I saw a graph like the one I’ve recreated above a long time ago. I can’t remember for the life of me where I saw it, but I remember laughing because it was so true.
Writing is such a solitary pursuit, and it’s not something that people can watch, like a play or a sport. (Watching a writer at work in front of their computer is probably about as exciting as watching paint dry.) And of course, it can take a loooong time for a story to go from concept, to first draft, to final product, so it’s tough for people to get invested in following every step of that process.
Our families and friends support us, but they’re also used to seeing us turn into hermits, who sit for hours on end in front of a computer screen, alternately muttering to ourselves, or typing like mad. There’s no magic or mystery to it. To them, we’re just some weird writer troll, entrenched in our cave. All they can hope is that we remember to come out to eat and bathe every once in awhile.
Strangers are another story. I’ve found that when someone I have never met finds out I’m a writer, I often get a very different reaction. Many of them get super-excited and interested, often to the point where I feel a little uncomfortable because they’re looking at me like I’m a unicorn or some other awesome mythological creature. (At the same time, you can’t help but wish some of the people closer to you shared maybe just a little of their extreme enthusiasm…) These are the people who only see your final product, and they often have no idea how to even start writing a novel, so your accomplishment seems near-miraculous in their mind.
This weirds me out because I know I don’t have god-like powers. I’m just a writer. Hell, I’m not even a spectacular writer. I just write the kinds of things I would like to read, and hope other people like them too. When I meet these enthusiastic strangers, I still feel like the antisocial troll caught off guard while wandering outside her cave, and I wait for them to realize I’m really not that magical or interesting. I actually feel somewhat embarrassed and apologetic that I’m not more interesting.
I probably need to own my identity as a writer more. Because I’m not really a troll or a unicorn; I’m somewhere in the middle, like an elf or a dwarf, or something. (Probably an elf, because I’ve always secretly wanted to be one. ) I don’t want to get swept up in the unicorn hype, but I don’t have to spend all my time being a troll either.
Have you ever experienced this kind of disparity of opinion between those who are close to you and complete strangers? I’m guessing that writers aren’t the only ones…
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