Ten things not to say to a writer as deadline approaches

(I promise this will be the only post I’ll ever use that horrid “ten things” gimmick — until the next book, of course. I know, it makes me vom, too.)

Friends, I’m in the thick of it: writing, writing, wordy word words. The first six chapters of our book has been sent to the editor; we’re rounding out the rest for a January deadline.

And the dishes keep piling, the kids need picked up from school. I’m still volunteering, still working at church, still preaching. We’re reading “The Wind in the Willows” at bedtime; the shower needs a cleaning and so does my hair. The once-golden leaves are past that pretty point; now they’re just dead and brown in the grass and I need to rake. And I have to put them in bags, and I just cannot.

I spend almost all day in prayer and writing things in my mind. And picking up socks from the kitchen floor. I sleep a comatose nine hours a night: my brain is so full. My soul, too.

And people keep asking me questions. And my wrist hurts only when I hold it in the position as if I’m deleting something and still, the questions. Mercy, people.

Don’t misunderstand: I’ve never been more content — this is it, the God’s-life-in-me stuff; this is fruit. I’m addicted to this artist’s life, little money and all. I’ve also never felt so much like I’ve got one foot off the merry-go-round and I don’t know what comes next, to quote one of my favorite philosophers.

(It’s Bill Murray. He said that.)

Anyway, sitting here on my living room couch, the PDF of chapters zero to six on the next tab over. I feel like a real writer now.

Doesn't this look writerly? It's from a writing retreat I just went on last week. It's not real life.

Doesn’t this look writerly? It’s from a writing retreat I just went on last week. It’s not real life.

And as a writer, I feel I should offer a PSA to ya’ll. Unsolicited, as the best advice rarely is.

Things not to say to a writer when she’s in the 75-day window of turning in the book she’s been writing for more than a year now (especially when three holidays and the author’s birthday fall between now and mid January). (The holidays mean travel-KILL-ME-travel and the birthday means a good existential crisis as I stare into the dark cave of my mid-30s and wonder how many good years I have left.)

Anyhow, we’re more likely to be friends if you don’t ask the following:

  1. You haven’t blogged in awhile. Are you OK?
  2. Are you already starting to think about other books! What are they! Anything to pitch! (Easy on the exclamation points, tiger.)
  3. How much did you get done this week? Wait, so you ended the day with fewer words than you started? I’m confused.
  4. Why are you staring at the wall?
  5. Didn’t you just buy that box of Lucky Charms?
  6. Have you read ..? Have you seen ..?
  7. Oh, you’re (selling plasma, listing all your possessions on Craigslist, dog-walking, etc.)? I thought you got an advance? Didn’t it last you?
  8. If you’re married to the writer, don’t come home for lunch with, Hey, the kids are at school … winky, winky. No thank you, friend.
  9. If you’re married to the writer, don’t try to joke about the writer being able to take the kids to the grocery store in the afternoon, because you’re home anyway. Especially don’t use the line: “Why not! Come on, you don’t even have a real job!” because no matter how cute you look when you’re telling that joke, you will be buried in the backyard by sunset.
  10. Are you happy with what you’ve got so far?

That last one’s tough. OK, you can ask it. But I’m just not sure how to answer it yet.

I’ve spilled a lot of my soul on this book and there are some cards I’ve still got in my pocket. I wonder about the lag between turning in the book and the publish date — I hope the grace comes through.

In short, if you don’t know what to say, just invite me out for tea and we’ll sit and not talk about this until I’ve had a latte. Then I’ll talk too much about it. It’ll be very rewarding for you, I promise.

Thanks for sticking with me through the sketchy autumn. You’ll be rewarded with more words later. And marshmallows! Marshmallows for everyone!

2 thoughts on “Ten things not to say to a writer as deadline approaches

  • Erin,

    Great blog! I can identify with your situation!

    I compare writing a book with giving birth—but of course, I don’t know the actual physical, psychological, social, and spiritual experience of being pregnant.

    It will all come together as it is supposed to! With God’s grace! And you being faithful to the process! Which you are doing!

    Hang in there!


    • Thanks, Roger — it means a lot coming from you! And I can attest you’re not missing much in regards to pregnancy. Blessings on your book & good work!

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