THE MYSTERY OF THE SECRET SCRIBE!
When I first started writing, it was screenplays. If there’s one big rule I learned, it’s this: Do not, under any circumstances, ever tell anyone you are a screenwriter if you don’t have a produced script.
You see, in the world of screenwriting, even if a project is optioned or sold, there is still only the slimmest chance it will ever be realized as a full blown feature film the DVD case of which you can show off at parties (or just google on your phone I guess).
Even then, several others will have had their crack at it by the time all is said and ruined. Hell, it may become entirely unrecognizable, or your contract might specify that your name need not be credited at all. And after all that – what if the movie sucks?
So, after variations of this very scenario played out countless times in my “career” I learned that telling family, friends or even strangers that you’re a screenwriter is very much akin to crying wolf. Sooner or later, people are going to dismiss you as a flake, a liar, or delusional.
As I (very shrewdly) made the transition to prose fiction, the habit of keeping my cards to my chest remained. If pressed, I could provide details complete with qualifications, such as “I’ve signed a contract, but I don’t know what’s next.” Better yet, and to the extreme, I learned how to deftly steer conversations away from myself and back to the asker – or just not to attend public gatherings at all, if possible.
When my first book did eventually hit and there was hard evidence, I didn’t know how to talk about it. I had become so used to downplaying, I could only offer tiny snips of description. My wife watched in horror as I engaged in small talk with new acquaintances, only to shell up or change the topic with alarming awkwardness.
I’m re-learning how to talk about myself and to have confidence in what I do; who I am. Better yet, the misplaced shame and panic is falling away.
I almost feel like a writer these days. But I still don’t bring it up, and I don’t know if I ever will. So if I get famous and you meet me, please have patience with my deer-in-headlights response to questions about writing. Thanks.