Coming Out, as a Writer

So, for a long time I have kept my writing ambitions mostly to myself and shared them only with a select circle of family and friends.

I know a lot of people, and most of them don’t know at all that I write.   There are a lot of reasons for this:

Not everyone is supportive, and I have enough trouble assuaging my own fears, without dealing with anyone else’s dampening influence.

It’s a long road, and I know that already.  I don’t need others to tell me.

In the film industry, there’s a certain contempt for the “wannabe.”  And I never wanted to be seen as a wannabe.  I wanted to come out to people as an “am,” as in “I am a screenwriter, and here are my credits,” or “I’m writing for this TV show…”

Of course I can withstand other’s unsupportive thoughts.  I survived USC film school, after all, which is not a gushingly supportive atmosphere, at least it wasn’t when I was there.  (And it doesn’t have to be.  We were all tough enough to get through it, and the industry itself can be tough.  I know that.)  It’s just that dealing with other people’s negative comments takes energy, and I’d rather spend it on my work.

I also prefer to spend my energy doing the work, not talking about it.  I have gotten so close with a lot of things, good responses from producers and others,  getting my work seen by production companies, etc.  And I don’t want to be continually saying, “This almost worked,” and so on.  I just want to work on it until I succeed, and then be able to share the success.

Now with the Graphic Novel (and blogging) project, I can’t keep it that way any more.

I need help.

And I need to come out as a writer to get it.

Even though I am constantly educating myself, I still don’t know nearly enough about Graphic Novels as an art form or about how they are produced and published.  I am working on finding out, and there are so many people who can help me with that.  Bur first they need to know I need their help and why.

I tried, judiciously, telling a few friends about it at a Victorian dance ball a couple of months ago, and out of four revelations, I got two offers of help from friends who have brothers or friends with knowledge of the field, or who have published graphic novels, and would be willing to advise me.

The warm enthusiasm of my friends, and their expressions of support have been wonderful.  As I said, I have been releasing the information carefully.  I’m not ready to broadcast it yet.  But those I have told have been marvelous about it, and I am grateful.

It’s scary coming out.

As exhilarating as the response has been to my selective revelations, it’s still scary to share the information.  I fear people will think me a poor, deluded soul, pursuing a crazy, unrealistic dream.   Counterbalancing that is the tremendously positive comments I have gotten about my writing from Ken Rotcop and my manager.  Just being able to say I have a manager helps, and makes me seem more legitimate.  The very fact that my manager judged me good enough to try out for a T.V. writing job is so encouraging.  (No guarantee of getting the job, of course, but still, encouraging.)

Still, it is hard to let my secret out.

After all the hours and years of studying and writing, I want to be taken seriously.  It has taken a lot of dedication to get to this point, but in America, if you’re not making money already at something, you’re seen somehow as less legitimate.  Also, American culture has a strange relationship with the arts.  It seems we worship those who are making lots of money in the arts, and disdain anyone who isn’t.   There isn’t a lot of support for those of us transitioning into making money at it, the way there might be, for example for lawyers are applying to firms, or dentists seeking their first office to start practicing.

It’s as if an artist isn’t a professional until we bring the check home from it, but those other professionals are regarded as “the real thing,” even before they obtain a position.

Now, I know not all artists are created alike.  I know that not everyone with aspirations is creating good work.  I know I certainly wasn’t when I first got started.  It takes time to get good at any art form.  And there are some people who just dream of an artistic career but never do the work necessary to get good, or to get connected with the money side of it.  Of course, some people don’t want to make money at art – and that’s fine, too.

But it would be nice if people in general would give aspiring artists the benefit of the doubt, instead of the all-too-usual cynicism.

There’s another dimension to this.

As gregarious as I am, I’m very private about certain things in my life, and for the longest time, this has been one of them.  I’m not used to having this all out in the open.

But I must forge ahead as I must.  Coming out as a writer is already helping me, to get advice and help.  So here I go…

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Oscar Hokeah
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 17:59:50

    Yeah, can’t let that cynicism get to you. Good luck!

    Reply

  2. Jenny Yang
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 20:36:15

    Hello graphicnoveladventure! I had to comment. I found your blog through cruising around for background information on folks I encountered at Comic-Con 2011! What an awesome surprise to find someone willing to transparently reflect and report on their creative process! I’ve been undertaking such a process myself. So when I saw this post in my inbox, I had to read it! The title was EERILY similar to my inaugural blog post for my podcast/blog page The CreativeLife 🙂 http://creativelifepod.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/coming-out-to-my-parents-about-doing-standup-comedy/
    To the journey!
    Jenny Yang

    Reply

    • cynthiahussey
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 00:48:48

      Hey Jenny,

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Now I had to go check out your blog (and subscribe, too). Your account of coming out about stand-up comedy to your folks was great: brave and very funny. I look forward to spending more time checking out your interviews and podcasts about The Creative Life.

      I hope my blog was useful for that background info you were seeking.

      I wish you the best with all your creative endeavors. I can’t wait to see what you do next!

      Cynthia

      Reply

  3. eric hussey
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 20:17:02

    Great post! I support your very realistic dream and know you will succeed 1000&10 %. love you, eric. -p.s. Diana says hello.

    Reply

  4. jbrenion
    Aug 06, 2011 @ 10:13:02

    I wanted to touch on some of your remarks about artists needing to “bring the check home” to be considered professionals.

    Speaking for myself, I know that I am unable to tell a “good” artist from a “bad” one. That’s a statement that probably requires some clarification. There are pieces that I personally like, that speak to me in some way. There are a lot of pieces that don’t. But many of these pieces are still considered to be good art by others. One of the lessons I take from this is that I am not necessarily able to differentiate between art that shows technical competence and art that does not – one person may have a lot of formal training, but I can’t always tell which is which.

    So I look for other metrics that I can use to say “Okay, this person is probably a good artist, even if I personally am not enthralled by their work.” The paycheck metric doesn’t seem like a bad one – to me, it says “This person is good enough that in a vast sea of options, their work stands out enough that someone is willing to pay to experience it.” The economist in me tells me that a great way to tell if people value something is to see if they’re willing to spend money on it.

    This method is prone to false negatives, it’s true. There are plenty of deserving artists who may just never get that lucky break, and so I may overlook them. But it seems relatively unlikely that I’ll get false positives – more often than not, people aren’t going to throw good money at a bad artist. So, as someone who knows he doesn’t have the ability to recognize actual talent, and doesn’t have the time to receive enough formal training to be able to know what is good and what isn’t… the paycheck metric isn’t the best, but what’s a better one?

    None of this changes how frustrating it can be for you, I recognize. I just think it might be instructive to look at why people might use that as a gauge.

    Reply

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