Coming out to the ones you love about your alternative (writing) lifestyle

image By Ned Hickson

It began with my parents of course, who held hands as I explained that I had always felt “different,” and that I wanted to embrace who I was, without shame, hopefully with their acceptance and approval. They both exchanged glances, my mother squeezing my father’s hand and offering him a worried smile before turning back to me. She knew what was coming and slowly blinked, nodding her head ever so slightly, encouraging me.

I cleared my throat. Took a deep breath.

“Mom… Dad… I think I might be a writer.”

It’s been many years since I came out of the closet. Or, in my case, the laundry room, which is where I did most of my writing until becoming a columnist in 1998. But before that — before I actually started getting paid to write — that conversation replayed itself many times over the years with family, friends and co-workers, most of whom thought of my writing as something akin to collecting salt and pepper shakers; a “unique” hobby that I was asked not to talk about at parties.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but for people who don’t know you — it makes them uncomfortable when your eyes light up like that.”

The bottom line is that no one took my writing seriously (And, yes, I realize the irony of that statement considering I am a humor columnist, but still…). In retrospect, there were many reasons why my wanting to be a writer was perceived as a bucket list item instead of a legitimate rung on my life ladder — beginning with my own perception of “wanting to be” a writer. Because we’re conditioned from an early age to view money as a prime indicator of success and achievement, we naturally use that same measuring stick as validation when it comes to pursuits that don’t fall into traditional categories.

In short: If you aren’t getting paid for it, then you’re not legitimate.

That’s like saying you can’t include “skydiving instructor” among the achievements in your obituary just because your parachute didn’t open the last time you jumped. Even if you’ve landed flat on your face in terms of monetary or publishing success with your writing, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

It just means there’s a good possibility that every publisher you’ve submitted your work to was a skydiving instructor who died before they could read your masterpiece. I honestly can’t tell you how many publishers plunged to their death before I saw my first words in print.

Regardless, if you spend time formulating words for the sheer enjoyment while, at the same time, agonizing over those very same words, congratulations:

You are a writer.

How do I know this? Because no one who isn’t a writer would put themselves through this process. Ask the average person on the street to write five paragraphs about their favorite memory while holding them at gun point, and most will help you squeeze the trigger. The ones who don’t?

They’re the writers.

Or masochists. Which I realize is somewhat redundant.

My point is the only legitimacy you need as a writer comes from yourself — and it starts with believing what you do is important and has value that isn’t measured in dollars or even common sense in the eyes of others. Let’s face it, toiling alone over the choice and arrangement of words on a page doesn’t make much sense to anyone who isn’t a writer. They may nod their heads and smile when you try to explain it, but in their minds they’re wondering if buying a home so close to high-voltage power lines was a mistake. Again, the only thing that matters is giving yourself permission to take your writing seriously.

And by “serious,” I don’t just mean getting published or paid for the words you write. It simply means serious enough that you make time for it, in the same way you do other routines that are important to your daily life.

If you take your writing seriously, so will others.

And if they don’t? It doesn’t make you any less a writer. Published or unpublished, novelist or columnist, fiction or non-fiction, accept yourself for being a writer and always make time for putting those words down on paper. It is both a gift and a responsibility — and a pursuit that is uniquely your own to determine and discover. Make it part of your lifestyle and treasure those who embrace it with you.

As for everyone else?

I hear that skydiving makes a great holiday gift…



Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.

14 thoughts on “Coming out to the ones you love about your alternative (writing) lifestyle

  1. My favorite is the look people give me when they find out I have a blog. The smile-politely-and-pray-really-hard-that-they-aren’t-asked-to-read-it look. I don’t often tell people about the blog for that reason, and I have few readers whom I know in real life. Telling people I’m a writer is akin to telling them run a diaper service. “People do that for real?”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think your diaper analogy is perfect. People don’t give much thought to the unpleasantries of life, and for many people writing is unpleasant. Like a clean diaper, they only know — and appreciate — when writing isn’t full of crap 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, Ned! This is just the BEST!!! “Ask the average person on the street to write five paragraphs about their favorite memory while holding them at gun point, and most will help you squeeze the trigger. The ones who don’t? They’re the writers.”

    Best. Line. Ever. (On writing, of course.) 🙂

    Oh, how I know this subject! I could have been sitting at that table pictured above. Only, I gave in. Well…not totally. I gave in on pursuing writing as a career, but I still wrote letters that took friends weeks to finish reading, and poems that most wouldn’t go near, and Op-Ed letters I never mailed to the newspapers. I wrote all the time. But I never…WROTE…in the way I wanted to. Which was to tell stories that would touch other people in some way.

    Way back in the day, I wanted to make people laugh, and my idols were Art Buchwald, Erma Bombeck, and Dave Barry…not necessarily in that order. Today, I’m happy to toss out a chuckle now and then on a blog, which, btw, I started doing as a new and improved method of getting my writing fix! But then one day, I just…wrote a book. Not anything earth-shattering. Nothing destined for the NYT Best Seller list. But a book, just the same. And not a 100-page novella, either. A 427-page novel crammed with everything I’d ever wanted to put in a book, including (but not limited to) a flashback story line from the 60’s, a current romantic entanglement fraught with all the angst I could cram into one character, a 50-year old murder mystery, and…tada…a ghost. Yep. All in a mere 427 pages, because I figured I’d never do it again. But guess what? The book is still selling, and I’m still writing. I’m living proof that every word you wrote above is 100% true!

    You want to write, folks? Listen to Ned. Write. NOBODY is stopping you, except maybe yourself. Step away from the ordinary, sit down at your keyboard, and write. Write a line. Write a page. Write a chapter. Write a book. Rinse. Repeat.

    Thanks for posting this today, Ned. (BUT I DO HOPE YOU DIDN’T THINK I WAS NUDGING YOU TO POST. Contributors to this blog are always encouraged to post as often as they want, but never, ever obligated to do so. It would stop being fun, then.)

    I’m printing this one out for my Inspiration Board. 😀 You TOTALLY still rock!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marcia, I have to think that you didn’t give in as much as merely postponed the inevitable. Yo are definitely a natural-born writer (Look at this comment for starters!). I am so glad you never let that writing flame die out and, eventually, coaxed it into a full flame.

      And I gott’a say, you TOTALLY rock too, Marcia! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • There used to be an old song…well, it wasn’t OLD when it “used to be,” but it is now. And it’s still a song. Hmmm. Let me start over. Ahem. I used to know of a song that went like this. Wait. I STILL know of it. Oh, forget about it. Here it is:

        Belong to a
        Ad-mi-ration society, My baby and Me.

        I think that’s what we might have going here. (Okay, I promise I won’t call you baby. Since you’re about my son’s age, that would just be…icky.) But, I know for a fact that I admire your writing, your dedication to your community as a volunteer firefighter, and the way you talk about your wife, which just splashes love all over the place. And since you just told me I totally rocked, too, I’m going to believe (because I want to) that you admire my tenacity and determination to prevail over the naysayers, and finally get around to the thing I’ve wanted to do for the last 65 years. So…in my book, that makes it mutual, which is always special.

        Next time I’m in Oregon, I’m going to hunt you down and give you a big ol’ southern-style Granny hug! (Don’t start looking for hiding places yet. It might be a long time before I get to the west coast again, now that Erin has moved back to Florida. Still…it’s something you should be prepared for. In case. I’m just sayin’….

        Liked by 1 person

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