What Are You Working On? By J.S.Watts Most writers will tell you there are questions they don’t like having to answer: often they are the ones we get asked the most. Whether that is the reason we don’t like answering them, or whether the world just has a spiteful and black sense of humour, I don’t know. Anyway, I thought I’d write an occasional series of lighthearted blog posts looking at some of my “oh no, not again!” questions and exploring why I, personally, don’t enjoy having to respond to them. Other writers may, and probably do, think differently and may actually relish answering these specific questions. It’s just that, for some reason, I don’t. The first question in the series is, “What are you working on currently?” It’s a question often asked of writers by other writers. A harmless enough enquiry, you might think, expressing a laudable interest in my work and activities, except: 1 - If I’m working on something sensitive or at an awkward stage in its evolution, I don’t want to talk about it in case I jinx it.
2 - If I’m not actually writing anything at the moment, I most certainly don’t want to admit it or talk about my painful period of writing drought.
3 - (Most likely in my case) Because I enjoy multi-tasking and usually have multiple projects on the go at any one time, I really don’t want to have to explain that I’m trying to finish the first draft of my current novel, editing the novel I finished last year that is soon to be published, working on putting together a new collection of poems, writing stand alone poems and/or (usually ‘and’) a short story, trying to complete a book review and drafting a blog post or several, as well as thinking about the novel that will come after the one I’m currently writing. More tellingly, I don’t think you really want to know all of that either, but you asked, didn’t you? Maybe it’s just me? Maybe other writers with more focused, linear writing habits feel comfortable about discussing their one, solitary piece of work in progress? When I get asked the question, however, I flinch and squirm and wonder whether I should bore my questioner by listing everything I am working on, or what I should leave out of my list of current WIPs, or whether I have left something off that list that I really should have mentioned because that’s what the questioner wanted to know about, or what I really want them to know about, or…” Do you see my problem? Do you understand why my inability to provide a simple, clear-cut answer causes the chickens inside my head to squawk and panic-flutter? Possibly not, but it’s why I don’t enjoy being asked what I’m currently working on, however well intentioned the question. Not that you shouldn’t ask me about my writing. Please do. I like the interest and the attention, and , ironically, like talking about what I do, but you will need to be prepared to catch the occasional glimpse of poultry panic in my eyes and may hear the odd strangled “cluck!” in the answer I provide. The next in the series of Questions I Don’t Like Answering will be: “Why do you write?”