Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

Dear Writer,

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.

_jamie sig

 

 


 My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

··• )o( •··

Sundry Links and Articles:

Anna Wess GrannyThis doesn’t have much to do with writing specifically, but I thoroughly enjoyed Wise Whispers from the Granny Witches by Anna Wess.

An excerpt:

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:

pin more me

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 FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
.

41 thoughts on “Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

    • My pleasure to be here with you. Thank you for your kind words. Here’s to feeling wonderful and to success.

  1. Hello there, what a deep and thoughtful post to start the day on a Sunday morning. I’m on a short visit to the US – really another planet compared to Italy – “how I’m feeling about my writing” is a perfect place to start off for new directions. And the quote is perfect. As usual, thanks and appreciation for leading the way!

    • So, you’re in my corner of the world? 🙂
      I have never been to Italy, but I can only imagine how different it is from the U.S.
      Have you ever seen the movie “Enchanted April”? I so love that movie, and have often wondered if it is at all accurate in its depiction of Italy … even of an Italy of a few generations ago.

      Glad you enjoyed the post & that the quote suited your day.
      Enjoy & travel safe!

      • No I’ve never seen it. In any case there are two things to be said: one is that Rome’s changed enormously over the last decades – and mostly not for the best – and there are lots of enduring myths about Italy that survive despite the droves of tourists that actually visit (ex. happy spaghetti-eating mandolin players? ha!).. And thanks, I’m having a lovely time here 🙂

      • Glad you’re having fun. 🙂
        Funny how those myths survive – I guess that just goes to show the power of stories!

  2. When asked, “How are you?” I normally answer, “I am here,” or “I showed up.” If pressed, I launch in to quoting Woody Allen who said, “80 percent of life is showing up.” I don’t get asked the question much these days…

    My writing – I never feel good about it, but I press on and show up regularly at the keyboard and keep pounding away.

    • I love that Woody Allen quote. It’s so true.

      So … you never feel good about your writing, but how do you feel? Challenged? Dedicated? (Clearly, you’re dedicated if you never feel good about it, but you show up anyway.) Determined? I don’t mean to put you on the hot seat, and you don’t have to answer, but I’m genuinely curious to know. I am often frustrated and exhausted by my writing, but I do have moments of joy and satisfaction and even (dare I say it) pride. They may be fleeting moments, but they are enough to keep me going, even on the bleakest of work days. I’m wondering what keeps you going if you never have even those tiny feelings of positivity in your pocket.

      • There are no absolutes, and the use of the word never is wrong – it would be better to say, “often less than satisfied with the result.” However, there are many times, when the words are flowing that it feels right and very satisfying. There are days when I am pleasantly surprised to find that others find enjoy my work and find value it it. In the last couple of years I have been finding that I get more satisfaction out of writing poetry than prose. It’s that shift in how I view creativity at the keyboard that has been driving me to experiment more with language, image and metaphor.

      • Thanks for that, Andrew.
        Glad to hear you have moments of satisfaction. 🙂
        And interested to learn that your changing views on creativity are part of what’s driving your “adventure.” That’s pretty cool!

    • … and once you open that Pandora’s Box – watch out! 😉
      But, seriously. I have often found that giving myself time to process how I actually feel about something (be it a person, an activity, or a past event), also gives me insight into WHY I feel the way I do. It can be a bit like tumbling down the rabbit hole, but I mostly think that’s a good thing.

      • The way I see things is if there is an “I” to behold, it is the writer; the sometimes peevish, fickle, tickled pink thing of self-being to which I think you refer is, sure, a necessary sort of basket. But it is Writer which gives life to Thee. Because Keats.

  3. Thank you Jamie. This past week has been a real bitch, and I’ve been struggling with tough decisions in regards to the future of my writing. Your article put it all in perspective – the fluff and hassle just fell away. I know now the only thing I really need to do, is decide how I feel about my writing. The rest will fall into place with time.

    • Hello, Christine. Haven’t seen you in a while – nice to have you here!
      I’m sorry you’ve had a rotten week, and I’m sorry you’re faced with hard decisions. I’m glad, however, if this post helped provide any small spark of clarity. I always believe that every challenge comes not only with hardship, but also with the potential for positive change. It may not be fun or easy, but it’s almost always worthwhile in the long run.

      I hope your transition goes smoothly. Good luck!

      • Thanks Jamie. I’ve been dealing with serious life transitions and staying on track, but when my writing took an unexpected hit, it threw me and I was worrying about details and “what-if’s” instead of using the challenge as an opportunity. Your post made so much sense. I love writing and I’ve missed it this summer. As for how I am? I’m happy, I love writing, and I’m looking forward to meeting this latest opportunity. Please keep doing what you do. Thanks again.

      • Sometimes, it’s just about looking at our situation from a different perspective, right? 😉

        I’m glad you’re looking forward to what’s next and creating opportunity out of challenge. Go for it!

  4. But wit is my armor, smart-assery my shield and glib one liners the sword with which I parry the confounding moments of life.

