Monday, December 13, 2010

A Little Book Talk

I love to talk books. However, I find myself having to discern what type of person I’m talking to in order to figure out the conversation we’re about to embark upon.

If a close friend of mine mentions to a mutual acquaintance that I’m working on my fifth book, I’ll get a bug-eyed stare and, “You’ve written five books?”

My answer always depends.

If I sense I’m talking to an avid writer and/or reader and they’ve been in the trenches I might say:

I’m pumped because I overcame the sagging middle in my WIP and I have a firmer grasp on my POV. I’m at 50K and my MC is encountering a new conflict. I probably won’t query it for at least a year. I want some beta readers to open a can of whoop A. on the thing. Now I want to hear all about your project.

But if they admit they went to see Eat Pray Love because they don’t read, I’d probably say:

Yep. I like to write.

I have to conduct the same type of social gauge when reading comes up in conversation. Sometimes I get, “You read more than one book at a time?”

If they tell me they never read because they don’t have time or they quit reading books after a few chapters because books can’t really instigate solid conversation, I say:

Yep. I enjoy reading.

But if they tease a smile on my lips, telling me about some amazing books they’ve just read I jump right in:

I just finished Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart and Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb. Both excellent. I’m certain the characters will stay with me for a long time. And I’m reading one now that has me hooked, Mudbound. A killer start.

My answer gets even more fun when they ask in a pleading voice, “How do you find the time to write and read so much?”

Now I play.

I tell them I lock my kids in the closet for hours at a time or that my kids really write the stories and I edit them. Or I’ll say that I only sleep two hours a night or that I really only read the first sentence of books. I’ve made it a game, coming up with responses to the ‘how do you find the time’ question. Can you tell I’ve been asked often?

If I’m feeling less sarcastic I’ll tell them I love it, it’s my passion.

What do you say to people who ask how you find the time to do the thing you love to do?

*photos by flickr


  1. I often get asked "So are you published yet?" when people learn that I write and have written four books. I like my writing mentor, Katrina Kittle's answer.

    "If I told you I ran the Boston Marathon, would you ask if I won?"

    I haven't had the guts to say that yet but without apology, I can say that I haven't even tried to get published yet. I am still learning the craft and paying my dues. I write full time and I am working diligently towards publication.

    The answer to how to find the time is almost always revealed immediately. I can not speak intelligently about any reality television show or many pop culture references. It becomes immediately apparent that I live under a rock.

    Always a joy, Wendy.

  2. Ha! Sometimes I wonder myself how I find the time to fit everything in. Only sleeping two hours a night sounds like a good answer because some days it feels like I've only slept two hours :)

  3. I have to be a bum and say I HATE that question. I have four kids, a full time job, church volunteering and the list goes on and on. I'm the type who believes that if you do want it bad enough, you'll make the time. Somehow, someway. But usually all one has to do is cut a TV program and bam there's an extra hour a week. I do fine on 5 to 6 hours of sleep and have a tight schedule, but I make it work. The trick is answering this question without being snarky about it and, like your post said, gauging who you're talking to. Sometimes, I just shrug and say "I have no idea."
    Great post! Thanks for making me think!

  4. LOL--on locking the kids in the closet.
    Someone asked me the other day how I found time to do the things that I love. I honestly asnwered..."I don't know". :)
    But you're right, if you want/need/love to do something, you will find the time.

  5. Wendy, I love how you show sensitivity to your audience, considering where the person asking the question is coming from and gearing your answer to her. There are those who get what we do, and those who don't. You're a great example of appreciating both and responding with grace.

    You're also funny. Love your witty replies to the "How do you do it?" questions.

  6. I went through a bunch of these conversations just last night, at a Christmas party where I met a large number of new acquaintances. Yes, it's important to gauge the person's interest level! General rule of thumb: I don't bring up the subject of my writing unless it happens naturally. And if the person in conversation with me stops asking questions, I STOP talking about the books. :-) Sometimes, it's a good idea to cease talking about the books even while the person is still asking questions. :-) A little book talk goes a long way, and other people have interesting lives we need to discover.

  7. When someone asks how I make the time (and I must be luckier than you; for me, this question usually comes from people who sincerely want to know) I give a quick rundown of how I have to wake up early to write before work, or meet my writing buddies at a cafe in the evenings after work, etc. I keep it short and sweet and it gets the point across that this is something you truly have to make time for.

    The only thing that annoys me is when someone grandly pronounces that she "has no time to read" but still manages to watch like 4 hours of TV a day. Hey, I get it, and I watch more TV than I should, but let's not act like you couldn't find the time if you wanted to. (The issue, of course, being that she doesn't actually want to read but wants to give the appearance that she would if she could just have more time.)

  8. LOL to the sarcasm!

    It's like anything in life. People make time for what they love to do and for the people they love. When time is limited, you have to have boundaries. I basically raise my kids and write ... and that's about it. But I'm so happy with that arrangement.


  9. I say the same thing. It's my passion. And anytime something is a passion, we're going to find time for it, and that time is going to be incredibly enjoyable, which will make us want to make more time for it.

