How are you?
Wait. Don’t answer. Take a breath. Pause. Bite back the rote response that jumped to the tip of your tongue before I’d even finished asking the question.
My default answer when someone asks how I am is, “Busy, busy but good.” I cringe each time I let those words slip from my lips. They say nothing, while managing to sound simultaneously pompous and pathetic. Busy, but good … I might as well say, “I’m breathing.”
So, how are you? I mean, really?
Wait. Don’t answer. Let the question settle. Think about what it really means.
Most of the time, “How are you?” is white noise. It’s an anticipated greeting that exists in a kind of conversational blind spot. Most of the time, it doesn’t really mean anything to the person asking. It’s just something to say – an automatic response meant to bridge the gap between making eye contact and actually communicating. And, a lot of the time, a response is not expected (or necessarily wanted).
But, what does the question mean to you when you’re asked? What does it trigger for you, perhaps below the level of conscious thought? Do you actually think about “how” you are? In what context – your health, your work, your financial security, your social standing? Does the inquiry send your mind reeling into the dangerous territory of comparison … how am I compared to what? To whom? Do you feel like the question is a test, a judgment, an expression of pity, an opening for voyeurism, or a challenge to a game of one-upmanship?
I suppose it all depends on who’s asking; but, putting that piece of the equation aside, how do you reframe the question in your own mind once it’s been asked?
So, how are you? How are you feeling about your writing?
Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want the easy answer. I don’t want the glib one-liner or the clichéd statement about the writing life, both of which are designed to change the topic of conversation or at least move the focus off of you. I don’t want to put you on the hot seat, but I want to know how you’re really feeling … if you even know. Most of the time, I’m not sure how I feel about my writing. My emotional and logical thoughts on the subject are a moving target – sliding back and forth across a broad spectrum of feelings: content, frustrated, hopeful, resigned, confused, conflicted, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, tired, energized, excited, afraid.
I understand why glib one-liners and clichéd statements are such popular answers in casual conversation. How could any one of us hope to capture all the depth and nuance of our feelings about writing in an off-the-cuff response?
But, just because we aren’t expected to provide a full and honest answer in the course of casual conversation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to think about question.
How are you feeling about your writing?
It’s important to know, because how you feel about your writing affects every aspect of your writing – how you approach your practice, how consistently and frequently you write, and what you’re willing to try. How you feel about your writing dictates how brave you will be and how much joy you will experience. It frames your life as a writer, establishing your hopes, dreams, and expectations. Understanding how you feel about your writing can help you uncover hidden obstacles that are holding you back.
So, take a minute. Take a day. Think about how you are and how you feel about your writing. Don’t settle for easy answers. Dig deeper. Ask again. This isn’t polite conversation or white noise. This is important. This is real. You need to know this. And, once you do, you’ll have a whole new perspective on your writing life.
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- The #1 Mistake That Writers Make by @SPressfield
- A Lesson In Storytelling From the Ultimate Dog Tease by Dawn Field
- The Ballet of Writing by Allison Williams
- How to Write a Story Without an Outline by @vrcraftwriter
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- 5 Tips for Conducting an Effective Interview (Even When Interviewing’s Not Your Thing) by @KerryGorgone
- My New Series of Columns on Self-Publishing by @JaneFriedman
- What It Means to Be Fierce on the Page by @sagecohen
- Doing This by @sarahjoyshockey
- When The Spark is Gone: 4 Ways to Bring Back the Joy of Writing by @Anna_Elliott
- This book is broken, and other things I tell myself while writing by @veschwab
THE WRITING LIFE
- A Little Happier: Ray Bradbury Says, “Love What YOU Love! by @gretchenrubin
- Why we share by @DanBlank
- Creating the (Physical and Mental) Space to Write by Cheri Lucas Rowlands
- Why Do We Write? by @McGannKellie
··• )o( •··
Sundry Links and Articles:
This doesn’t have much to do with writing specifically, but I thoroughly enjoyed Wise Whispers from the Granny Witches by Anna Wess.
Oh, and these here are some deep roots, old gals, deeper than any rabbit hole on the mountain. We are the far-reaching branches and flowering nettles that stemmed from Granny, you know. We’re a regular Granny bramble, briers and all. We’re Granny’s girls, every stoic one of us. And I reckon plain beats pretty to death, just as she said it would. But plain can be as beautiful as can be, and there’s a world of difference between beautiful and pretty. We girls know this. Beauty doesn’t up and leave town when youth, like the fragile flower it is, has bloomed for its last season. Beauty is permanent. And it is not beholden to anything or anybody.
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to taking a minute, uncovering how we really feel, and more ourselves than we’ve ever been.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.