I was with a group of friends the other day when one of them announced she was pregnant.
After all the congratulations and the looking at the scan picture and all that business, the rest of us started to carefully analyse the previous three months – the time when she’d known she was knocked up but hadn’t wanted anyone else to know. I said something about how I didn’t think I’d be able to keep a secret for all that time, especially not from people I saw every day. She pointed out that I hadn’t told anyone I was writing a book, which was true.
I know it’s not really the same situation, but I suppose there are similarities. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book because, to me, the whole writing a book/ looking for an agent/looking for a publisher episode is kind of like the trying for a baby part.
It’s not something I’ve done myself but I can imagine that trying to get pregnant is quite a big deal, taking up quite a lot of mental and physical (ahem) energy. But even though people must be thinking about it all the time, most people don’t really announce that they’re trying for a baby, do they? I’m guessing it’s because at that stage, you don’t know if anything’s ever going to come of it and you don’t want people asking you about it all the time. Pretty much the exact reason I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book.
And I definitely wouldn’t have considered calling myself an author at that point. I know you don’t HAVE to be published to call yourself that, but to me it would’ve been like someone who likes a kick-about on a Sunday calling themselves a football player.
Then I got a book contract, and I did tell some people about the book, but I still don’t talk about it much. Not in real life anyway. I still don’t use the word ‘author’. This is partly because I get a bit bored of this conversation:
Me: I wrote a book.
Them: Blah blah JK Rowling.
Me: For teenagers.
Them: Oh! Blah blah vampires.
But also because I suppose I now consider myself to be book-pregnant. Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, there will be a published book. But I still won’t fully believe it’s going to happen until my publication date (Birdy, out 2nd July, thanks for asking).
All sorts of things could happen between now and July. My publisher might decide it was all a stupid mistake and find something better to publish instead (fair enough). Their whole office and everyone in it might be swept away by a tidal wave. I might be swept away by tidal wave.
So, at the moment, I don’t really think of myself as an author. I just wrote this book-thing once and it may or may not go down well. When people ask me what I do for a living I do say ‘writer’ because that IS how I earn most of my money, but I tell them about the training and educational stuff I write, never the books (unless conversation is really drying up).
Maybe I will be more forthcoming once my book is published. Once the baby is born. (I’m getting bored of the pregnancy analogy now.) But even then I’m still not sure.
Maybe I just want to avoid all those question that Clementine Beauvais covered a few months ago. Maybe it’s just that I want to wait until I’ve sold a certain number of books. Or until writing books takes up more of my time than my other work (a time which is unlikely to come). Or until it’s my main source of income (as above). I don’t know really.