As a writer, the subject of writing tends to find its way into introductory conversations. Even if not your full time profession, even if you consider writing a hobby, or an uneconomical passion, you are still a writer and when the subject comes up, as it often does, the inevitable question that follows is: “What do you write?”
Uh, oh. If you’re like me, suddenly every genre I’ve touched on dances around in my head waiting to be mentioned, my current projects and old projects clamor for status and then, worst of all, suddenly nothing feels worthy to mention. The impulses to justify and yet downplay my passion begin duking it out while the innocent inquisitor stares politely at me waiting for an answer.
Market-Write Tip –
When asked, “What do you write?” Have your answer ready.
Perhaps you’ve heard the term elevator speech. This is the idea that a short 3 minute “pitch” is ready and prepared for any occasion, but especially for the opportunity to sell to a new prospect. In publishing there is also the logline. A logline is a one or two sentence summary of your written work primarily used to sell to an agent or publisher. Both of these examples are important for when you’re selling your work.
Today we’re not talking about selling, we’re talking about answering a question in a conversation. Why is this important if you’re not selling? Because, as writers, we should always be connecting: connecting to readers, connecting to writers and connecting to community. This question is the most commonly asked and the best starting point for making connections.
Also, it’s a hard question to answer. That is why the answer is important to think about ahead of time and even practice. To make it easier, put your answer into 3 short parts.
- Choose one or two descriptors that people can understand and relate to. For example: Genre, length, or medium. Who for? About? Why? Similar to…
- What I’m working on right now is… or I just finished…
- What do you like to read? Or other question that facilitates conversation.
One reason it is difficult for an artist to articulate, What do you write? is because most people work in several different genres and mediums and resist the inclination to put all of their work into a box, so to speak. However, being too generic with an answer like, “Everything,” or “All kinds of stuff,” closes the conversation instead of opens it.
An author friend of mine, and Fine Lines Senior Editor, Marcia Forecki, really does write all over the board of genre, length and medium, with a published memoir, a book of short stories, a recently published medical thriller, plus a blog and inclusion in other publications and journals. Not to mention what she’s working on next, a period piece set in the Southern states. So where to begin?
Here is an example of what Marcia can answer to “What do you write?”
“I write across several genres because what I enjoy most is developing unique characters. I just finished co-authoring a medical thriller called Blood of the White Bearand I’m working now on a novel set in the civil war. What is your favorite type of story?”
By ending with a question about reading, or writing if that is the forum, you are opening the conversation to continue. This is where you will be able to discover any connections you may have with this person and the stories you write.
I have several friends who make a living writing behind the scenes in addition to their own passions. One friend, Kendra Merritt is a talented writer for businesses and also for herself. So she may say, “I am a technical writer and proofreader for various small businesses, but I most enjoy writing young adult fiction. My current work in progress is a fantasy novel called Catching Cinders and I also keep up a blog with book reviews. What kind of books do you enjoy?”
Some writers get flummoxed to answer if there are no officially published works to “legitimize” their efforts. Do not dismiss yourself and your passion. As David Martin, the founder of Fine Lines Journal reminds us, “Waiters wait. Writers write.” If you write, you are a writer.
So tell me, what do you write?
Author Bio: By day Mardra Sikora balances a patchwork of community, advocacy, work and family, including Business Consultant for Fine Lines. Also by day she writes. Author of the “Essay: Arguing Eugenics” released in 2013, The Future and Other Twists: A collection of short and super-short stories, and the book series The Innocent Prince which is still in the progress.Mardra Sikora believes in the power of words and uses both fiction and non-fiction to advocate for and with her adult son Marcus. We’d love to see you around the Grown Ups & Downs Blog, Facebook Page or follow Mardra and Marcus on Twitter.