Are You Shy About Your Subject?

Are You Shy About Your Subject?

I love telling people that I’m a writer. I am kind of a spoiled youngest child who loves attention, so I thoroughly enjoy the way people respond when I let them in on this part of myself. Usually, they are super impressed and spend the next thirty seconds awed to be in the presence of such greatness. Or, you know, they say that’s cool and move on. But undoubtedly, whenever I tell someone that I am a writer they ask me the most terrible question – “What do you write about?”

No no no no no no don’t ask me that! Why do you want to know what I write about? This question seems so benign on the outside, shouldn’t every writer – especially ones who love to talk about themselves – love being asked this question? No, we don’t, or at least I don’t. And the reason is the answer to this simple question is the essence of my biggest insecurity when it comes to writing. I am embarrassed by the things I write about.

In case you haven’t already looked at my bio and read about my current works in progress I will let you in on my deep dark secret. Ready? Deep breath. Big confession coming up you guys…I write werewolf novels.

Agh, I squirmed a little just typing that. Did you cringe, are you judging me? You’re still reading so that’s a good sign. Yes, my current work in progress is about characters who are werewolves. This is a topic that has not only been done before, but also has the stench of complete uncoolness wafting from it like a strong cheese. Maybe this wouldn’t be so shameful if I were in middle school, but as an adult, I hate hate hate sharing this factoid with my peers.

I will literally do almost anything to evade this question. Instead of telling people about my awesome characters or the crazy plot twists of my story I’ll tell them I write young adult fiction or low fantasy. I’ve even been as vague as saying I’m writing a coming of age story.
Newsflash, that is not going to sell my novel to these potential readers! But I do it anyways. I had this conversation with my coworker the other week, he knows I’m a writer, and knows I usually spend some portion of my lunch break working on things, so he asked me “what did you write about today?” Feeling like I dodged a bullet by working on character development instead of story material I told him I was “improving my characters.” But then, as he scooped a granola bar out of his lunch bag he asked me “So, what is your story actually about?” He already knew genre, target age group all that jazz and now he wanted to know content. And I totally wussed out! Instead of holding my head high and owning it telling him about Blaine, who grew up his whole life plagued by fears that he would become a werewolf like his father, that he would be moon cursed. And Jesse the free-spirited new girl in town whose dad is compelled to hunt werewolves and how their stories join together in an epic saga of awesomeness, I blushed and awkwardly fumbled my way through saying “well, I write about werewolves who are going through some stuff.”

facepalm cat

But in my defense, the werewolf genre does not have a great reputation, so it makes sense that I would be a little shy about telling people that I write about this misunderstood topic. But, my story is not about hot guys running around in the woods with their shirts off. There’s real content, real depth and real meaning to it. Just because the topic of my story has been done wrong in the past doesn’t mean that my story can’t redeem the genre. I can even use that angle when I tell people about my story “You know how werewolf novels are so overdone and lame, well I’m trying to fix that.”

Werewolves are not the only topic that has a negative perception in the public eye: fantasy, mystery, romance and even nonfiction can all sound incredibly uncool depending on who you are pitching too. And that is why this insecurity about my topic is such a problem – because it doesn’t really matter what topic I am writing about – I am always a little embarrassed to share it with others. And that my friends is a huge problem!

It shouldn’t matter what I write, I should be able to write odes to watching paint dry and still be proud of my work. I think the root of this insecurity goes deeper than having people think I am uncool, I’m pretty sure everyone already knows I am a huge dork. The real reason this embarrassment is such a roadblock for me is because I fear that nobody will care about my writing.

This really shouldn’t matter. I do not write to be the next J.K. Rowling (though wouldn’t that be awesome!) I write because I love to do it. But, stories are meant to be shared. If I was the only person on the planet I wouldn’t need to write, because I would have all my stories in my head and could access them whenever I wanted. Without anyone to share my stories with they become less important, which makes it feel pretty important to be able to someday share my stories with the world. More than just sharing I want my stories to impact, entertain or move somebody outside of myself. I want my stories to make the world better.

I know that is a lofty goal, but I think that most writers feel that way about their work. And the irony of being embarrassed to talk about my story and my subject matter is that it is self-sabotaging. If I can’t stand behind my story, then who will? I am the best seller of my stories, and the only person who can bring them from my head into the world.

