A recent discussion on Facebook sparked a few thoughts that I'd like to share.
Last summer I had a wonderful weekend with my three closest friends. Before the trip I debated the wisdom of sharing my secret life as Celeste Jones with them and when an opportunity presented itself, I came clean, so to speak.
They were thrilled. I still get a little goose-bumpy when I think about how excited they were for me. I'm sure they are still excited and happy for me, but if I am honest, I'll have to say that I've been a little disappointed in the aftermath.
Perhaps this conversation is illustrative.
Me (excited): I'm so excited. My book is at #5000 on Amazon.
Friend (excited): You've sold 5000 books? OMG.
Me: No, that's my Amazon rank. Selling 5000 books in a week or two, or ever, would be pretty extraordinary.
Friend (disappointed): Oh.
Me (desperate to make her understand or at least be impressed): Well, of the two million books on Amazon, mine is selling better than 1,995,000.
Now, is this person a bad friend? Absolutely not. In fact, I'd put my friends up against anybody's friends in a challenge of loyalty, love, support, and damn funny. We'd lose any athletic competition, but in the real friend category we're ass-kickers.
But, I was still disappointed that she couldn't really share my excitement.
However, I've given it some thought and here's what I've come up with.
Imagine having this conversation.
You: OMG. Little Timmy just smiled at me for the first time. All the books say babies don't smile until six weeks but he's only four weeks old.
Your Friend Who Doesn't Have A Child: Oh, that's exciting.
You: Don't you get it? He SMILED. Two weeks ahead of schedule. He smiled at ME. He knows I'm his mommy.
Your FWDHAC (trying really hard understand what the big deal is): That's great. You should take a picture and put it on Facebook.
Now, imagine having that same conversation with someone who has a child. Would it be different? Probably. Is one a better friend than the other? No, they are just different.
And maybe that's my point. It's unrealistic for me to expect a friend who has never written fiction to understand my life as a writer, just like it's unrealistic to expect a childless friend to understand the joys of parenting. Unless you've had the experience, it's hard to appreciate it in the same way as someone who has.
So, if you are a writer thinking about coming out to your friends, I offer the following (unsolicited) advice.
Ask yourself why you want to share. For me, I knew I was going into a weekend that was going to include lots of sharing and laughter. Could I really go and not talk about a significant and important part of my life?
Sometimes I want to share to brag or prove a point. I'm glad I haven't done it in those situations because I don't think it ever goes well when your motivation is rather self-serving.
I think it would be wonderful to be able to have a friend who knows me so well, much more than I could ever share as Celeste, with whom I can talk about writing and story ideas and marketing plans. But, in general (you know your friends best) I'm not sure if that's realistic.
It's uncomfortable to live a secret life. Making up stories about how you spend your time. I have a vanilla friend who has written and self-pubbed some books. I have to be so careful when I talk to her because I don't want to let on just how much I know about the subject. I don't like being secretive and I'm not really very good at it, so mostly I try to keep quiet (I'm not very good at that either).
You're excited and proud (as you should be). It's natural to want to share great events in your life with the people you care about. But maybe you don't need to share it with all of them.
I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from sharing and in fact, I encourage you to do so if you've really thought it through, in particular think about your motivation and whether what you hope to get is realistic.
My point here is to give you some food for thought.
If you do share, I hope you'll come back and tell me how it went.
For those of you who have come out---how did it go? Would you do it differently if you had to do it again?