When people ask you what you do and you tell them you’re a writer, be prepared to close your eyes and shake your head a lot. Better that than blurting out what you’d really like to say. Trust me on this.
The first inevitable question, which usually comes with not-so-subtly raised eyebrows: “Oh. What do you write?”
My response: “Fiction.”
At this point, the eyebrows go up even further. I will interject here with an observation. To a large chunk of the population, fiction is not considered real writing. Apparently, anything you make up in your head is disqualified.
Question two: “What have you published?”
Me: “I am working on a couple of manuscripts to submit to potential publishers.”
Now the eyebrows drop and a look of indulgence appears: “So you’re not actually a real writer.”
I smile with my mouth, not my eyes, and grit my teeth as I politely respond: “Yes, I am a real writer. I write.” It doesn’t get more real than that, people.
To their credit, they recognize the fumble: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to – um – .” Their eyes dart around, seeking a way to bail themselves out. I’ve stopped helping with this. Finally, they ask: “How many books have you written?”
Why is our society so caught up with numbers? Quantity is the key. If there is no quantity, there is no validation. So I tell them that I’ve written dozens of technical manuals, completed two novels, started about a hundred others, and kept a blog running for over five years. Their eyes glaze over and comprehension drops. They don’t get it. And I freely admit that I’ve lost patience with them.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one understands a writer like another writer. And when you connect with another writer on that pure organic level, your mental chaos settles into lovely organized thought patterns. I have a few of those writers in my life.
My beautiful thirteen-year-old granddaughter, already a brilliant fiction writer with an incredible imagination. She is working on her first fantasy novel and I am honored to be collaborating with her on it.
My talented university-student nephew who is well into writing the second novel in his Sons of Depravity series. He is the master of epic stories. I’m often dumbfounded at the level of detail and research that he puts into each scene. I’m grateful that he considers my opinions worthy.
These two, in particular, motivate me. They inspire me. They get me in a way that very few do.
The writing questions will always be there, coming from people who ask without thinking, comment without understanding, and form opinions based on whatever it is that makes them tick. What they think doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. I’m doing what I know to do, just as they are.
So go ahead and ask.
But you may not like the answer.