“Oh, hey! You’re a writer? What do you write?”
Am I the only one who gets totally floored by that question? Because I do. Every time.
It’s been on my mind, because lately a lot of people have been discovering that I write, and that’s normally what they ask. And it’s a wonderful thing for them to ask! Really. Giving a writer the opportunity to talk about her writing is better than cookies. Better than lemon cookies with honey-sweetened green tea! So, why why why, do I flounder around panicking when I get asked?
There are, of course, obvious answers to the question. Maybe the asker just wants me to narrow the field. Do I write books / poems / sports articles / etc? I normally start my answer with, “I write fantasy novels.” But then what? Maybe they’d like a brief plot synopsis, or the names of my characters, or that neat twist on the genre I’ve been working on. Okay, seriously, Olivia; say something!
“Like… you know… with magic and stuff…”
I guess I struggle because a book is about so many things, and it’s hard to pull out the one and only thing I want the other person to know about it. While I adore the world-building in this trilogy, it would take a long time to explain the histories and cultures and magic systems. This character is great, but how can I talk about him without going into paragraphs of backstory? I can’t talk about themes without feeling pretentious, and I’d rather not talk about the thrilling twists in my plots because… well, maybe they’ll want to read it someday, so I can’t spoil the ending.
Whittling all of my writing down to a two-sentence explanation feels like I’m cheating somehow, like I’m devaluing everything that I don’t mention. (Or perhaps that’s just me trying to sound deep and the real answer is that I don’t think well on the spot.)
So, my pathetic, sputtering answers are normally followed by imagining the conversation over and over and listing all the things I would have rather said. And somewhere in these thoughts, it occurs to me: Wow, I’m lucky!
Really: writing is such a many-mirrored room that it’s practically infinite, and how freaking cool is it to be part of that? There are so many ways to answer “What do I write,” and all of them are simultaneously true, and that’s downright exciting.
I still wish I could sound I bit more eloquent when posed the question, so I suppose that’s something I’ll need to work on, and I’ll just accept the fact that I can only give one aspect of my life as a writer, and that’s okay. Now as for what aspect… that’ll be another day’s meditation, methinks.
What do you normally answer when people ask you “What do you write?”