So you go to a party and are introduced to a stranger for the first time as a writer. Said stranger moves his chair up to you and decides to be nice. “So how’s the writing coming along?” he asks. Or even better, “What’s your novel about?”
It seems to me that only writers are graced with such pleasant conversation starters. Imagine someone wanting to make small talk at a party with a person from a different profession. “So how’s the coding coming along? “And how’s the plumbing going?” (unless you are personally invested in the results of said work) or “So how are the surgeries keeping you occupied?”or “What’s your criminal case about this week”?
Come as these questions might from an assumption that both writer and writing are easy to understand, and that if at all considered work, rather than a hobby or accomplishment, writing can be capsuled into a minute or two’s worth of small talk over mini quiches and samosas in someone’s drawing room.
Perhaps, to an extent, such assumptions are justified. Writing, after all, deals with the human condition and who better to understand (and ask questions about it) than the human while socializing in society.
There is though, another category of human who might approach you at said party over the exact same quiches or samosas. This is the person who, on finding out that you do some writing of sorts, will state very sincerely, “You know, there’s a book in me. It’s waiting in here. [Points to the heart, mostly. Only sometimes the head.] As soon as I have some time . . . time . . . time. . . [Wistfully. You guys have the good life. I have to work.]“
Depending on how far this person is from anything writerly, or how serious he is about what he is saying, he could be showing any of the following exemplary signs of confidence :
- Writing is a spontaneous, god-given gift. Fortunately, he has it and now it just needs to come out.
- What separates him from book and fame is just time for the hard work. If he had the time, he’d just sit in his room and type the whole thing out. How could he be involved in base activities like reading, researching, training or expect a learning curve in this labour of love?
- Writing is a solitary activity. The writer writes and then becomes a success. There’s little trial and error or give and take between writer and audience, little usability testing, if you will.
- He isn’t necessarily a good writer or looking to be. He just needs a few contacts who will get him a great book deal.
“Do you know anyone?” he asks. “Shall I bring something to your writing group?”