We writers know all about keeping quiet about our work, or at least our works in progress. We know that talking about them too soon discharges the energy and excitement we need to keep pressing on till we at least finish the first draft. But lately, I’ve come to realize there other reasons for shutting up, even when, or especially when, non-writers ask us how our work is going. These people mean well, of course. And at least they ask, which often is not the case. Still, it can be a disheartening experience. A few of the most egregious responses go like this:
Them: What are you working on? Me: I’m writing about how my cat would. . . Them: Oh, I used to love having cats. I can’t now in my apartment, but talking to you brings back so many wonderful memories, like when . . . .
Them: What are you working on? Me: I’m writing about how I know when my cat is about to throw up and how I rush over there with a newspaper, hoping to . . . Them: You want to know the best way to get up pet stains? I can tell you if you want. Here’s watcha do. . .
Them: What are you working on? Me: I’m working on a piece about a cat who . . . Them: Ha! You should write about my cat. I tell you it would be a best seller. Maybe I can tell you the stories and you can write them up and we’ll both get rich.
Them: What are you working on? Me: I’m writing about my cat who. . . Them: Forget it. Cats are all over YouTube. The market is saturated.
Them: What are you working on? Me. I’m writing a story about a cat who. . . Them: Yeah, I know somebody else who’s doing that. Maybe you two should get together. I’ll bet you could get lots of tips.
Solution: Them: What are you working on? Me: Oh, I have a few things in the hopper. I’ll let you know if anything pans out. And what have you been up to?
This almost always works. If you’re skillful, they won’t even realize you never answered their question. You’re safe. Until next time.