Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Secret Life

Writing is my secret life, the one most people I see on a daily basis know nothing about, hence the title of my blog.

This post was inspired by Barry Napier's article about working as a freelance writer over at Freelance Writerville. I read the article, or at least the first 1/2 (the rest will be posted later), and thought about my secret life.

In the "real" world, I teach high school English. I try to explain the importance of revising to a room full of slobbering teenagers whose minds are more worried about ditching class, zits, where their next beer is coming from, and...other things.

In my other life, I'm milking this writing thing as much as I can. I know the importance of revising. I understand the value of syntax, grammar, and weaving a good story; if I don't do those things, rejection, rejection, rejection.

I'm worried about my "real" life and my "secret" life colliding. Part of this is a sense of humility; anyone who has had anything published by a legit source knows the struggle involved, and a sense of that struggle really tempers my ego. Part of this worry stems from an understanding that most people in my "real" life don't know how cool it is that "A Plague from the Mud" is reprinted in this month's edition of Apex Magazine. (this was a contractual hook-up with Permuted Press, part of the "Permuted Press Presents" series--a sort of ad for the anthology) Most people in my "real" life would say, "huh? Oh, yeah. Cool," and shuffle away.

I haven't figured out the balancing act. If anybody has, please let me know. Even if you haven't, please let me know.

(And thanks to Jamie Eyberg for pointing out the Apex pub. I didn't know it would be in there this month.)


K.C. Shaw said...

I make it a habit not to mention my writing at work either. When I do, I have to field the same (rather embarrassing) questions: do I have any books published? and what kinds of stories do I write? The first answer is no, and explaining that I do have short stories published doesn't mean anything to the people I work with. And of course, it's a struggle to explain that I write fantasy to people who have never read any, so I usually cop out and say I write science fiction, which at least they understand. Sort of. The typical response I get from that is "Oh, like Harry Potter?" /headdesk

Barry Napier said...

I can see your students now..."Um, Mr. Polson...could you please explain the significance of a town of tiny people in some guys back yard where the residents have sex and bury their dead in tiny graveyards?"

Natalie L. Sin said...

Ying's friends love that I write horror, in fact one story I wrote is based loosely on a true life story. But those are people close to my age and, being Ying's friends, complimenting personalities.

With others it's hit or miss. And sometimes I wonder if being a female horror writer has a freak-show factor with people outside the genre *LOL*

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I'm there, too...I never mention writing to my co-workers, but I'll discuss it if they "find out", which at least two people have so far. I've beaten my ego far enough back into the dark parts of my head that I no longer apologize for the rough quality of "Billy Don't Like Clowns", but you're right; unless they understand the industry and have spent hundreds of hours writing, revising, waiting, and getting pounded by rejections, most people seem to equate selling short stories and flash to magazines and websites as career fail.

Anything short of bestseller seems to be "teh suck". Even David Morrell agreed in his "on writing" book, and he wrote First Blood (which nobody seems to know what a best selling book before a movie). Even at his stage of literary success, he says, he won't cop to being an author to strangers. It just goes down a weird road. And if it's good enough for Morrell...

Catherine J Gardner said...

Some people know and some people don't. And those that do know (my mother aside) never ask me about it - which is cool. If I was to list all my rejections to 'non-writers' their immediate reaction would be 'well she obviously can't write'.

Permuted & Apex, now those are names to make a writer gasp, but which mean nothing to those other folk. I bow down to your greatness.

Aaron Polson said...

K.C. - I'm speechless as to the stupidity of the general population.

Barry - I would hate to explain that one...yikes.

Natalie - yeah, horror is the kiss of death (no pun intended), even for me. Perceptions are stuck on "splatterpunk" I think.

Jeremy - writing is such a strange world, isn't it? People seem to have many skewed perceptions of writers.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - please don't. It's all part of the journey. (besides, I could mention Space and Time and Postscripts...)

Jamie Eyberg said...

I have made no bones about what I try to do. If people get it, great. If they don't, I am guessing they don't read much anyway so. . .

Coming from a family of readers (and some writers)they haven't shunned me yet.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

My family digs it too...they bought multiple copies of the Niteblade antho I was in...my fellow bankers, on the other hand...not so open-minded, I find.

Danielle Ferries said...

I find it strange too and often feel like I have two lives running side by side. I don't tell people I write, its usually my friends who do, and I agree with KC, you get all the awkward questions and when you say you're writing a book you get asked every time they see you if its finished yet and is it being published yet.

Robert said...

I'm one of those that keeps my writing secretive too. I just feel that until there is actually something to talk about -- i.e, a published book -- there's really nothing to talk about. Nobody is going to care about a couple short stories published here and there. And to be honest, I like the fact that nobody I work with knows. People at my last job knew, and I kept getting the same annoying questions -- how's the new book going? have you sold it yet? -- so the quiet now is nice.

P.S. Looking forward to reading your story, Aaron.

katey said...

Huge score with the Apex thing, that's rad!

When I had a job I didn't mention it there either. (Well, that's a long story actually... but I mean career-oriented job when I say that.) If it came up I never hid it, but I'm not really in the market for best buds at work, if you know what I mean. And in your case, Barry has a point! Ha!

Still, nothing wrong with being honest. And if they don't get it, I'm inclined to say screw 'em! (That's kind of my answer for everything though, I know.)

BT said...

Aaron - loved the story - congrats on the cred.

I often wear a shirt in summer with the AHWA logo on the front and the website on the back. I have the bumper sticker on my car. In winter I wear a sweatshirt with the comment "I'm a professional writer. I tell lies to people for money."

When people ask what I do in my spare time, I tell them I write. I get the question "Have you been published?" I say yes. "Anything I can read?" usually comes next - I give them my blog address and tell them they can find the links from there. When they ask "What do you write", I answer "I write therefore I am." They look at me strange. Sometimes they leave it at that. Sometimes they actually show interest and we go into the types of stories I've written. Two have asked for a printed copy there and then.

People at work know I write. Most know I actually write in whatever spare time I get when at work.

Occasionally I let a few of these people read draft versions of my work. One guy now refuses as I scared him. That's progress.

I think most consider it a hobby. They also probably think my dreams of writing full time and earning a living is ridiculous and will never happen.

Lucky I don't care what they, or anyone else thinks.

I'm a husband and father. I work full time to pay the bills - but under everything I'm a very proud practitioner of the written word.

If they don't understand - fuck 'em

Aaron Polson said...

BT - I like that honesty. I can always ask, "what did you do with your spare time last night?" if someone gets weird. Heh.

Carrie Harris said...

Don't ask me. Every time I refer to myself as a writer, I feel like I'm coming out of the closet. It's ridiculous, but still true.

J.C. Tabler said...

I generally mention it to anybody if it comes up inth e course of conversation. As a matter of fact, writing has helped me get my current job. While interviewing, I pointed out that I was a published short story writer in small press publications, and even steered the interviewer towards a couple stories online. Considering the number of letters and case documents needed in this job, it helped to show that I can weave a tale and get everything together in a letter form.

Other than that...Well, I don't tend to tell people I write horror, preferring to just say "...and I'm a writer, but never made any big sales." If pressed, I'll say "speculative fiction". If really pressed, I'll go into detail.

The main thing is to make sure my professional life doesn't interfere with my home life. As for anything else, I consider it to be something I love, so there's no reason not to mention it, smile, and nod. In addition, like all of us, I'd love to one day make a living off of it (yeah right), so I might as well get used to it.

As for "have you wrote any novels", you can always respond, "No, but Lovecraft really didn't, either."