Talking About Writing to Non-Writers

I’ve mentioned on here that I do a lot of writing at work, using a notebook. This often prompts people to ask me what I’m doing. Usually, that is exactly the question.

“What are you doing?” I’m taking a short break from writing to ring up your groceries.

“What are you writing?” A plot outline of a novel or short story.

But I also get some other versions:

“Are you writing a story?” Yes.

“Are you writing a book?” Usually, though sometimes I’m working on a short story.

“Are you writing a journal?”

This one makes me shudder, because, to me, a journal is exactly the same as a diary. You know, that thing tweenage girls lock themselves in their bedrooms to write, pouring out their angst and the unfairness of the world. Dear Diary, today, the boy in geometry with whom I have never spoken but am totally in love picked up the pencil I dropped and was all like, “hey, you dropped this.” He totally likes me!

So my first reaction when someone asks me if I’m sitting in public, at work, writing a journal is “Um, no, I’m a grown woman. A mature, professional writer. I’m writing about magic and dragons and awesome shit.”

I say it a little more politely than that, of course. Usually I go with a “No. I’m working on a novel/short story.”

My regular customers, who know what I’m doing, will ask me “How’s the book going?”

And I’ll be like, “Which book have I been talking to you about? ‘Cuz I’m working on like three right now, and while my publishing schedule is only just about ready to churn out book two, I’m writing book three and plotting book 8.”

Again, I am more polite than this. My customers, who are non-writers, do not need to hear my whole complex, twisty writing schedule. “It’s going great!”

I do feel, weirdly, like I need to uphold this image of writers for the non-writers. The image of working on only one book from start to finish and not starting a new one until the first one is published. I know some writers probably do work that way, but I feel like it’s such a waste of time. I mean, I can write narrative manuscript at work if I want, but then I have to spend time when I get home typing all that up, time I’d rather be using to generate new words. I need to dedicate some time to plotting out new stories before I write them, so it’s ideal for me to use time at work for that ahead-of-time plot work. It’s just a setup that leads to my plotting being so far ahead of my narrative manuscripting, which I feel could be confusing for the uninitiated, shall we say.

I really started thinking about this today when I made my facebook status update of daily word count. I realized that I’ve been constantly referring to the project as “the novel” which really just confuses me. Well, not ME, I know which book I’m working on, but it FEELS like it should be confusing to everyone else. I’d like to be clearer with these updates, so I’ve decided to start including the title of the project. And, I’ll possibly try to do something like that with the customers? Although, the majority of them don’t really care, they’re just being polite and conversational.

I don’t know, but more clarity makes me feel better, so that’s reason enough to do it, I suppose.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. sjoycarlson
    May 23, 2014 @ 05:32:21

    So true…. So many things they don’t understand!


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