A funny thing happens when people learn that you’re (attempting to call yourself) a writer, and that you’re currently writing something specific. They tend to ask, “What are you writing? Is it a book?”
Of my many rambling responses, the following usually make the top three:
-Uh, I’m not sure what it is.
-It’s just silly.
-It’s nothing, really.
Then, perhaps as some form of torture, they ask, “So what’s it about?”
-Uh, I’m not sure what it’s about.
-It’s just silly.
-It’s about nothing, really.
If this sounds stupid, it’s because it is stupid. And not just because I should probably know what it is I’m writing about. (My husband says I need to work on my ‘elevator pitch’, which is apparently not the same as my desperate barrage of apologies when my kids press all the buttons in the elevator.) It’s stupid because if I can’t comfortably call myself a writer, if I can’t even talk about what I’m writing, and if I can’t imagine eventually sharing what I’m writing, then WHY AM I WRITING?
The other weekend, my husband came home from our daughter’s hockey practice and said that we should probably teach her how to accept compliments. One of our daughter’s coaches had approached her after ice time and said, “Wow, your skating has come so far!” to which she said, “Blerp-dee-blee-doo.” She may have also said, “You’re welcome.” I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but that awkward feeling of being acknowledged in any way is all too familiar.
Of course, writing isn’t exactly like receiving a compliment. It’s like punishment, actually. Someone saying, “Wow, you’re writing a book? Cool!” is like someone saying, “Wow, you’re sticking your hand in a garbage disposal? Cool!”
But still, I need to develop some level of comfort when it comes to talking out loud, to people, about writing. Keeping it bottled up inside will only lead to an explosion of sorts, like the time I met my writing mentor for the very first time. She said something like, “Hi, are you Shannon?” and my mouth erupted with every thought I’d ever had about my plot, subplot, my protagonist’s hair colour and (bizarrely, truthfully) cell phone towers.
It was like the time my husband and I took our ten-month-old to a fancy restaurant and she barfed all over the table, but instead of a seemingly endless stream of regurgitated breast milk, I was spewing random words. Either way, It’s just not healthy.
Thankfully, astonishingly, my mentor has agreed to meet with me again, in public, word spew and all. Maybe she can even help me work on my pitch.
(Our family is never, ever allowed back at that fancy restaurant, though. Like, ever.)