How’s that title for clickbait? I’m guessing, at least from what I’ve seen on the interwebs, that you’ll expect to see a concise, clear list of the three questions so you can decide if you want to read any further. Or maybe one really compelling question with just the hint of an answer before you have to click on the Read More banner. If you DO click on the Read More banner, each question will be a bright heading followed by a crapload of snark. Because we’re writers. That’s what we do, right? With the snark. Like now.
Does most of the new content out there have to follow vanilla, SEO recommendations? Do our posts have to look like a 7th grade Scholastic News article? Gods, I’m totally off topic but I can’t help myself. You might want to get to those 3 dreaded questions. If you do, <fake smile> read on!
Now that I’m getting back on track, I wanted to explore the 3 dreaded question idea. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably seen (and clicked on) the links to the articles listing those questions. You’ve done it because you get asked those questions too. All the time.
How’s the writing going?
Have I read anything you have written?
When does your book come out?
How do they make you feel? Yeah. Me too.
It seems like most of us feel the same way – sad, guilty, untalented. From the snark and downright vitriol that’s been written in the posts that I’ve been reading, we seem to hate being asked about our writing by the general public. And all of us are allowed to feel just what we feel. It’s okay to feel, when confronted by a neighbor while raking the yard, depressed that I wrote less than I planned. It’s okay to feel inept when I know that the few words I clawed from my brain are terrible and the metaphors suck like a black hole sucks a squirrel through a garden hose.
What if friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, random red-headed dudes in the Denver airport aren’t trying to make us feel like shit? What if the world isn’t filled with insensitive douchebags trying to hurt our feelings? I know. I’m in the U.S. and Trump is still president, but let’s just go with the thought experiment for now.
Whenever I’ve felt a strong, negative reaction to something lately, I’ve tried to examine it. If I step back, it usually looks very different to me.
Each one of those wounding questions turns from an accusation into an opportunity. When someone close asks, “So how’s the writing going?” What they may be saying is, “I care deeply about you and want to know, really know, how your creative passions are progressing.” You can let them in. Be vulnerable.
Most acquaintances or strangers are not really interested in the answers to the questions they ask. They’re trying to engage. They may want to know more about what’s it like to be a writer. Most likely, they just want you to ask them about them. When the weird neighbor asks, “So when’s the book coming out?”, ask her about her son’s college experience. When the redhead in Denver asks, “Have I ever read anything you wrote?” ask him every question you can think of. Not only will he feel enriched because of your interest in his, frankly, bizarre life, but you’ve got the perfect character for your next project. Except you may need to tone down the weird a little to make him believable.
So how’s your writing going?