Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's My Line? (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time once again for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. (click on the link for a complete list of participants) I'm sure by now I don't have to explain the purpose of the group, so I'm just going to jump right into it.

Outside of this blog and select social media forums, I do not advertise myself as a writer.

When people I meet in the world ask what I do, I generally tell them I do nothing. I'll admit to working in retail, but I don't tell them I write novels.

Because it leads to questions. And questions always lead me to panic.

What's your book about?
Is it published?
Can we read it?
When are you going to publish it?

And suddenly I am a deer caught in headlights. I am a feral cat trapped in a corner, preparing to fight my way free. I am freaking out. My chest gets all tight and my pulse is racing, and all I want to do is crawl into a hole and cease to exist.

Healthy, right?

And I know I should be glad there are people out there who are interested and curious enough to ask these questions, but hearing them always makes me feel claustrophobic. I could be in the Grand Canyon, but the second someone says "Oh, you're a writer?" I'm in the smallest car in the world, and it's packed with clowns.

I hate clowns.

This is not to say that no one out in the "real world" knows my secret identity (slower than George R.R. Martin, more incapable than...something really incapable (sorry, I've currently got nothing...which actually makes this part kind of ironic and hysterical), and able to gingerly step over large stacks of books with a single, slightly unbalanced step, it's M.J. Fifield!) because there are those that do. I have attempted in the past to correct this problem through practice, practice, practice.

But the problem only seems to be getting worse. As my writers' group witnessed yesterday when I was surrounded by five members with rapid-fire questions surrounding the current status of my manuscript.

I stumbled, I stammered, I set a small fire to divert attention elsewhere.

Just kidding. I didn't stammer.

Just kidding. I didn't do any of those things. I made some noises that probably sounded like I was choking on my own tongue before apologizing for my lack of social skills and ability to talk about anything. Then I hightailed it out of there and went to bang my head against the wall for a while.

Definitely not a good sign of things to come.

Anyway, I think that's going to do it for me today, and because I have a double shift at The Store coming up shortly, I'm going to be late getting to your posts. But I will get there.

So thanks for stopping by today. It's always appreciated.


  1. See, here's my thoughts...

    I don't know your "voice" but if you don't already write as you blog... OMGosh...

    Your blog voice is so great... it's funny, sad, heartfelt - and most of all GENUINE :)

    PS... *you* are my Writerly Superhero...

    I dub thee "WRIWO" because everything gets squished and "WRITER WOMAN" may not fit on the back of your cape :)

  2. It's hard admitting you're a writer. It's easier now I have books published. Before, people give you the, "Yeah, like she could ever write a book" look.

    My advice? Take a deep breath and jump! Get that book out! Like Mark said, you have the most brilliant voice. You can DO this. I know you can. <3

  3. I hate clowns as well.
    And I agree with Mark about your writing voice. It sounds confident. You need to tap into that confidence.

  4. I hate those same questions even though I'm published and know my stuff front and back.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. I used to introduce myself as a has-been writer when I was about 23 because my short story submissions were winging their way back with increasing speed. As long as you're not doing that, you're doing something right!

  6. Practice will get you there. Pitching to an agent this year has boosted my confidence in talking about my book. And you know what? I've found lots of friends when I mention I'm a writer, there are closet writers lurking all over just waiting for a friend to pull them out :)

  7. LOL... I hate clowns too. Always have. I know just what you mean--I hate talking about my work with non-writers. I can tell people I meet I'm a writer, but when they ask about my book I get all tongue-tied. But then, that's why we're WRITERS, right? Cuz we're better at writing than verbalizing. ;)

  8. Someone from work found out I write the other day, and he was asking me a lot of questions that made me want to run away. It's silly, really!

  9. I understand panic. Too well. I'm a middling introvert and facing up to folks that spill out hero's journey's in a public way -- not comfortable. I find practicing with my friends how to deal with Questions helps me.

  10. You sound like a bunch of guys I, um, knew, um, yeah! guys I knew back in high school when dealing with questions about asking out girls.

    Or those guys on the curb at the 7-11 in Say Anything.

