To Tell or Not to Tell?

For the entire time I was working on my novel, I was loath to tell people I was a writer, because this is the kind of reaction I got:

From professionals: “Oh, you’re a writer? How nice.” How darling. The housewife is trying to be a writer.

“Your husband must do well, letting you stay home and write,” another commented. Not all housewives stay home because their husbands keep them buried in Godiva chocolate.

“Of course you had time to write a book. You just stay home with the kids, you don’t have anything else to do all day,” another woman told me.

I ripped out her heart like that guy in the Indiana Jones movie.

When I actually sold my durned novel, I really wanted to have a T-shirt made telling everyone about it. Writing when you have not been published feels like you’re playing at something, though that’s not true. It’s just that the pay-off part is far off. I want to tell everyone, because I’ve worked hard at this for years without any recognition and with lots of rejection and with little hope of actual success.

But now I’m getting different reactions:

“I’m a writer too. Well, I’m thinking about being a writer. And an artist. I haven’t done anything yet, though. Just thinking.” Continue thinking. I’m sure it’ll get you far.

“I had an idea for a book once. This agent I met offered me a huge contract. I took it home and lost it.” Agents offering contracts? Hmm. If that actually happened, then I should probably rip out your heart, too.

“I would write, if I only had the time.” Yes, the next time you get an extra twenty minutes, you go ahead and write that novel.

And then the outright jealous:

“How did you ever sell a novel?”


To avoid these problems, my husband thinks I should not tell anyone that I’m a writer, ever. That’s because he’s secretive. He only volunteers information when absolutely necessary and even then people drag it out of him. I volunteer info because you never know what the other person will share.

For example, I told the dry cleaner that I was looking for a preschool, and she told me she has a preschooler and gave me some insider info. I told the checker at Safeway I had to cover all my daughter’s textbooks and he gave me a huge bunch of paper bags. Talking to people is how I find things out.

Besides, it’s not like I go around announcing it as soon as I meet people. It just comes up and if they ask questions, I tell them. Sometimes people are really interested to know about the novel, and these are the types of folks who I think might read it, who might be excited about it, who might tell a few of their friends about it. These are the types of people I hope to talk to.

From everyone else, I’ll take the bullet. It was worth it.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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