Friday, December 26, 2008
"Finish that book yet?"
Recently, someone asked my mom how she and I manage to live together so peacefully. She said, "It's easy. I don't ask how her book is coming along."
Wise mother! Of course, I had to train her first by warning her that she was more likely to reach 93 if she never asked that question.
This silly-sounding situation is an actual, real, painful problem that a lot of writers have and they find it hard to handle. Possibly you've recently heard some version of that dreaded question, yourself, you lucky writer, you.
When writers ask me what to do about it, I wish I had a list of stock answers to give them, since "if you ever ask me that again I'll kill you," is not conducive to happy marriages, or talking to strangers at cocktail parties.
How do you answer that kind of question without strangling the questioner? And pul-leeze, don't say, "Don't let it bother you." If the people it bothers could do that, it wouldn't bother them! And honestly, it doesn't bother writers all the time. If the writing is going well, or if they just got an acceptance letter, then the question is no problem. But when some unwary person asks it on a bad day--or in a bad year--then it's dangerous to innocent bystanders and depressed writers. It ties their tongues, or makes them burst into tears, or throw things, or hole up in their room fuming for hours.
Yes, indeed, it brings out the best in all of us.
I recently promised a writer that I'd throw out the question to you smarty-pants, especially since some of you haven't confessed to being writers, and you may be able to shed some light on it from the other person's point of view. Do you have any funny retorts or thoughtful responses a poor beleagured writer might use that won't scorch the shirt off the one who asks? If you do, I'll pass your ideas along--and reap the undying gratitude of writers and everyone who knows them.