Writing as Real Life

Someone asked me if I was married, the other day… if I have kids… the usual small talk from someone I’d just met. She showed me pictures of her husband, her kid (he was pretending to be a Box Troll. I still haven’t looked up Box Trolls.) And I told her that I’m not much of anything. Not married. No kids.

Maybe someday? she prodded, optimistically.

I nodded. Maybe someday.

Truth be told, I was always more the loaner children type. Something about the idea that I can send them home appeals to me. Lots of fun, and very little commitment.

I could do marriage. In fact, there are times I’ve barely escaped with my life. **ahem** Thought about it.

And then, after you get through the small talk, there’s the real me. I’m writing a book. No, it’s not my first book. It’s…what? About two years old, now.

This was the kind of conversation that reminds me how close to the surface I really am. Not a lot of small talk, here. Other people–sometimes it seems like their whole lives are small talk. They’re perfectly willing to tell a complete stranger about their kids, or their remodeling job, or the husband who refuses to smile right in pictures.

Maybe it’s something off the introvert/extrovert scale.

Maybe it’s just that writing a book is so far off the beaten path that it almost takes another writer to hold up the other end of the chat.

There’s a lot of insecurity in that silence. I find myself comparing my art–my writing, my painting, my dance–to their lives. Their very real, real lives, with the spouse and kids, and the Box Trolls on TV, and feeling… inadequate.

I have a lot to show for my work. Honestly, I do. And objectively, I know that.

But I don’t want to show it to every coworker I can find. And the ideas of not having anything I’m willing to show them and not having anything at all get mixed up, sometimes. Goodbye confidence. Hello, what ifs.

What if I should have gotten married, had kids, raised radishes on the terrace? What if my projects never add up to anything, and I never have anything to show the coworkers or the family? What if… what if… what if…


  1. Reply

    No marriage, no kids and half a century later, yeah no small talk. I’m writing a book gets you looks or the subject changed to their kids, their husband and so forth. I think you are talking about my life. Except those what ifs? I am not so much interested anymore that is something I use what if about.

    There is a trick tho. Ask a question about their lives and they will do all the talking and you don’t have to worry as much about small talk, but only works with the friendly and interested otherwise you bomb no matter what you do.

    • Reply

      We are not inadequate and shame on them for making us feel that way. I personally find that many are very self-involved which is why you hear all about their wonderful lives without a real inquiry about yours.

      • Reply

        I feel the same way, sometimes. Then again, sometimes, I really just don’t want to hear about what their kid pooped out this week, so I can’t complain. I do think it’s easier to find “socially acceptable” things to say about kids than about a book you can’t read yet.

  2. Reply

    Maybe it’s because I do have a husband, but I consider writing the “good bit” in a conversation. The brag. Lots of people have a husband, not so many people have /written books/. I say it with a hint of false modesty, a demure smile and a shrug. “I’m a writer, actually.”

    A real job? No. It’s extrareal. Like a job, but with superpowers.

    • Reply

      Maybe part of my problem is that I’m not really prepared for the follow up questions. I want to write, but I don’t necessarily want to talk about it. I’m pretty private about my stuff, when I’m talking to non-writers I have to see day after day.

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