Like most aspiring authors, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never fantasized about securing a “nice” book deal that saw me traveling the globe for back-to-back interviews, book signings, lectures and tea with fabulous authors (which, in this dream, could mean having tea alone…*coy shrug*)
Of course, that one ex who married a shoe would catch wind of it, as would that professor who hated that paper back in ‘02, that co-worker and even that guy who cut me off in traffic this morning. All of them would feel a tiny pain in the depths of their souls while thinking:
Man, she sure is glamorous now.
Because the life of a successful writer, once you’ve made it, is glamorous, right? That’s precisely what we’re told over and over not to think, and yet we still do, holding on to a vision of our future selves that’s all matching underwear, layovers and elegant conversations about narrative pacing.
I turned 30 this year, and with that came a healthy dose of reality that has extended throughout all parts of my life. Writing included. Firmly, I understand that the mid-six-figure book deal and worldwide book tours aren’t just the exception to the rule—they’re the “bitch, please.” And that if that’s the only reason you’re writing, you probably shouldn’t be.
But too often, I hear people say things like, “Oh, there’s nothing glamorous about being a writer.” I know it’s a way to manage expectations; I get that. And yet: There’s something about the magic of writing life that we shouldn’t completely dismiss. I think there’s a lot of glamour hidden in the writers we are today, not the ones we’re hoping to be tomorrow. It’s up to us to find it.
Now, I don’t mean this in the dreamy, “I get to live out my passion; who cares that I can’t make rent!” way. I mean legit, Facebook-share-worthy glamour. All it takes is living in the moment, rather than killing time until we “arrive.” So much of our delusions about the future are buried in our unwillingness to give our present selves a real chance.
And believe me, I speak from experience! Too much of my writing life has been decidedly unglamorous, marked by saltine cracker crumbs in bed rather than any real interaction with other people, let alone other writers. So I’ve started taking steps to find my inner writing glam right now. To do that, I (am trying to) follow a few simple rules:
Rule number 1: I always wear a shirt.
For real. And one that is not knee-length with a cartoon character on the front. Writing is a solitary activity for most, and it’s easy to get away with spending all of Saturday wearing nothing but an old sports bra and pajama bottoms while struggling to make the day’s word count goal. There’s something to be said for dressing the part of the job you want, and I can say with certainty that the future, successful writer I see in my head is always fabulously—and fully—dressed.
Rule number 2: I avoid DWT.
That’s dinner-while-typing. Or The Bachelorette while typing. Or returning phone calls while typing. Or anything else while typing. Sure, there’s nothing glamorous about store-bought marinara sauce on your keyboard, but there’s a more important, less tongue-in-cheek rationale for this rule. It’s tempting to be a 24/never writer, one who constantly pretends to write in the background of life. But I’m trying to create dedicated space for my writing that allows it the full concentration and consideration it deserves. Not only does it make me a more productive writer, but it allows me to be more focused and attentive to all of the other parts of my life. And trust me, when I watch The Bachelorette, I want to watch it well.
Rule number 3: I’m redefining “glamour.”
This rule seems a bit late to the party, since it may be the most important one, but I’m taking the time to redefine what being a glamorous writer means to me. And I think that can pretty much be boiled down to this: fully-realized, authentic and present. I’ve spent too many years worrying about “getting there.” Hitting a word count. Getting an agent. Getting published. Instead, I’m learning that every time I develop a character or outline a scene, I’m totally and legitimately there. It’s a liberating feeling, and one that pushes me to enjoy the journey.
Rule number 4: I expose myself on a daily basis.
Giggle. No, but seriously: “Nice-book-deal Nic” is constantly on the move, learning, experiencing and meeting new people. Current Nic, on the other hand, hasn’t left the house all weekend. Yes, there’s something to be said for butt in chair. But there’s also a lot to be said for taking time to experience and explore the angles of life, and letting that strengthen your work. I’m also learning to expose myself online (giggle.) This is a slow climb for me, but one that I’m enjoying. Whether that’s making a new Twitter friend, commenting in a writer’s forum or entering a prize-less writing competition, I’m committed to putting myself, and my writing, out there.
Rule number 5: I’m learning to speak eloquently about my work.
I used to introduce myself to people this way: “My name is Nic, and I’m writing a novel…like everyone else in the world!” I’d follow that with a shrug and a story about this one particular Family Guy episode that makes fun of overzealous writers. It’s a defense mechanism that I’ve moved past. I’ve put a limit on self-deprecation; I’m learning how to talk not just about my current WIP, but also about who I am as a writer, why I do it, what’s hard about it and what I love. I practice this alone in the mirror, and in front of anyone who will listen. I’m trying to become an expert in my genre by reading books both in it, and about it. In other words, I’m learning to give myself a chance. There’s nothing more glamorous than “owning it.”
Nic Joseph is a Chicago-based mystery and suspense writer. She holds a B.S. in journalism and an M.A. in communications, both from Northwestern University. She has been published in a variety of news outlets, including Newsweek, Business 2.0, POZ and Real Health magazines.