I’m always telling students that one serious difficulty facing the writer is that nobody cares if you don’t write. It’s a solitary business, and nobody else is affected when we don’t produce. That only happens when we do. But it’s tricky when someone does ask how the work is going. We often make the mistake of thinking that it’s a serious question, that someone really cares.
Only after we expound passionately for two or three minutes do we notice the look in your eyes and think crap–you were just being polite. So, we mumble our way into silence. Sometimes, it’s really stressful to be asked because the writing isn’t going anywhere at all, and we want to scream at you to stop asking because nothing’s happening and it makes us feel like useless failures. When that happens to me, I respond with some ultra vague generalities. I might say it’s coming or that I’m thinking about something.
The other night, around a table with friends, someone asked what my next project would be, and I started talking, forcing myself to believe that those friends really cared about the answer. They asked some questions. I believed they cared. And I have to say it’s nice to be asked. If you know a writer, ask how the work is going. Risk being shouted at in frustration. Risk a wail of despair. Risk a passionate two minutes. Try to care. Try to make us think you care. It only takes a few minutes, and it means a lot. It’s the cheapest fuel there is.