I’m so happy to have Nikki Dolson, author of the Las Vegas noir thriller All Things Violent, as our guest blogger this week. She’s written us a piece about “becoming” a writer that we all can relate to. -Katie Pryal
I was having a semi-flirtatious phone conversation with a man when I told him that I was a writer. There was a pause and into he said, Tell me the name of the book. Like it was nothing. That moment left me speechless for two reasons: (1) Telling him meant that I liked him, which was terrifying for reasons I will probably channel into a story involving a dead body and a heist, and (2) I don’t tell people that I’m a writer. The name on my book is not quite the name on my drivers license. I keep these worlds separated. But I am a writer.
It was in 2006 when I started writing with the desire to be published. Outside of the thirty people in the creative writing workshop class, and my husband, no one knew. Eventually, I had stories published. This year I had a book published. In the intervening eleven years, people close to me didn’t know I wrote more than an occasionally funny email. I couldn’t ever say, when asked what my job was, that I was a writer. I would laugh and say something mildly witty about underground utilities. (Actually there’s nothing witty to be said about underground utilities, but I still try.) I could never say I am a writer, even though my writing has paid a few bills. It is a job. (I also work in the engineering field but that’s way less fun than writing about a contract killer who loves knives.)
I have turned this issue of mine over and over in my head. I think it’s partially because of the dreaded Imposter Syndrome, but mostly I kept this truth about myself private because it was the last little bit of me that was still mine. This me before kids, before the marriage, before the 9-5 office job that makes my little world spin ‘round. I didn’t have to share it with my family or friends, who might judge (they never would but still) and wonder if I was using my time wisely. Should I be spending those hours writing fiction when I could be in the living room with my kids or at work earning a few extra dollars? When I do stop to think about it, the guilt rises up in me, and I have to turn away from those thoughts because ugly crying in the grocery store while standing next to the deli hot case is not a good look. Maybe guilt was my fuel to write. All I know is that keeping the writing to myself kept the spark alive in me and helped me write a book and many stories.
When you release a book into the wild you have to support it. I should be talking about it constantly. Plugging whenever I can. I should be actively trying to find venues to push my book into the light. I have missed out several opportunities because I am having trouble writing. Because now that my book is out, my book is a reality. I am no longer only a mother, a daughter, an employee. I am a writer. Okay, I’ve been a writer for years, but now I’ve met people who only know me as a writer. I am exposed in a way that fills me with terror. And with relief. I wrote a book. Whether I am a good or bad writer is up to individual taste but I am a writer. I can say that now.
Nikki Dolson is the author of ALL THINGS VIOLENT and her stories have appeared in Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Bartleby Snopes, and others. She’s been nominated for a Derringer and shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories 2016. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her children. She occasionally tweets @nikkidolson and her website is nikkidolson.com.