Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Admitting It

I took an interesting step yesterday.

My wife and I attended a business event last night, my wife with an eye toward making contacts, and me because, well, husband. At one point I found myself talking to one gentleman for a bit and he asked me what I do. So I told him, and then, with a bit of a nervous swallow, I told him, “And I’ve rediscovered my love of writing and have written two novels I’m attempting to publish.”

Gah, that’s ugly

I’ll be quite honest with you, it’s always been much easier to tell strangers on the internet this than it is to tell people in person. Maybe you know the feeling. Maybe you don’t, maybe you have no trouble telling anyone and everyone about your novelizing. My wife tells more people I’m writing than I do, to be honest.

“Bravo,” said this gentleman (no, he didn’t actually say ‘bravo’, but that was the gist of it). He asked me what I write about, and now I’m stuck, and now I know why I don’t tell people, because I still don’t quite know how to answer this. It would be easy to say, “I’m a romance writer”, or “Science fiction.” How do you tell people you write what is a quasi-literary style with no real genre? So I said, “People” in a half-joking way, and then mumbled on about still trying to pin down what it is I write about.

This fine fellow proceeded to tell me that he was working on his third novel, then told me a brief story about running into a friend who was a literary agent (no names given, though I admit I was momentarily thinking, quite selfishly, “Connection!”) and applauded me for telling him this little bit about me. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was along the lines of how telling people things like this can make things happen. If no one knows you’re doing it, you might as well not be doing it. I think that’s closer to what he said. He then told me another story about how he wrote a letter to an author back in 1989, after being moved by this man’s book. It started a multi-year correspondence that ended up with him getting a great job opportunity from this author. Telling people, in other words, can lead to interesting opportunities.

It’s still awkward for me to tell people flat out I’m writing, but yesterday was a good lesson on why we shouldn’t shy away from it.


On another note, one thing I’ve always tried to do with this blog is be responsive to you. I may not always get to it right away, but I’ve always believed in acknowledging comments here, and if you don’t see replies to comments directly on the page, it’s because the comment went directly to that person’s e-mail. I do this in part because I don’t like seeing ’24 replies to this post’ when 12 of them are my own.

Life has kind of interrupted things lately, however. I have written very little at all over the last two weeks. I’ve been busy, and tired, and have not had as much time for this as I have in the past. I just want to let you all know that I’m reading all your comments, and I appreciate them very much, even if I don’t reply to each of them. You may notice (or not, and that’s okay) that my epic mustache hasn’t been turning up in your own ‘comments’ section as much lately, either. In keeping with the A-Z theme that so many of you are participating in, call it ‘T is for Time (and the lack thereof’. I just haven’t had as much of it to devote to the blog world lately. I hope it will change soon, because I enjoy seeing what you’re all up to, and I gain a lot from your own interests and struggles and triumphs.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

7 Responses

  1. I know about telling people you write. It doesn't always work out so well.

    Someone asked me what I do.
    I told him, "I'm a writer."
    "A rider? What kind of horse?"
    That's when the third person piped in. "A writer, not rider, you numskull. Like in books."

    I felt the conversation kind of tanked after that.

  2. Well, since I'm rarely appropriate in my comments anyway, I'll go ahead and share this…I was at the gynecologist's office once and she asked what kind of work I do…they often try to start a conversation to distract you from what's coming…and I told her I write. During the exam she's telling me all about her friend who is a literary agent and would I like her name. Like you, even in that circumstance, I was thinking "connection!" 😛

  3. I have an entire list of jobs I share with people, but I especially like to tell people I'm a writer. They always seem so interested.

    No worries on replying. You have a life. Go enjoy it!

  4. I've told some of my family and a few select friends that I write. Most of them, I think, have forgotten and never ask about it. I'd say about a handful remember and ask me how it's going and I value their interest and support so much. Blogging, however, is another story. Nobody, except my immediate family, knows I blog, lol.

  5. You're definitely not the only one who's pushed for time on blogger 🙂 I think it's good to be able to tell someone that you're a writer. Admittedly, I tend to shy away from people who come out all like "I'm studying some science or IT degree, what are you doing?" I can almost feel it when they go ahead and judge me. But the gentleman is right; if you don't tell anybody what you're doing, how are people supposed to know?

  6. Interesting and timely. I've been thinking about coming out of my writer closet. I hadn't considered that I might open myself up to opportunities by sharing this part of my life, though. Very nice point. Thanks, Jeff.

    Don't worry about being busy – you are great at keeping up your blogging connections. Life gets in the way for us all, from time-to-time.

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