A former colleague from my “working” days, aka pre-fulltime retirement writing life, asked me the customary question: “What’s new?”

The answer to that question seemed simpler when I worked with him in our 9 to 5 jobs. There was always something at the office we could latch onto to discuss to death. Writing, however, complicates the answer now. “I wrote 1,000 really good words today!” I’d like to brag. Or even: “I struggled to eek out 500 average words that I’ll have to submit to a substantial rewrite tomorrow.” If the questioner has no writing background, her/his reaction soon becomes apparent through a puzzled facial expression. “Are you serious?”

I think friends and colleagues expect my days to burst with exciting news, which I spin into rich, satisfying anecdotes that make the listener envious of my circumstances. Free time from dawn to dusk…no more working. Sorry to spoil their fantasies, but I work harder now than when we shared sterile office space. I became quite adept at leaving work at the office, but I seem never to cease writing. The mind never pauses. Thoughts tumble like wet socks in a dryer…thump, thump thump. I have a digital recorder handy most of the day to record random notes about what I’m writing, about project I plan to write, and about what I aspire to write. The voice recording app on my phone gets more work than any other.

Work anxiety rarely kept me awake at night before I retired. I relegated all the BS to that 9 to 5 cubbyhole, sloughed it like a heavy coat when I came home each night. As I mentioned in a blog entry many months ago, some nights my monkey-brain engages, shrieking and careening around its cage, pushing sleep into a distant corner. I lay for half an hour or so and then surrender, rise and begin to write. Those hours don’t produce always the most polished prose…but they do produce! Writing is a full-time endeavor…that’s the abbreviated version. It seems as though my perspective these days totally encompasses how my environment affects my writing, and vice versa.

So…the question. I could answer with a description of what I wrote that day, or the previous day, but I’m reluctant to discuss any work in progress. I’m not alone in that aversion…it’s a common enough trait in many writers. Instead, I plead the writer’s fifth amendment right not to self-incriminate. My life to the outside world is boring. Wake, write, read, sleep. The magic there lies outside the beginning and the end…it’s the juicy middle! Writing and reading. The rewards gleaned from those two simple words don’t defy description; I just prefer to guard them jealously.

So the next time you ask me what I’ve been up to, what’s new with me…accept with grace my wry smile and gentle head wag. You’ll never know.

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