    Do people REALLY want to know about the daily pain I live with, post-Iraq? The moments of panic, when for a second I’m back on those dusty roads with the bullets flying, IEDs exploding and Cappy dying at my feet? Or about the nightmares, which I only really keep at bay with booze and sleeping pills? Do they REALLY want to know about the fact that because of over 24 concussions and loads of internal injuries that things just don’t work the way they should? That at 34 I have problems that my doctors say “you just shouldn’t have a your age” like that’s a sort of panacea that cures all that ails me?

    Do I really want to hear their ANSWERS filled with pity and a false sense of compassionate patriotism which lets them move along and feel good about themselves BECAUSE they were nice to some disabled veteran? Do I really want to HEAR said pity at the young guy with the cane who walks with a slight limp? Or WORSE, their disbelieving looks because my injuries are all internal? While our armor and modern medicine allowed more people to live who would have died in past wars, it ALSO means more of the injuries of war are not so obvious. Because I have a TBI, I also have to struggle to think clearly and answer. Do I really want to HEAR their thoughts that conversations with me can seem to alternate between taking forever as I think OR too quick as I rush to get it all out before I forget?

    Moving right along, in all honesty I’ve been avoiding my rewrite of my second novel and playing online in the vain guise that it is all ‘branding’ so counts as work. I’ve been fighting the frustration on the limitations that my TBI places on me. I have only a few ‘good’ hours where I’m at my peak and I feel like they’re slipping me by. I fear that I might slip into the inevitable, though hopefully many many years away, that awaits someone with my medical prognosis. I constantly fight the fear that my poor wife will be stuck caring for me way too soon. And above it all, I just want to get my stories onto paper into readers hands so they might see the world through my eyes, even if only for 90,000 words at a time.

    Deeply serious enough answer? —drops mic—

    • Type-O: The inevitable dementia/Alzheimer’s that awaits…. They’re very common to hit and hit early for TBI sufferers. Only look to the NFL for some excellent examples of head injuries and their effects.

    • No, not everyone wants to know. In fact, most people would probably rather not know. But, there are people who not only want to know, they need to know. Maybe they are suffering in a similar way, or love someone who is going through the same kind of nightmare. Or, maybe they don’t really want to know, but they need to know so that they don’t walk around misunderstanding something or someone or – worse – believing lies. Maybe your writing will cause questions to occur to your readers – important questions that might change their minds or at least their perspective.

      There are no easy answers, and I don’t mean to quantify how you feel about your writing via only external measurements like how your stories might affect others. Ultimately, how you feel about your writing is a very personal and internal aspect of who you are and of your art and craft. I am no therapist, but when I read your comment, I sense anger mingled with grief. I sense anxiety and urgency, frustration and also determination. I sense a bigger purpose that runs deeper and wider than your personal pain to encompass not only your own story, but your wife’s and the stories of other people who have suffer the way you do. I don’t know you, but I feel like there’s a lot going on in just those few words … and I’m glad that, despite everything, you are writing.

      Thanks for sharing.

  5. It’s such a casually asked question and we treat it so flippantly, half the time people ask this in the street without stopping. Merely a smile, a quick “how are you?” and away we go. This was a nice look at a casual question with hidden depths.

  6. This has certainly made me stop and think. Thank you for the question. I know I am out of my depth in current writing but I have to bring the lives of the folk I care about safely through the generations to 2015. Two world wars etc etc yet, I guess I feel ‘alive’ because I’m simply writing and one tiny step at a time life is moving on. We need to stop and think I suppose about how we are …on the journey. Thank you for the thought-provoking hidden prompt.

    • I am glad, Faye, that my post may have prompted you to stop for a moment on your journey of tiny steps. 🙂
      I couldn’t agree more about how important it is to take those breaks – to pause and think about how we are faring on our adventure. It’s too easy to keep your head down and only look up when you reach The End (whatever that is). Only then, you might look back and realize that you missed a lot along the way. I know I’ve done that several times – been so intent on the destination that I missed much of the scenery on my way there. Tragic.

      Good luck with your mission. You can do it!

  7. Dearest Jamie

    How am I?

    Considering that I am struggling with both bulimia and intrusive thoughts-OCD, I’d say, “I am not good” 😉

    My writing stalled for almost six months.

    But I am inching my way back. Like the black of the night sky gives way to the light peach of the pre-dawn sky, the muted whites and shy blues of the sunrise, and, finally, the deep blue and fluffy white of the morning, I too am trying to inch my way back to writing, one shade at a time.

    I LOVE YOU
    Kitto

    PS: Ah-mazing POST! MUaaah Missed you!

    • Hello, Kitto!
      Always so nice to hear from you. 🙂
      I am sorry that you continue to struggle, but also relieved to know that you are keeping up the “good fight,” as they say. And I can only imagine what role your writing plays in that battle.

      I love the way you’ve described your inching back as a shift from day into dawn – just lovely and very evocative. There is always such hope in a sunrise.

      Glad you were able to stop by. Keep writing & “see” you soon!

      xo

  8. Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:
    Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links
    by Suddenly Jamie (@suddenlyjamie)
    Dear Writer,

    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…

    Then read the rest of this post! https://nhwn.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/dear-writer-how-are-you/

  9. Pingback: Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links | Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning"

  10. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – A Crisis of [Writing] Faith | Live to Write – Write to Live

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