Tearing Down the Walls – Privacy in Writing

A reader of mine, who is also a writer, brought up a very interesting point.  He said, “When I tell someone that I am a writer, there is an instantaneous loss of privacy.”  Those words really struck home for me.  As a writer of erotic fantasy, there is a reason why I do not tell people that I am an author.  (see article “Why People Don’t Know that I am an Author” )  For me, it is really hard trying to explain to people exactly what I write about (mostly taboo fantasy fiction) and how/why I got started in this particular genre.  Reading those words of a fellow writer made me start thinking about all the reasons why people don’t want to confess their profession/hobby/passion, and why, once they do, they no longer have any type of privacy when it comes to their writing lives.

I cannot speak for all writers, but I can give you the rundown on how I lose privacy when I admit that I write.  First off, for some reason, people have a tendency to look at me funny when I say, “Yeah, I write.”  It’s almost like they are sizing me up.  I can almost see the gears turning in their heads.  What does she write about?  Does she do freelance from home?  How come I have never heard of her?  Is she any good?  It’s like they are trying to decide if they want to ask me anything about it or not.  If they are genuinely interested, then they usually ask.  It is these people who end up knowing a lot more about how my mind works than they really wanted to know, or that I wanted them to know.

The first question out of a person’s mouth is, “What do you write about?”  Well, if you happen to write news articles or fashion articles or articles on money or just about anything in the nonfiction genre then you will not likely have the scenario I am about to describe.  But as soon as I tell them, “I write fantasy fiction” they look at me like I had not gotten the memo that I was an adult.  In other words, people seem to associate “fantasy” stories with children and teenagers so obviously anyone who writes about fantasy is nothing more than an overgrown child.  They may be thinking that I am not that smart since I write about things that are not based in reality.  Now if I had told them I wrote children’s books they would want to know where they could pick up my latest creation.  But as soon as they heard the word “fantasy” they started making the following associations:

1.  She’s not very smart since she writes about things that do not actually exist.

2.  If she’s writing about make-believe things then she’s obviously immature and acts/thinks like a child.

3.  She’s not that talented because if she were then she would have a respectable job at a magazine or newspaper.

Already I have people making judgments about me based solely on the genre I choose to explore.  Now imagine the looks on their faces when I tell them the rest of the story, “Um, yeah, I don’t just write fantasy fiction, I actually write erotic fantasy fiction.”

Two things will now happen.  First, I went from being an addle-brained nitwit without any talent and a Peter Pan complex to being a sexual deviant who needs to be locked away in a jail cell for the next fifty years.  Now they really think that I have no talent because no one in their right minds with any talent what-so-ever would ever voluntarily write anything erotic, right?  Next they are going to start telling everyone who will listen to keep their kids away from my kids and to stay away from me because obviously anyone who writes about that stuff thinks about it all the time.  So now I’m not just a no-talented nitwit, but I’m a perverted, sexually deviated no-talented nitwit. 

Second, if the person who finds this out is male, the first thing that pops into his mind is that I must be a slut and will want to have sex with anyone at anytime.  After all, anyone who writes about it must think about it all the time and obviously must want it all the time as well.  Not to mention that anyone with that kind of imagination must be into some really kinky stuff.  Cue the stares, the propositions, the “accidental” brushing against of parts of my body that I will not mention.  For some reason, when men hear the words ‘erotic writer’ they seem to think they are getting a green light to hit on me.

Well obviously people are idiots.  Okay, so not really.  But what they are is very judgmental.  It’s only natural for them to fear or avoid what they do not understand.  And unless you are a writer, you will not understand that writing erotica is like writing any other form of creative literature.  I’m always so wrapped up in trying to get the wording just right that I cannot just sit down and just enjoy the story for what it is.  Because, what it is, for me at least, is a piece of literary art. 

I think this bothers me the most.  If someone goes to a museum and looks at a nude painting, they recognize it as “art.”  The same cannot be said if that same person then reads an erotic fantasy story.  They do not recognize, or understand that, for the writer, what was created was art.  To put it into everyday terms, an OB-GYN stares at female genitalia every day, but they certainly don’t go around being sexually aroused 24-7.  Why?  Because they look at it not from a sexual point of view but from a scientific point of view.  The same can be said for a photographer or painter who is capturing the nude form.  They look at it from an artist’s perspective.  Writers are no different.  Our medium of creation is just a little bit different from a painter or a photographer.

Letting others know that you are a writer means you have to let them into your world.  You have to try to explain to them that writing is an art form.  Then you will be judged based not only on what genre you choose to explore, but also on the simple fact that you are a writer.  They will gain insight into how your mind works and how you view the literary world.  They will almost certainly see you in a new light.  For better or worse, once people know you are a writer, your writing world and the creativity behind it will no longer be a private thing shared between you and your fans. 

If the person in question should happen to actually read something that you wrote, then they will have even more information about how your mind and creativity work.  Which is scary for me, actually.  On second thought, them thinking that I am a no-talented nitwit is preferable than what they may think of me after reading the filth that I have created.

And then again, they may become my new best friend.


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