Thursday, October 10, 2013

Insecure? Not Me ... by Maryann Miller

A long time ago I wrote a funny little piece about an insecure writer who had been writing in secret because she was afraid to let anyone know what she was doing. If her husband asked why she was spending hours in the closet, her response was, "Oh, just sorting clothes. Sorting takes a long time, you know."

Then she finally had to come clean, so to speak - I could go off on a whole riff about doing the laundry, but perhaps that is better saved for another time.

The woman in my original essay - I called her Glenda Gibberish - was telling her best friend about her writing.

"I've been writing all my life, but I never told anyone."
"Why not?"
"I didn't want anyone to laugh at me."
"How have you kept it a secret from your husband?"
"I wrote a whole book on squares of toilet tissue and stuck them inside the empty roll."
"Really? And how has that worked out?"
"Fine, until my husband decided the hamster needed a new chew toy. I lost a whole chapter."
"Yeah, ouch. He choked on a particularly graphic sex scene."
"Your husband?"
"No. The hamster."
"Well, don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."
"Actually. I wish you would tell a few people. My book comes out next month."

I wrote that piece so long ago there was no Internet and no online groups and blogs and social sites for writers to gather and support each other. If one did not belong to a writer's group, the writing was a solitary and lonely business. Most writers did not have to hide their writing the way Glenda did, but they did share in her insecurity, and the opportunity to get validation did not come along very often.

Rejection slips are hardly validating.

For a long time my own insecurity was like some huge monster I battled constantly. I was doing freelance journalism, so the rejection slips were frequent and it took me a while to stop wailing at the mailbox every time an article was returned. Along the way I learned some things.

  •  Tenacity counts as much as talent
  •  Writers with thick skins succeed
  •  Look at the positives, not the negatives
  •  Be professional - always
  •  Failure can be a good thing
  •  Validate yourself, don't wait for it to come from outside
  •  Quitting is not an option

I remind myself of that last one a lot. Not that I am ready to quit that often, but there are times. If you are an author reading this, I'm sure you understand. This is a wacky, wacky, unpredictable business, and not for those who cannot look at a rejection slip and say, "I don't care."


Maryann's essay about Glenda appeared in her weekly humor column that ran in a Dallas suburban newspaper for many years. She wrote it when her first non-fiction book was published and thought that would be a fun way to announce it. Since then she has written several more nonfiction books for teens focusing on life issues they face. She has also written a number of novels, the most recent a stand-alone mystery, Boxes For Beds, that is her first indie release. Her Seasons Mystery Series debuted with Open Season in 2010, followed by Stalking Season late in 2012. Open Season is now an e-book, and Stalking Season is available in hardcover.

Boxes for Beds will be free for Kindle starting this coming Saturday, October 12 through October 16, so that is a good opportunity to sample Maryann's work. Remember, you don't have to have a Kindle reader. There are Apps for other electronic devices for reading Kindle titles.

You can find out more about Maryann Miller's books at her Website and Blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Lost a whole chapter - funny!
Until I got online, I had no idea how much support could be found here. (And I didn't realize how many insecure writers there were until I started the IWSG!)
Congratulations on your latest, Maryann!

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Maryann.

Maryann - You've learned some really important lessons, and thanks for sharing them. It's so important I think to remember to have faith in oneself. And you're right; quitting is not the way to develop oneself as a writer...

Julie Luek said...

Ah how well she articulates the fear we've all struggled with one time or another. Fortunately, as a freelance writer, I've had so many rejections they're like a bee sting: they hurt for a bit and then go away. Damn bees. ;)Free download? I'm all over that-- looking forward to it.

Maryann Miller said...

Alex, I really do need to visit your insecure writer's group more often. I have a few times and it is a neat way to get support.

Margot, I have known a few really terrific writers who simply quit, and it saddens me every time I think of what was lost - for them and for potential readers. They had good stories to tell.

Julie, I hope you enjoy Boxes for Beds. I love the bees analogy. Damn bees. LOL

Dean K Miller said...

I did the same thing after my Jr. College writing classes...even during as I would deflect the "what classes are you taking?" with "Oh...some more English stuff." Then I hid my journal and (yes...some horrible) poetry from everyone.

And now I view the "rejections" with the knowledge that someone actually read my work and put out enough effort to comment.

We all need to hold our heads up high and announce "I am a Writer." Trust me, I've seen people admitting to things far worse!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I suspect anyone with creative ambitions suffers from insecurity. As a famous writer once said, "There's nothing more validating than the love of strangers." That's me in a nutshell. When I was acting, there was nothing like hearing that audience laugh - or applaud at the end. I'm clearly needy.

Maryann Miller said...

Elspeth, I'm needy, too. If an audience hesitates before clapping at the end of a show, I'm devastated thinking they hated the acting and I need to stop kidding myself. LOL

Dean, I am only admitting to being a writer. LOL

Kenneth W Harmon said...

I read that a writer should expect rejections and learn to anticipate them. For example, it said that when you receive an email from a publisher/Agent, go ahead and imagine that it is a rejection. Allow yourself to get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Let the pain wash over you and then open the email. If it is the expected rejection, you can handle it better because you've already been through the hurt. If it turns out to be an acceptance letter, it will feel even sweeter. I tried this and it seems to work.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Funny story about the writing. I never hid it from my husband but I did hide my early efforts from friends and other family.

Maryann Miller said...

Kenneth, I love your suggestion. That's a good one.

Susan, I never hid my writing from my husband, either. In fact, he was the one who first encouraged me to try to get published lo those many years ago.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I kept my writing efforts a secret for a few years too. Even now, I tend to avoid writing about my writing...but you'll sure hear a noise if I get published again. :D

Thanks a bunch for being my guest, Maryann. I'll be reading Boxes for Beds this weekend.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! :)
I love the hamster story :)

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Pat. I can't wait to hear what you think of the book. As you know, we writers are so insecure. LOL

Thanks for coming by, Jemi. Glad you liked the hamster story. In the longer version of that that appeared in the column I wrote years ago, Glenda did all kinds of things to hide the tissue rolls so her husband would not find them and feed the hamster again. That was so much fun to write.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Maryann, I love having you here. I hope you'll come back often.