by Jamie Freveletti
I've been thinking a lot about going public-when you finally admit to others that you're writing that novel, play, screenplay, or crafting that poem. For me the process was gradual. My fiction writing career started with a creative writing night course at the University of Chicago chosen for its:
1. late evening start so that I could complete work and,
2. convenience of the commute on public transportation.
I'm a big fan of convenience when starting something new. It's just too hard to quit when the scheduling and transportation issues become a hassle. In my case, working as a lawyer three days a week and as a full time parent, scheduling was key and complicated.
It was easy to tell others about the course. I pitched it for what it was, a way for me to work on my creative side that I felt I had lost in the maelstrom of work, kids, and, in the winter, snow shoveling (I took the course in January).
Once I embarked on the actual novel, though, the disclosure issue became a bit more difficult. When I mentioned that I was writing my lawyer friends were encouraging. They know what it's like to write all day-albeit in a non fiction setting, so they understood that creative writing would be a huge relief from the often dry and technical brief writing that many of us do. When I told a publisher in Germany that I knew she was very encouraging and looking back I really thank her for that, because she had to know the odds of it getting published. Never once did she refer to them in my presence.
But not all people are this way. Once you announce that you're writing a novel, you should be prepared for eye rolling. Yes, everyone seems to be writing a novel. In fact, I have a suspicion that it's one of the entries on many individual "bucket lists" of things to do before they die. I don't have a bucket list, but if I did I think writing a novel is a great item to include. It My usual response to the eye roll was a shrug. I've never been one to expect others to share in all my passions, and if they didn't so be it. I just kept plugging away, asking for help when I needed it, and writing, writing, writing.
A turning point in the "tell" factor was a surprise gift from my husband. He had purchased a weekend writing conference ticket for me at the SEAK writing conference. Seak puts on writing conferences aimed at lawyers and medical professionals and they're located in Cape Cod. My husband joined me, not in the conference, but just for the weekend. He spent his time training for a marathon and I spent my time in the conference. On the third day we were forced to sit at round tables and pitch our novels to agents. The caveat: While you could sit at the table and listen in, only those with completed novels were allowed to pitch. My husband sat next to me and listened--it was a no training day for him-and we were both struck by the number of uncompleted manuscripts. Only two of us ended up pitching out of ten at my table.
When we walked away my husband said: "You tell everyone now not that you're writing a novel, but that you've completed one. It appears to be a tough thing to accomplish."
I never thought of completing an novel as tough, for me it's pure fun, but I'll never forget his comment. If you're writing and you're not done yet, keep going. When you're done you tell everyone that you've completed a novel.
And if they roll their eyes, ignore it. Those of us who have completed a novel know just how much dedication that takes. Kudos to you.