  10. I have an easier time answering the reading question than I do the writing question, but mostly I respond with the fact that I'm willing to give up other luxuries that people spend time on, like TV watching.

  11. Wendy, you crack me up. I tell people I find time for it wherever I can, even it means I have to add it to one of my many lists.

  12. Hmm... locking the kids in the closet. Now there's an idea! Seriously though, if the person asking has something they are passionate about, I point out that they also find the time to do something they love. If it's important, we can all find the time to do what we love.

  13. Love your creative responses :) And the pictures of the books! Delish.

    It's hard talking to non-writers (pretty much everyone I know in "real" life about writing. They ask, "So, how's the book coming?" and don't really listen when I try to tell them about it. OR they ask, "And you're sending it to publishers, right?" I don't even try to explain the submission process to them!


  14. too funny about locking the kids in the closet (not a bad idea;)). But like you, it's my passion too. We'll always find time for our passions, right? We need to use our gifts and talents for God.

    Thanks for your sweet comment and award as well, Wendy. You bless me.

  15. I love this post! It's sooo true. People who don't get it, I know I only have about 10 seconds, and then they're glazed over. So I give them the 10-second pitch. Others, we could talk books and blogs and writing and authors FOREVER.

    When people ask me how I have time, I tell them it's something I make time for.

  16. I get that all the time and I've heard it for years. honestly we've all been blessed with the same 24 hours. It's an art learning to prioritize, but there always seems to be time for the things we love.

  17. Nicole, Your comment about not being able to speak intelligently about reality shows cracked me up. Katrina's answer is clever.

    Julie, Didn't Einstein do that? I need my brain sleep. My brain doesn't function if it gets fewer than six hours. It works great if I've had nine.

    Bonnie, I love making people think. It shares the load around here. And it's amazing what cutting out one or two activities buys you back as far as time goes.

    Jennifer, Yeah, I don't know is a great answer. I think another truthful answer for me is that I hardly ever sit down in the day unless I am reading or writing.

    Thanks, Keli. I want one of you for my pocket to pull out so I'm encouraged whenever I'm feeling bummy. Sensitivity is both a blessing and a curse.

    Rosslyn, Oh I agree big time. Where else are we going to get our stories from? Christmas party conversations can be loaded with good material. ;) You make a wise point, listening is such a wonderful skill to learn.

    Laura, I know what you mean. It's easy to gauge just how serious the writer/reader is by the sacrifices/time they allot to it.

    Amy, Yet another reason I love you. I raise my kids and write too. About sums me up as well! Loved that!!!

    Katie, Such a valid point. The joy factor. Been reading Elizabeth Berg's book on writing and she emphasizes how important it is to enjoy the writing process. Excellent reminder b/c I really do love it.

    Heather, I'm with you. The other day I realized I haven't watched TV during the day in years. I have no idea if Oprah is still on.

    Cindy, I used to be so much more of a list maker. No wonder I feel like I'm losing my mind. Lists kept me more organized...clearly.

    Susan, So true. And I don't leave them in the closet for longer than four hours. Light is good for children. ;)

    Jen, Love getting those so when will you be published questions. I've recently begun slapping a year on it for fun. Oh, in 2012 I say in a completely serious tone. Hey, it could happen.

    Melanie, You are so refreshing! Truly. Enjoy that award.

    Elana, Isn't it an awesome reward to get all tangled up in one of those lengthy book conversations. I come away feeling like I took a class in college.

    T.Anne, There you go, priorities!

    I was spoiled today. A generous friend cooked up an awesome meal and decorated her home and treated me and some other moms to a gourmet meal. She did it to give back to moms who work so hard.

    I must say, it felt like one of the most godly acts! She used her gifts and lavished on us. I saw Jesus in her big time today and it was such an enormous reminder to use what I've been given to bless.

    Thanks to each of you for blessing me. Glad we can chat books.

    See you next class!
    ~ Wendy

  18. You find time for what is important to you!

    The day I finished my fourth novel, I ran into the kitchen to tell my roommates. There was another girl in there too and she said, "And you have a life?"

    I looked at her and what went through my head was, "Who are you and why are you in my kitchen talking to me like that?"

    It was an eye opener to what some people think of what we do... I love it when I run into people who are like, "You finished a book? Wow! Tell me about it!"

  19. I tell them I watch little TV, carry books with me almost all the time, and keep volunteer activities to a minimum.

    Susan :)

  20. Thanks for the shout out, Wendy. I'm honored that you read (and liked) Chasing Lilacs.

    I'm thinking of locking MYSELF in a closet away from the computer so I can read more books.

    Great post!

  21. Fun post. Love the sarcasm! When I'm feeling sarcastic, I tell them that I have an IV at home running with coffee.

  22. Excellent responses both to those who get it and those who don't. I answer in similar fashion. I do say, if they seem open, that we make time to do the things we love. I also admit to having a messy house and rarely ever dusting. Funny, the Pledge is always out, but seldom used.

  23. Prozac. Lots and lots of Prozac. Well, okay, truthfully? Fistfuls of M&Ms. Now to figure out how to keep the pounds off...

  24. I tell them I give up something else, usually television. We make time for what we love!

    Mudbound, huh? Great title!


Taking Time

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