I live in a relatively small town, a suburb of a suburb of Dallas. I’ve lived here for twenty years. I went to middle school and part of high school here. I understand that when I go to the grocery store or gas station, the chances are pretty high that I will see someone I recognize.
I was still surprised when I was stopped yesterday by a woman who looked vaguely familiar. I did that thing you’re never supposed to do – told myself it didn’t matter what I looked like because I was just running to the store, which automatically guaranteed that I would run into someone I know.
The woman and I went to middle school together. I haven’t seen (or thought about) her in at least thirteen years. Yet I can’t stop thinking about the 5-minute conversation we had. After the initial “Yeah I think I might remember you” portion, she started asking about what I’m up to now. I told her I am a writer, and she was thoroughly (embarrassingly) impressed. Then she asked the questions I absolutely dread.
“So, you’re famous then?”
“No, not by a long shot.”
“Oh. Well, what have you written?”
The honest answer: Several unfinished drafts, one really terrible novel, and a huge work-in-progress, as well as a few hundred blog posts and some pretty witty tweets.
The answer I gave her: “A few short stories. I’m working on a novel now.”
Not a total lie, right? I think I’m bothered most by the implied “What of yours have I read?” and the epic levels of shame that arise from trying to answer it without admitting the ugly truth.
I’m a writer, just not a published one. Some days I’m okay with that distinction. Some days, like yesterday, I feel like I’m trying to catch the brass ring, and all I’m getting is dizzy.