Don’t make me talk about it

Or How I Prefer to Organise My Life in Compartments

“So you have two minutes. Talk to the person in front of you about what you do outside of work.” Panic.
Speed dating at work is not as weird as it sounds. As part of a ‘getting to know your colleagues better’ about 70 of us were being almost overwhelmed by a cacophony of sound as we shuffled up the chairs in two minute bursts talking to people we have only seen at the tea point, maybe nodded to in the lift. The very definite brief was not to mention work but to talk about what else was important in your life.
I was not entirely surprised to find I couldn’t do it. I talked about the fact that I am a member of a running club, I had two daughters, we liked to go camping. And the usual reading, cinema and perhaps theatre if I was really trying to impress the person who had wriggled up in front of me. All the time I was willing the little bell to jingle so the person in front could move on and we would have avoided running out of things to say and I might have felt compelled to say the words out loud.
Not once did I mention that I had written an adult novel and a children’s novel or that I had a writing blog and Tweeted regularly about the challenges of writing whilst holding down a full time job. Why not?
I’m not really sure. Anyone who has read any of my previous posts will recognise a theme coming through here that seems to be driven by embarrassment that although I write I am not published. These are the people I work with. In order to do my job well I ought to have the respect of my colleagues especially my team. Wouldn’t that be undermined by them knowing I slave away bashing out stories to send them off on a wave of excitement and hope only to have them volleyed back with a no thanks, not good enough?
The unexpected benefit of writing blog posts is that it gives me the chance to consider things that have been bothering me. Maybe I would set an impressive example in creativity and resilience if I confessed to my secret hobby. Never give up, keep your passion in your life etc etc. Writing is part of who I am and what I like to do, so shouldn’t I be out and proud about it?
But then: “How’s your book doing?” I am reminded that whenever I pop into the pub on a Friday to meet my friends, the questions about the book comes up. They are my friends, they are interested, they want me to do well but I find myself embarrassed to say that the only progress since I last saw them is that there are one or two additional rejections added to the pile. I’m not sure I could cope with that at work as well.  
So I find I continue to keep it a secret. I have developed a series of coping mechanisms to fend off questions about what I have been up to at the weekend when I have been on a writing course or what I have planned for my days off when I am going to be bashing away on my laptop for two days and most of all where I would like to see myself in five years’ time which is of course on a Book of the Month list somewhere. 

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4 thoughts on “Don’t make me talk about it

  1. What a lovely post, Lindsay, and I can totally relate to compartmentalising your life. It’s easy to hide behind a screen (or a mask) when blogging and writing. I find it easier to open up on a blank page than face-to-face. Recently, I’ve started to attend a few author/blogger networking events and find this to be hugely therapeutic – EVERYONE is talking about books, writing, stats, etc. It’s great to talk openly about what you do in your spare time with like-minded people. Thanks for sharing. (The ‘speed dating’ concept would scare me to death too!) 🙂

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    • Hi Shellie

      Thank you for your comment. I also enjoy author and writer events where you can be ‘out and proud’ chatting about what you are currently working on without anyone expecting you to be published and understanding that this work may never see the light of day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I rarely or never tell new acquaintances what I do. I have been going to the same hairdressers for about 5 years and only told them about my books a year ago. The reason? The first question people ask, after ‘what’s it about?’ is ‘has it been published?’, or ‘do you sell a lot of books?’ They don’t understand the publishing industry, or what you go through when writing. I only talk about the writing itself to other writers, or I might occasionally thrash out a plot point with my husband or sister. Works for me!

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    • Hi Terry

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t feel so bad now that a writer with your experience also rarely talks about what they do. You are right that most people expect that if you write a book then it must be available in Waterstones at the very least and it can be easy to feel that they will view you as somehow failing without an appearance on the Sunday Times bestseller list.

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