“What Are You Working On?”

This is a trick question.

“What paranoia are you on about now?”

Hear me out. This is a trick question in two ways.

Number one, the person asking the question is more than likely just being polite. They don’t really care about what you’re working on. They’re just trying to pretend to have interest in your little writing hobby because they want to be supportive, but they’re really not that invested. You can tell by the way their eyes glass over and they nod along, not really listening, just waiting for you to finish so they can say, “Wow. That sounds great. I can’t wait to read it.” And we all know they’ll never read it. Because they’ve never read anything you’ve written because *insert reason here*.

The only correct answer to this question is to say what kind of project you’re working on.

“Oh, I’m in the middle of revising a short story for a contest.”

“Oh, that’s great. I can’t wait to read it. I hope you win!”

“Thanks.”

And scene. Small talk achieved. Everyone leaves with their egos intact. To go into any further detail about whatever you’re working on is to risk that glazed look and feeling your enthusiasm for your project/writing career deflate. And we don’t want that.

If they attempt to engage further by asking for story specifics, don’t panic in the face of this unanticipated interest. Simply demure, saying you try not to talk too much about your projects when you’re working on them.

Which brings me to the second tricky point.

If you do find someone who is genuinely interested in what you’re working on, then talking about the project, no matter how enthusiastic you are about it, can drain some of that energy you have for it. I don’t know why this is. But it seems like talking about the story you’re working on, particularly in the first draft stage, makes it less engaging to work on. It’s like the magic is escaping the bottle and it’s escaping because your dumbass keeps taking the lid off of it so other people can see it.

It’s true that sometimes talking about your work can help you see and/or fix problems with it, but if you’re not specifically looking for that feedback, then uncovering problems you didn’t realize you had when you’re enthusiastically telling someone about your great idea can be both jarring and demoralizing. Now you have to cover this realization because you don’t want the person you’re talking with to think that you have no idea what you’re doing. And god forbid if they’re the ones who point it out to you because you were oblivious to it. How embarrassing. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll fix that immediately.

And by fix it, I mean throw the story directly into the trash because I won’t be able to look at it without feeling the searing heat of shame.

You also run the risk of being told that your idea isn’t that great. Think about it. You’re absolutely jazzed about this idea and you’re thrilled with how it’s been going and someone finally asks you about it in a way that suggests they’re actually interested and not just being polite and you launch into your spiel and they just…don’t react. They smile. They nod. And then they say, “That’s nice.”

I’d rather be told my idea is shit than be told it’s nice. Nice is dismissive. At least disliking an idea is an actual feeling.

But you’re still left with that empty feeling of doubt, wondering if you’ve been wrong and this idea that you thought was a sure thing is really just another bust and maybe you should have realized that because it seemed so good and you never get good ideas that flow so well. Clearly, this was a trick of the writing devil, that prick.

And now you’re not feeling the idea so much anymore. Good thing it wasn’t really that good anyway.

Now do you see what I mean? A trick question.

So, never ask me what I’m working on.

I know you don’t care and I won’t tell you anyway.