Let’s say you are a writer and that, at some point, you have told your friends or family that you wanted to or were writing a book. Chances are pretty good that someone at some point has asked you how said book is going, if you are still writing, are you published, or another variation on, “Well, when the hell are you going to finish that thing already?!”
Now, we all assume that these kind-hearted souls are trying to be supportive. But let’s say that the moment they ask you this, your writing or otherwise so-called creative life is as off track as your exercise life, and you feel like you’ve been caught by your Weight Watchers sponsor on the couch with a box of doughnuts in one hand and a super size DQ Blizzard in the other while watching Biggest Loser.
I feel your pain.
Now pass me a Long John because I have good news. Since I am very busy not writing my book right this minute, I have concocted 7 snappy little comebacks you can whip out when people ask you if you are writing, finishing or publishing your book. And the best part is, most of them are actually writerly exercises in disguise, which may or may not prompt you to start writing again.
So the next time anyone asks why you are not writing or finishing your book, you will respond:
I am not writing or finishing my book because…
1. “I have never recovered from…” You can either finish this statement with a fictional disaster–being raised by a wild pack of roosters–or simply shake your head and wave the person away for it is simply too awful to contemplate let alone speak of it. Every time someone asks you why you haven’t finished your project, it implies that there is something wrong with you. No one likes failed expectations. So give the people what they really want: a chance to speculate on what is wrong with you. Is it a disease? Is there a cheating spouse? Is this a manifestation of something terrible that happened in childhood? (Cue the roosters.) This can lead to juicy gossip and if you’re lucky, even better fiction than you could have dreamed up alone on the couch slurping your DQ Blizzard.
2. “I’m swamped at the alpaca farm!” Sometimes, you have to lie to get people off your back. And that’s OK, because we’re writers, we make sh*t up all the time. Consider it writing practice! It’s good for you to flex your tall tale muscles as often as possible. Just make sure it’s a VERY tall tale, because if you start mumbling about being busy with work and the kids and laundry blah blah blah, people will hassle you because you have disappointed them (see failed expectations in comeback #1). If you’re a writer, you had better have a damn good excuse for not writing. So you need a distraction. You need to lie.
If you’re very good at it, they will forget about the book and become fascinated with your new life on the alpaca farm. And you just might have a new story on your hands.
3. “I can’t live without the anticipation.” You can follow this up by stating that unlike the rest of the world, you rather enjoy waiting–at the doctor’s office, at the vet, in line at the bank, and especially at Six Flags Great America and Disneyland. On Christmas morning, you are the last one to open your gifts. Sometimes you even wait until the next Christmas to open them. Waiting is the best part and you’ve got nothin’ but time. You are one big Heinz Ketchup bottle of Anticipation, baby. Bring it!
4. “I’m afraid success may change me.” Everyone already knows what it feels like to fail–personally, I have the editors’ rejection letters to prove it. But if you write a Harry Potter or Twilight and knock it out of the park, there is a 50/50 chance you might become one of those doomed “The Lottery Changed My Life” people and end up drinking yourself to death in a motel room in Vegas, broke and alone, while the few people who actually remember you say, “Wow, if only she hadn’t hit success with that big fat book, she might still be here today, giving us gambling money.”
Hopefully by the time you explain this, people will have moved on to the slot machine and you and your failed expectations will be long forgotten. If not, see “You need a distraction” in #3. I recommend yelling, “Tequila shots for everyone? Wow, thanks <insert friend’s name here>.” (Be sure to invite me if you’re going to use that one.)
5. ”I am currently extrapolating the dilemma of good vs. evil in a postmodern yet dialectic society that is analogous to Planet of the Apes.” You will probably only have to add one more nonsensical sentence before the audience’s eyes glaze over. All they will remember is the last thing you said, Planet of the Apes, and this is good because it acts as a transitional element for them to change the conversation to anything other than your writing.
This will be good practice for you if you have not done a reading in front of a live audience. It’s important to know exactly where in your writing people tuned out. WARNING: This is probably the best way to ensure that someone NEVER asks you about your book or your writing again, so use it wisely.
6. “But sweetie, writing takes me away from you for far too long!” Add a sweet smile at the end and you might just get lucky. But if you don’t, or you’re just pissed off and sick of people asking you about your damn writing, go with #7:
7. “My book is about you.” Immediately let out a forlorn sigh and stare off in the distance as if you are struggling with a mighty dilemma. At that point, the other person will either A. slap you, B. call a lawyer, C. cry, D. slap you again, or E. all of the above. Which means–you guessed it–you need a distraction. See “tequila shots” in #4.
And that’s it my friends, seven snappy, snarky little comebacks you can whip out at a moment’s notice when you are caught red-handed, not writing. Perhaps you have been inspired by all of these exciting potential confrontations. If so, get back to your chair and start writing again. If not, I say go for the tequila. There’s always a good story after tequila.