So, how do I work up the courage to do this? I’m still not entirely sure. I think that for the most part I just need to suck it up, be brave and not worry about what other people think. I did this successfully over the weekend, talking to my little cousins about my story. I told them about my awesome characters, and the horrible things I am going to put them through and you know what. They thought it was cool. They wanted to know everything, they were hopping up and down wondering when it would be published. They even wanted to help me write it! I am hoping that little bit of positive feedback will give me the courage to stand behind my story the next time I am asked the dreaded question “What do you write about?”

Do you have a secret writer’s shame, or an insecurity that throws off your writing groove? Tell me about it in the comments. Or tell me about your camp NaNoWriMo experience so far – word count sound off! Finish strong and as always…

Stay amazing my friends.

5 thoughts on “Are You Shy About Your Subject?

  1. I love this Brooke. It helps me get inside your head and that is very cool. Seems like this site is a step toward you getting brave about your writing!

  2. Hey Brooke, thanks for giving me the link to your blog, I had a quick look through and you and Kayla seem great! I wish you the best of luck with both of your projects.

    This post made me smile because it’s so relatable. At least you’re open with being a writer, I am awful at sharing my writing with the people closest to me. It ends up being this closely guarded secret that I feel the need to protect and although getting back into NaNoWriMo last year has made me more open with who I’ve shared my story with, I still have close friends who have no idea I write anything, let alone YA fiction.

    I totally agree that it’s something we’ll have to get the courage to do, because it’s important and it’s something we’re both passionate about so we should be sharing it with others. I do archery and end up telling everybody about that, so why should writing be any different? It’s a lot harder to get over those fears in practice though!

    1. Hi Fiona, Glad you enjoyed the post! I agree it is really easy to talk the talk about being brave but a whole different thing to walk the walk. I’ve found that the more people I talk to about writing the easier it gets, not sure if it is because I’m getting good practice at talking about it, or if I get a confidence boost when people respond in a positive way. But, either way telling people about my writing really helps motivate me to stick to it so one day when I am asked about it I can tell them to go buy my book 🙂

  3. Kelsey has been bugging me to read this post for a while now. I am always ashamed of my genre, even going as far as trying to write something else for NaNo last year. I will say it, I write romance. Even one of my writing teachers told me I would get no respect for my work. I have always written romance, since I was 13 it is what I have done. I tried to write other stories, but it always ends up romance. For a while I tried saying I wrote New Adult fiction, but then I learned that New Adult fiction was basically made up of Romance writers who wanted to separate themselves from saying romance/erotica. I have even gone through phases where I avoid writing because I am so embarrassed. It is nice to know others suffer from this as well, but I’m still not sure how to beat this whole thing.

    1. Katie, so glad you finally caved to peer pressure and checked out my post! I completely agree, just like fantasy, romance is another genre that has a definite stigma around it. I think one of the reasons romance gets so much criticism is the market is over saturated with poor writing. It is hard to weed through everything to find the romance novels that are actually pretty darn amazing! I think people also image romance to be fluff reading and that the genre doesn’t have any substance to it, which just isn’t true. I’ve read some really amazing romance book, as well as a few that were completely off the wall ridiculous. Sometimes people take reading too seriously and forget that it is ok for a book to just be for fun – it doesn’t always have to be filled with symbolism and meaning and you don’t always have to be striving towards writing a book that will last for centuries. Write the story you want right now, no matter what others think. Just like I want to show people how my book is different from their idea of what a werewolf fantasy novel is like I think you can do the same with your romance. It’s important that you love your story so much that it doesn’t matter what other people think of the genre. My advice for sharing your subject with others would be to pick out your favorite elements of the story, focus on talking about those first, and then proudly declare you are writing a romance novel like no other. I think sometimes too that the word romance can be a trigger for all sorts of bad stereotypes, so if you are really worried about that you could define your genre with a different word like “love stories” “Passion sagas” or “Human connection stories.” And if anybody ever ever ever thinks less of you because you write romance, ask them what their favorite story is and I would bet that there is some sort of romance in that book because (to quote one of my favorite Broadway Musicals ‘Aida’) every story is a love story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *