“Good,” I reply every time, briefly describing some piece I’m working on. They say nice things about my writing – or a random Facebook post that made them laugh – and I say thank-you, then lightly deflect.
It’s always HOW the writing is, like it’s a third invisible arm I broke that everybody knows about but no one can actually see. I know what people mean – I ask how things are at them all the time. How’s the job, how’s work, how’re things. I just never know how to answer. Things are good, I say. The writing is good. It’s not not good. It still is. It’s not nothing.
Such brazen confidence.
Occasionally, someone asks me WHAT I’m writing, which is more exciting but also brings extra anxiety. Now I must choose the right example and not over-explain myself into a corner of literary death. Not enough details and the listener will ask a bunch of questions you may or may not have the answers to; too many details and the listener might end up telling you they hate the whole concept.
No one asks WHY I write, which I think I’m going to start asking my fellow writing friends because it’s far more interesting. I write because of passion and calling and creativity and sheer will, but mostly I write because of the J. Peterman catalogue. My mom would get those catalogues in the mail with their beautiful, other-worldly stories – a whole profile on a shirt being worn at a certain kind of party in Morocco, a story about a cobbler’s hat from Ireland and the man who wore it on his bicycle trips through the country – and I wanted to be every linen tunic-wearing woman traveling the Greek Islands with her lover, Kostas. That retail haven for storytelling sold me on telling stories. And I’ve been telling them, in various forms, ever since.
Why do you write?