Family Vaction or Why I’m Still in the Closet When It Comes to My In-Laws

Tomorrow we leave for a two-and-a-half week vacation of sorts, which includes two weddings, a trip to the beach, and visits with college friends. It will be fun and exhausting, and there’s an excellent chance I won’t get anything done.

But I’m still looking forward to the trip. Even though I need to make some tough decisions as to which books to pack. Frankly some books are simply better on a plane versus on the beach. Or read on the couch in front of in-laws instead of before bed at night.

And of course any time spent with extended family can lead to awkwardness as to just what do I do all day. Now that I have two stories forthcoming from Eclectic Flash, the temptation is there to finally say I’m a writer.

But here be monsters.

Why? Well, for starters, They May Not Value Writing. I have evidence that could go either way here. If they aren’t big readers or value only extrinsic measures of success, they just aren’t going to get it. But I am a member of the family, they are generous people, and they respect me. So maybe they’d respect the writing too.

They Also Have No Clue Just How Difficult Writing Can Be. And this goes for a healthy chunk of all non-writers. So much thought goes into word placement, structure, characterization… The more I learn about writing, the trickier it is to get words down on the page that I’m satisfied with.

Because they don’t understand how hard writing is, They Will Ask Me Why I’m Not Published Yet. You know, as in what really counts when you are a writer – a book deal. Short stories are, well, short, and no one is making millions on them. Publishing is a molasses-slow process, just as writing something worth publishing takes a looong time. They won’t understand milestones like getting a CP, or querying that first agent, or getting a full request. They just want to see a book.

And there’s the whole They Will Want To Talk To Me About My Writing Projects. They might ask out of courtesy or maybe they are genuinely interested. Which is great. I can appreciate that, even though I don’t like talking about my work until it’s far enough along that I’m comfortable sharing it with others. Ideas are just that, and until they get to the page, I don’t have a strong sense of how things will turn out. A careless word by someone else can destroy a story before it even starts. Plus, can you imagine me discussing the finer points of love scenes in my historical romance with my father-in-law? Neither can I.

But I guess it all comes down to the fact that They Will Stop Thinking I’m A Mystery And Start Seeing Me As A Dreamer With No Prospects. In some sense, the question of what I do – do I stay at home all day? Do I volunteer? Do I watch soap operas? Do I secretly want to have babies and be a stay-at-home mom? – protects me and keeps them from knowing the truth. Rejection is writing’s constant companion. I don’t need someone telling me writing is impossible, that I’m a dreamer for even trying it. I already know that. But I do it anyway, and that can be hard for some people to understand.

So yeah. Not telling them. Yet.

My husband and I discussed the best time to tell them the truth. And we decided that a professional short story sale or an agent would necessitate telling folks about me writing and all that. You know, which ever came first.

(cough) yeah, right (cough).

But for now I’m optimistic that one day I will be able to share this part of my life with them. I am a dreamer. Or a masochist. It’s hard to tell some days.

Because of all the travel, blog posting and commenting may be spotty, but I wish you all happy writing! I’ll be back for sure by the second half of the month.
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10 thoughts on “Family Vaction or Why I’m Still in the Closet When It Comes to My In-Laws

  1. Jen McConnel says:

    I understand your hesitation. I was terrified to tell my in-laws that I'm leaving teaching to pursue writing full-time, but they surprised me: they are really excited, and sometimes I feel like they praise my efforts even more than my patient husband.

    But I understand the need to wait. So have a great vacation, and don't worry about the elephant in the room…because until you tell them, it's only an elephant in your head.

    Have a fun time!

  2. anonymeet says:

    It's an intimidating thing to share this with people because it's so personal and there's so little reward that others can understand. It's not a job or pursuit that's easily measured by ordinary standards of success and you can end up feeling so judged when you finally admit it. I'm with you – I don't admit it either.

    Oh – and I totally sympathize with the which books can I read on the couch in front of everyone thing. I have the books I store on the shelves downstairs and the books I store upstairs, in my bedroom . . .

  3. Julie Musil says:

    Oh, I can totally relate to this! I still don't mention it to some people. Those that are closest to me know, but like you mentioned, they think I have a book coming out NOW. They don't understand how slow this process is. That's another reason I love blogging with all you writers. We all “get it.”

    Good luck on your trip, and enjoy the family AND the books 😀

  4. Elizabeth Twist says:

    Most of the people in my life know that I write, and don't understand what's involved, but they love me so they mostly accept it. The people I get the most trouble from are the “other women” in my boyfriend's life: his sister and his female friends. I get snide remarks, jealous comments, and the occasional bout of backstabbing. They view me as selfish, and sometimes I find it hard not to internalize that. As my best friend likes to remind me, however, everything's a choice, and I have sacrificed some things to be here, just like everyone sacrifices things and makes choices that have led to where they are.

    Some days it's enough to make me get a giant “It's My Life” tattoo.

  5. Lori M. Lee says:

    I definitely understand. I think the biggest reaction I get when I tell people I want to be a writer is the misconception that it's easy. My coworker was like 'I should tell my wife to write a book too, then I wouldn't have to work.' Hehehe. No.

    When you tell them–when, not if, b/c I know someday you'll succeed, you're to talented!–they'll probably still think some of those things, but you'll be too happy to care! ❤

  6. I♥blogs says:

    I cannot express how spot on you are with your observations. My in laws (not so much the parent in-laws as the sibling in-laws) have always given my writing life the short shrift. “Oh, what a quaint hobby,” like I was making Shrinky Dinks all day long. (I can most relate to what Elizabeth Twist describes above: the attitudes of certain “other women” in the family.)

    At least you can say your in-laws respect you. After the first 30 minutes of meeting my sister in-law, she laid out the condescending tone I would have to deal with for the next 25 years.

    It doesn't even matter if you have external evidence to show them that what you do is respectable. I recently showed them an anthology my work appeared in (along Ursula K LeGuin and Ray Bradbury, no less) and they picked up the hefty, fully realized, legitimately ISBNed book and said, “This a real book?” as if they thought it inconceivable I would have a legitimate writing career (forget that I've published dozens of short stories, articles, poems, even garnered a few awards and a couple of Pushcart nominations).

    I've decided it's just going to have to be their problem, their shortsightedness, and feel sorry for them for living their lives under such a low ceiling.

    And like Lori above says, when you hit your stride, you *will* be too happy to care about what they think, and everyone who *has* supported you all this time will be there with bells on to celebrate with you.

    Tamara at Writer's Rainbow

  7. Laura Marcella says:

    Have fun on vacation!!!

    My in-laws know I write, but I'm pretty sure they think it's just a hobby. That's fine with me because it'll be a pleasant surprise when I'm published someday! And hopefully this pleasant surprise will happen in the near future, LoL.

    I'm tagging you in a meme tomorrow (Friday, June 10) just so you know! There's no obligation to play, but I thought you might like to see it!

  8. Laura Pauling says:

    Found you through Laura Marcella's post today! I totally get it. My family does know but they don't even ask about it, or very rarely. And only my closest friends know. Yes an agent or a book deal, and I would then feel free to tell people. 🙂

  9. Julie Dao says:

    Enjoy your vacation! I know exactly how you feel about not wanting to tell certain people you write. I've had bad experiences before where I told friends, thinking they'd be supportive and happy for me, and then they turned on me. So I think it's all a matter of doing what you're doing now: sitting tight, biding your time, and thinking it over carefully. Once you have something to show, then they can't say anything about it 🙂

    I tagged you on Wednesday for a little meme (and so did Laura) but don't feel like you have to participate!

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