Ask What I’m Writing

I learned this morning that, as a writer, I must be handled with care. Apparently, well-meaning curiosity from friends, family, and colleagues is enough to send me over the edge into a self-doubting spiral of agony and despair from which there is no escape. My goodness. I had no idea my mental state was so fragile.

Original Opinionator post here.

It should have occurred to me before now that my writing must be treated like a terminal illness—to speak of it would be gauche at best, simply too painful at worst. Everyone who loves me and is interested in me should ignore it. We should confine ourselves to speaking of the weather and new mattresses and television shows I have not seen because I have been spending all my time writing.

This guy wrote that to ask someone how their novel is going or what it’s about to is to risk losing their friendship. That writers will hate our friends who somehow, with one polite or interested question, force us to lay our very souls bare. That with such small provocation, our “Inner Critic” will rise up and strangle us.

Makes us seem like rather a wishy-washy, easily led lot, doesn’t it?

You have to be strong in order to write. You really do. Strong enough to follow the voices in your head where they lead you, strong enough in turn to take those voices and tell them where to go. Strong enough that one unhelpful or critical comment from one friend won’t derail you or make you fold in on yourself.

Also, what makes writing such a sacred activity? I have a friend who practices opera, a friend who trains to do an Iron Man, friends who are burlesque dancers and art models and video gamers and readers and LARPers, friends who watch baseball religiously and who sew and who knit and yes, who write. These are the things we love. These are the things that fill our minds, challenge us, and give us happiness. Why shouldn’t we be able to ask our friends about these things, and be asked about them in return?

My rule is that I can’t tell anyone anything about a story until I have written it down. But if someone asks at that point, I use my native intelligence informed by experience as a social animal to gauge their interest and respond accordingly. Why is this so hard? And, really. If I can’t pull together a two sentence description of my current project for widespread consumption, what am I doing?

I like that people are interested in what I’m doing, or at least that I do it. Writing is such a lonely endeavor during the craft of it that to have it acknowledged among the people I know is a surprising pleasure. Answering the occasional question isn’t going to kill me, because I am, in fact, in control of what I say. What a concept for a writer.

2 thoughts on “Ask What I’m Writing

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. I finally decided to make this happen and do some real writing and yet I haven’t told anyone. It kind of accidentally came up to my husband that I was working on a book, but no one else knows. In my mind, when I see myself telling people, “I’m writing a novel” I get two different reactions: an eye-roll, like ‘yeah, so is everyone else’, or ‘oh wow, what’s it about?’ Both send me reeling and hoping for the visual to end.

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