences in a blog came earlier this year, in february 2013, so it’s only fair to say that I’m still at the dawn of this new exciting endeavour. Since English is not my native language, it took some courage to act upon this inner calling, despite the fears. I still have much to learn on this ever evolving journey but so much enjoying it!

    • Your journey with writing sounds exquisite. I love when ideas and thoughts are so intense you have to stop everything you’re doing and jot them down. I’m like you, I didn’t really get into my diary or journal either. As I mention above, I enjoyed writing fiction so much more than droning on about myself. I didn’t find myself particularly interesting, so that may be why. 😉

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  22. Hey there Kate! I think there’s a fine balance between hiding what we do, so that we can create, and putting ourselves out there, so that we (and others) take us seriously. Calling ourselves a writer means we have something to live up to, and that is scary. I’m still not comfortable with that, because I’m not where I want to be with the writing. But that is changing, and I think that is also because I have taken the step to say ‘I’m here’. It’s courage, isn’t it?

    • Hi Alarna,

      It took me a long time to call myself a writer, mainly because I was unpublished. I felt there had to be some sort of official stamp on me, that I couldn’t be a writer if I was unpublished. I am past that, because I think that we can all be writers, whether or not we’re published, but that it’s more about what we want out of writing (and what we want writing to bring out of us) that is really the tell-tale sign.

      Courage, indeed. And we need that courage every day to continue with the quest! 🙂

      Thanks for swinging by!!

  23. Always enjoy reading your posts and about your experience as a writer. I’m not writing as much as before, but I work on my novel about once week or biweekly. Though I’m focused on painting and grad school, the part of me that loves to write is still there and will never go away (and I wouldn’t want it to!). Fortunately what I’m doing now is related to my writing and is helping me build a better story. Throughout life though our focus can shift and change, the part of us that needs to create, whether it’s writing or something else never really goes away. It’s always there waiting for us (sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently).

    • Great to see you here! I love that creative people can express ourselves in so many different ways, so we’re never far from our passion(s). I agree that our focus can shift and change depending on what curve balls Life throws at us, but genuine creative spirits aren’t usually down for long! 🙂

  24. Great post!

    I really appreciate this, as I too have been suffering from closet writing until recently. I too, took up a day job and even paid many people lip-service by telling them I built a different, more “realistic” dream based on my day job. Yes, I got the approval I was seeking…. But I died on the inside. I didn’t write for several months…. Till finally, I just about burst. My stories needed to be told…. And I admitted to myself that the life I had been living was so very dishonest and disrespectful to my own self…..

    I am a writer. I am pursuing my dream because it is inevitable. It is my destiny.

    Thank you for sharing!!


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