The secret of keeping writing a secret…

….for starters, you don’t fucking tell anyone! Here’s the thing, if you are a writer, you’ll know what I mean, if you are a “commoner” be warned!, we writers have to, positively, absolutely, keep our stories a secret. Sharing your story is not the thing to do as you wait in line to get cashed out, it is not the fun tale we tell on the long drive to Aunt Grammie”s house in God-Knows-Where, Michigan, and it is not the fodder for dinner conversation with co-worker/friends, who, if I quit my job I may never see again. Let me explain.

Last night’s Mad Men episode, brilliant once again, brought this musing/ranting blog post idea into my world this morning, when the character, the young Ken Cosgrove, got his story-writing and publishing revealed during a dinner party. His stupid girlfriend started bragging, of course after she explained how they met, which was when he was at the publishing company that she works for getting rejected. She just felt so sorry for him, she gushes, that she had to go out with him. (cringe, cringe) Whatever. Anyway, she tells the dinner party guests all this, then, then….THEN goes to tell them about his latest short story that’s being published. Mind you (and isn’t this mostly true for all of us?), the dinner party mainly consisted of non-writers, and, dare I speak it, non-readers (I cringe to think it!!) who have no idea what a short story is, especially a sci-fi/ fantasy one that poor Ken had written. After she exposes his brilliant baby, the stunned faces of the guests are enough to make any writer jump from the nearest bridge. Good-bye cruel writing world…was it me, or are most of the people I know idiots?? Main Mad Man, Don, interjects with a not-so-bad comment, we all know he can wondrously save any uncomfortable situation, but otherwise I felt true sympathy for Ken.

I keep all my stories a secret from the civilian populous that I must contend with on a day to day basis or weekends. I guarantee you that most of my family do not even know a shred of one word of even one of my stories, and so do not many of my acquaintances. It just isn’t worth explaining things to anyone when you know that they just won’t get it. Which is why dear Ken from Mad Men kept being an author to himself. He did end up sharing his secret with Peggy, but she is a writer, and a reader, and he shared his pen name and she even looked up one of his published stories and told him she loved it. Great! But before this, he got nailed by one of his bosses, who heard the word (word had spread quickly) that poor Ken, want-a-be writer, was moon-lighting on the side, publishing sci-fi shorts in magazines. Writing here at work should be enough for him, right? Poor Ken tells Peggy, the only one who perhaps would understand, that his fiction writing days are over and done!

Last scene, Ken in bed, his girlfriend asleep next to him, with his notebook on his knees, writing away! Brilliant. Next step, tape the girlfriend’s mouth shut or break up with her!

Do you keep your stories a secret? I do claim to be a writer when I explain what I do to others, but I don’t share a sniff of anything story-wise if anyone asks. Do you do the same? Do you trust people’s opinions if they are not writers? What if they don’t read fiction? What reactions do you get when you share if you do share? I am truly curious…

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6 Comments

  1. I write news for a living, but even then I’m pretty tight-lipped about what I’m working on.

    I tell no one what I’m blogging about, mainly because I blog just about every day and pretty much blog only for my own satisfaction; therefore I’m not interested in getting anyone else’s feedback beforehand.

    As for any other writing I might be engaged in, you couldn’t pry it out of me with a crowbar.

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  2. Great blog.

    The thing I hate is when someone mentions you are writing a novel, and someone says ‘what’s it about?’ You either have to fob them off or launch headlong into the kind of synopsis of your themes and narrative that you’d normally reserve for a commissioning editor. This is never a short response. Saying ‘I don’t want to talk about it…’ makes you sound like a massive dick!

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  3. I share all the time! I mention published stories, not obnoxiously, obviously, and not to anyone who will listen, just friends and family, and people look them up to read. Also, I’m working on a pictorial history book right now so I’m telling EVERYBODY I encounter about it, but this is a little different than sharing fiction story ideas; I won’t drone on about a fictional plot line unless specifically asked. Honestly, the reason I tell everyone about the book, though, is because it’s about a local landmark (Byberry State Hospital) and I need help collecting all the information/stories about the place I can. People are happy to talk about it, so I don’t get those terrfying pathetic author-stares poor Ken got, thank goodness!

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