When people find out I’ve written a book, they invariably say, “Oh, that explains the ‘I’ve written a book tattoo’ on your forehead,” to which I reply, “Is it that obvious?”
Actually, friends were shocked when they found out I’d written a book, let alone one that found a publisher and was due to come out in just a few months. Only a handful of people knew about “Dead Jed.” Word got out only when an acquaintance noticed a Twitter chat in which I’d mentioned the book.
I kept my efforts to myself until I was about halfway through the book, when I revealed my secret to one person. I told Paula because I knew she would keep on me to finish it. Another three people met “Dead Jed” when I asked them to read it and provide feedback.
Besides my agent, and the publishing houses that would ultimately reject it, the book remained a secret. Here are six reasons I kept it to myself:
1. I wanted to own something. As a reporter, any number of people knew what I was working on in a given time. But the book? That was for me.
2. Fear of failure. It wasn’t as if I were a tailor who every night spent hours slaving over a legal pad, painstakingly crafting a novel in longhand. If I were, I’d Tweet about my progress about every 500 words. But I was a professional writer with loads of training and constantly learning from talented editors. If the book crashed and burned, I wanted as few witnesses as possible. By the way, are there still tailors?
3. Lack of confidence. This is “Fear of failure’s” wingman. My career is based on telling the tales of other people. Fiction was a whole other thing (regardless of criticisms over the years from folks who swore I made up stuff for the newspaper).
4. Privacy. I don’t share a lot about myself (I get the blog-related irony). I’m rarely on Facebook and when I tweet, it’s largely for work. “Dead Jed” was locked away in the brain basement for a long time. Now I’m booting him out the house hoping the world invites him in. He won’t take up a lot of room, I swear.
5. Worried how colleagues and peers would react. I work in a field where people are judged daily on their writing talents. Competition is as ever-present as compliments are rare. Given the extremely talented people I work with, I feared they would take any number of shots at a humorous, even frivolous, middle-grade book. Of course I was wrong. When word of the book got out, my colleagues were incredibly supportive. I realized how very lucky I was to be among such good people.
6. Did not want to be “That guy.” Going back to the tailor scenario, if I am sewing during the day and writing at night, I’m probably sharing the ongoing narrative with my colleagues, clients and anybody who would listen. Since most reporters want to write a book at some point, I didn’t want to be the guy with ad nauseum updates, beginning every sentence with “So my agent told me …” and becoming the newsroom Richard. Now if I were crafting a suit, I would be all like, “Dude, check out these lapels I finished last night.”