how’s the writing?

If you’re a writer, do you get asked by friends and family for writing news? When they see you, do they ask So, how’s the book/poetry/play coming along? and then Any news?

I’m lucky enough to have friends and family who ask, and I often wish I did have news to share, but mostly when they ask How’s the writing? I reply – Well, I’m doing it. I’m writing. They look at me kindly like I’m not very bright and they say to me gently, Well, that’s good.

Every time I hear this question, as thoughtful and well-intentioned as it is, I feel a little at a loss. Because I rarely have any news. Now and then something exciting happens, but it can be months from one small success to the next. And logically I know this is part of being a writer, that doing the work is what it’s really about, that getting published or winning competitions is great, but it isn’t going to happen every week. Most weeks we’re just doing it, just writing, trying to translate something funny, or tragic, or magical into words. Yet in my upbringing there was a focus on ‘achieving’, or perhaps it’s the influence of our culture, too – telling us we’re not really a ‘success’ unless we’re lining up trophies on the shelf. Sometimes I feel silly saying Well, I’m doing it. (Especially when the other person laughs!)

So today I’m here to offer comfort and company to all the other writers out there, especially those feeling weighed down, weary or short on faith. It’s tough, I know. Don’t feel silly if you don’t have a thrilling answer lately when asked about your writing. We’re here. We’re putting words on the page. And all the very best things take time.

16 Comments

Filed under the writing life, writing angst

16 responses to “how’s the writing?

  1. It takes so long for writing to pay off. Years of being patient and persistent, and then everything seems to happen overnight. But it’s not really overnight because it’s been years in the making. Keep on, Fi! 😊

  2. Thank you Louise, I definitely will because I’m stubborn like that 🙂
    Hope your writing is going well xx

  3. I can really relate to this post, Fiona. It’s even worse when you only see certain friends every few months and the answer is still the same, while they’re holding down important jobs that have actual, visible results. I think that’s why it’s so rewarding and crucial to spend time chatting with other writers – they get it!
    Thanks for today’s up-lift 😊

  4. But at least they ask! No one is interested in what I write among friends and family, luckily I belong to a writing group and they understand the frustrations of being a writer.

    • You’re absolutely right, it’s great that people do ask. But like you, I feel most understood by other writers and my writing group. Thanks so much for your comment Sonia 🙂

      • A two-edged sword isn’t it? They ask because they care or are interested and if nothing is happening it can feel like an accusation. I recently entered a short story contest and deliberately didn’t tell, knowing that winning was the only acceptable outcome. I haven’t won but at least I’ve escaped the commiserations.

  5. None of my family know I write…. I’m not going to tell them until I give them my first published book.

    • I can understand that approach for sure. People outside the writing world often don’t understand how long it takes to get published, and when you don’t have news for them within a year or so they seem disappointed!
      Thank you for stopping by 😊

  6. I smiled as I read your post, Fiona, because this is so familiar 🙂
    The other favourite that keeps coming up for me: “Have you written anything new lately?”

    • Hi Hannah, yes I’ve had that one too! (Along with ‘Oh, what’s it about?’. For some reason work colleagues seem to ask this. Can get awkward/embarrassing – uncomfortable if I avoid answering, worse if I do answer sometimes!!) Hope your writing is going well for you but no pressure, and no questions! xx

  7. Maureen Helen

    I do understand, Fiona. But I also find the process of writing itself to be amazingly enjoyable and rewarding whether other people get it or not. When I think about it, I can’t remember many people asking about my writing, anyway. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

    • You’re very wise Maureen – if we don’t love writing for the sake of it, we won’t last long! I think my upbringing programmed me to look for external validation, and I am trying to shake that off and just enjoy learning and improving my writing. Yet I still carry that drive to have ‘something to show for it’. And I suppose ultimately most writers want to be read, too.( I know I do!)

      • Maureen Helen

        Of course I want to be read, like all writers, Fiona. But somehow, when I’m immersed in writing, being read seems a secondary objective, as if the act of creating is the important activity at the time.

  8. Writing well is a reward in itself- sometimes you can surprise yourself and think ‘Wow! Did I write that?’ But yes, we do write to be read- any of the creative arts seeks its audience. Like you, Fiona, I think my upbringing encouraged me to seek external validation

    • It’s funny how those old habits die hard, isn’t it? But I agree – writing well is a reward in itself – such a thrill when you read over something and feel it is a decent piece of writing! And it doesn’t happen for me all that often, but I do know what Maureen means when she talks about the feeling of being immersed in writing – that can be wonderful (though often for me it’s more like grinding out the work!)

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