e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

"Are You Still Writing?"

Writers get a lot of routine questions, some of which we find amusing, some annoying, and some tiresome because we've answered them fifty million times already.    "Where to do you get your ideas?"  (They falleth like the gentle rain from heaven...)   "How much did you have to pay to get your book published?"  (Nothing--the publisher pays me for the right to publish it.)   "Do you make as much as Stephen King?"  (No.)   "J.K. Rowling?"  (No.)   "Have you been #1 on the New York Times bestseller list?"  (No, alas.  But I have crawled onto the lower rungs of the extended list a few times.)   That answer doesn't count with them.  The best question I was ever asked came from a first grader in an elementary school where I was spending the day being a writer in residence.   "Can you go to the bathroom any time you want to?"  (Yes!  Brilliant kid--goes right to the essence of what makes a writer's life great...we can indeed go to the bathroom--or get a drink of water--or stand up and move around--any time we want.   I did add that if I kept going to the bathroom and not writing, the book would never get done.)

But one I find personally annoying, because it comes from people who sorta know I'm a writer, but haven't learned anything about the life of a writer, is the "Are you still writing?" which is often given in the tone of someone who hopes the writer will outgrow that rather disreputable activity.   To such persons, apparently, the only reason someone would write all those books is (hopefully  temporary) insanity.  They would be glad to welcome me back to the land of the sane.   Upon my response, that yes, I'm still writing as I still like to eat and have electricity,  and expect the next book to come out in X months,  they give me a long hard look.  They used to suggest things I could do instead (none of which I'm any good at) but now that I'm almost 70, they've run out of economically feasible suggestions other than "You could teach writing."   No, I say, I could not.  I can teach things that I know well, and that are factual (geometry, for example, or how to turn the heel of a sock, or what keeps airplanes up in the air, or how to make bread) but writing is far more complicated than that.  Which makes their next comment even more galling, "So...you're just churning 'em out, are you?"

The urge to stuff the person into a butter churn and start churning--to teach them what churning is, and writing isn't, comes clearly before my eyes, but I know better.   They have the kind of mind that could churn forever and not find a plot if I threw it in the churn with them.   But that leads into statements that annoy writers, rather than questions, so just remember not to ask writers "Are you still writing?"   Most of us will be well-behaved, and you may not notice the gritted teeth even as we answer.  But someday, someone's going to snap...

Yes, I'm still writing.  I expect to be still writing until  I die (for writerly definitions of "die" which includes losing the ability to write.   I may not be writing the same thing, but I'll be writing.
Tags: fan questions, writing
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