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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

I'm a writer, and I'm working on a book.

Do not begin a conversation, “I’m a writer, and I’m working on a book,” even when your church’s pastoral intern preaches a sermon that surfaces the questions you’ve been asking and working to answer in your book. Do not approach him with quick steps and thrust your arm out eagerly, pumping his with enthusiasm. Do not admit the undercover work you do from your desk as the morning wakes and the birds sing their chorus of encouragement. When a friend invites you for coffee, make a silly excuse about having to do laundry or make a Costco pilgrimage, but don’t tell her that after school drop-off, you’re intending to return to your writing habitat of swivel chair, computer screen, and coffee mug.

For those who’ve penetrated your surreptitious efforts to keep your writing life clandestine, should they hazard to ask what your book is about, do not drone endlessly as if they should be made to care about sub-point 2c on the outline you’ve been feverishly writing. The glaze of boredom will fall like a window shade: no talking faster and louder will help.

Can I revise my position?

Because, actually, in the span of these last three paragraphs, I’ve been doing some thinking. Do approach your pastor at the end of his sermon and pump his arm. Tell him you’re a writer and working on a book. Straighten your spine, and do away with the fiction that you are a phony, an impostor, a woman only claiming to write (when all she’s really doing is keeping blog along with another HALF MILLION people on the planet).

Do tell your friend when she invites you for coffee that you’re going home to work on your outline, which is part of the book proposal you’re hoping to have finished and mailed by the time your children are out of school (in THREE weeks).

Do drone on endlessly about the intricate subtleties of your argument; find a listener, an audience. (Blog, if you have to.) When all else fails, call your mother who will croon your talents, or at the very least, mutter “mm-hm” into the phone while she waters the plants or searches the house for her keys.

Find courage today to do something and to tell someone you’re doing it. The second part, telling someone, is as critical as doing it. Let the confession you make about the thing you do seed the resolve to keep doing it, come hell or high water. Let yourself feel ridiculous and phony. Corner someone at the next dinner party; wrangle their attention and begin the conversation with something like, “I’m a writer, and I’m working on a book.”

Keep your spine straight, even if it’s Holden Caulfield you’ve sequestered.

We’ve got to keep our wits about us, says Calvin Seerveld, American art theorist.