  11. You sound like me. I attend a farmer's market as a vendor and sell my jewelry and books. The other day my coworker asked what I sold. I replied "Jewelry." No mention of my books because I didn't want to answer the questions about it.

  12. Good luck with your double shift. That sounds like a lot of work.

  13. When people asking what I do, I like to tell them 'as little as possible'. Seriously though, telling people your a writer is like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and handing it off to someone else, so they can toss it at you.

    I'll have to remember that tactic - set a small fire to divert attention. Ha!

  14. I just love it when you tell someone you're a writer, and they say what kind, and you say, murder mysteries, and they do a double take, and you apologize because you haven't murdered anyone, and they say, well I don't read. And they walk away and don't buy your book, and you shake your head, because, really, who doesn't read!

    I've been known to have panic attacks sitting alone in my house just waiting word regarding my book. Take a deep breath, breathe, and know you are the master of your fate. You are a writer and you can kill them all with your words. :)

  15. I can relate to this post! I am having the exact same dilemma. I am not ashamed of being a writer, but the way other people say it makes me think they are making fun of me or feeling sorry for me for some strange reason. I try not to mention that I write, but before I know it the words are flying out of my mouth. Good-luck with the double shift. I hope you can get some rest afterwards.

  16. I know exactly how you feel. I rarely talk about writing with people I know in real life. I belong to a local critique group, and it took me months to stop shaking before, during, and after the meetings. I still get nervous, but I've learned so much from them. It's worth marching yourself in there and facing them. You can do it.

  17. I just tell people that I have ritual-I don't talk about whatever I'm working on until it's finished.

    And I agree with the above comments. You have a great voice :)

  18. I know what you mean. "What do you write?" is the worst question. So, make up something snarky. Maybe a haiku. Then you'll have a canned answer to the usual question. It gets easier after that, or so I'm told.

  19. Use that experience to prepare...because some day soon you will need to answer those questions for at a writers conference...and it really does help to practice! :)

  20. I hate those kinds of questions. If someone asks me what my book is about, I just stammer until we change the subject.

  21. What farawayeyes said. Even Lawrence Block has said that when asked at a party what he does, he makes something up. (Which, to think of it, actually answers the question.)

    And I just read an interview with Hannah Moskowitz, and she, too, though she has four books out and still in college, doesn't tell any of her teachers or fellow students why she was up all night or why she can't hang out.

    So yeah, if you don't want to talk about it, don't talk about it. It's actually a sign of a writer. :-)

  22. "Secret identity." Haha! I never thought of it like that. It makes me picture myself as a mild-mannered wife and friend by day, but the superhero Writer-Woman by night! Most of my friends and family know I write. They're not impressed. I'll just have to satisfy myself with the Super Writer-Woman image! :-)

  23. WRIWO!

    I like it. It rolls right off the tongue!

    Dammit, WOMAN! I'm a writer not a doctor!

    Say it with me!

    I'm a writer!!!

    YES, YOU ARE!!

    It's all about delivery.

    What do you do?

    I'm an unpublished writer trying to break into the published world one word at a time.

    What do you write?

    Really good books.

    And... I also hate clowns.



  24. Awkward situations are awkward.

    I hope your double shift wasn't too awful...but then again I always enjoy your work tweets. They're always an adventure and funny. :)

    Happy 4th of July!

  25. You're not the only one with a secret identity--I posted about the same thing today! :)

    I wish I knew what to say to make it better, but I get very squirmy when someone from my day job life asks me about my writing.

  26. Oh yes. I have written many a post on this phenomenon. It's so absolutely annoying when people ask those question. Because often, people asking those questions don't have a clue about what it's like.

  27. I like the strategy of setting a small fire; firefighters are cute.

    Have a great weekend, MJ.

  28. I don't talk about writing to people I know really because they will ask questions, I may not be prepared to answer! I think confidence comes with experience in anything we do. Once I feel confident I may have something....I will start tooting my horn....

  29. I'd get those same exact questions whenever someone found out I was a writer. So not fun. Now they just ask me, "Do you still write books?" Only being able to answer "not really" anymore is going to be so awkward for me whenever it happens again...

  30. The first time someone asked what my book was about I said "Oh, it's just a stupid novel about teenagers." I'm a marketing pro...