Have you ever flippantly mentioned that you’re a writer and then seriously regretted it? I guess it goes without saying that I have. At my day job a while back, someone I rarely see wondered why I have a thesaurus on my desk. Feeling bold, I replied honestly, never thinking much about my confession even through a few follow-on questions. Apparently I was in a manic mood phase, for I don’t recall the exchange at all, neither his queries nor my answers.

Fast forward to this morning, the guy walks in. His greeting was not what I expected. “How’s your writing coming?”

Brilliantly, I said, “What?” When he repeated the question, I managed a semi-coherent reply about much-needed rewrites going well over the holiday weekend. He didn’t stop there, of course, and I could feel my cheeks heat the instant he asked what kind of stories I write.

This man, who looks like he could be my grandfather, appeared to have no idea what erotica is. When I explained that it’s romance with steamy bits, he asked if I had any stories with me. I flat out lied and said no, even though every single tale I’ve penned for the last several years is on the thumb drive in my laptop bag, not to mention the laptop!

He didn’t seem to notice my discomfiture, even when I told him in so many words that it is embarrassing to hand over my tales face to face. The one and only time I handed a casual acquaintance some pages to read, I nearly had a stroke. And he’s not someone I’m likely to see ever again.

This fellow, on the other hand, will be stopping by my office at least three or four times a month. And he asked me to bring something in for him to read if I remember. How can I convincingly lie every time and tell him all my stories are at home? Do I want to? Not really. Getting up the nerve after he walked away, I wrote my blog website down and stuck the note with his paperwork.

“There”, I thought. “I’m not responsible for anything he reads or doesn’t read.”

The evasiveness felt very honorable in an odd way, even vaguely Japanese in its sensibility. Then I inevitably thought about the matter some more. Why not print out a piece of short fiction without any sex in it? Believe it or not, I do have a few. ~grin~ Well, the end result is that I currently have a two page story tucked away with a note listing my blog stapled to it.

I ultimately just couldn’t go through with handing over anything, not even by sticking the sheets in his paperwork slot and sneaking out to avoid seeing him. What if he’s homophobic? Quite a bit of my material addresses gay relationships. Even the ficlet I printed out focuses on two men in love, whether or not it stands out in this particular vignette.

Odds are that I’ll see this man in another week or so. The last thing I need at work is the added stress of a business contact reading sensual stories and thinking of me. Any suggestions? Should I hand over a copy of “War and Peace”?

2 thoughts on “At War with My Mouth

  1. Nikki M says:

    You don't want to react out of fear alone, but work is work. I have some people at work who would support my writing in general because they're nice like that, but who would STRONGLY object to the subject matter. So I don't say anything at all at the store I'm at now. (Although I did share with one person the subject matter I wrote about at my old store, but never any actual stories – and I didn't read any of his work, either.)

    The thing about giving your blog link to him, is that then there is someone, even one person, at your work, that can clearly associate your penname with you, yourself. It makes it harder for you to control what people do read. And if one person knows, then everyone can know.

    The only other idea I had was to ask him why he wants to read your stories. I thought it might be a bit unexpected and you might get a really honest response. If you feel he is generally trying to be supportive, then you can make a decision about explaining the full content of your stories and letting him decide. If he doesn't know, or is just being polite, you can just explain that since the stories would probably trigger the porn alarms on the computers (ha, but they should trigger them, lol) that you just don't feel right bringing them into the workplace, or showing them to people with whom you have a professional relationship outside of writing.

    Good luck, Darla. We have your back whatever you decide to do.

  2. That's a tough one.

    I built up to it gradually. At my former company, I would say, "I'm a writer." Then, "I'm a freelance author." I sometimes have things I can share (my article for Outward Bound, for example). If they ask, and I don't share my fiction, I say "I'm working on getting published." That usually backs them off, but lets them be supportive.

    I never share my erotica with male colleagues. Even now, where my current firm knows I'm a writer, I keep my writing name strictly private from my male coworkers. I have given my blog to three people, (which means that it could get out to the rest), but I've noted it's adult material and, I quote, "May not be your cup of tea, but I'm not trying to write the great American novel. I'm writing because it's fun, and I like to write stories that make people late for work." ~insert eyebrow waggle here~

    I have put that I'm a writer and teacher in my professional bio for my 'real' life, but that's only in the last year. I built up to it slowly, but am grateful for the congruence. The one thing I will offer is this: do not share anything you don't want spoken about in front of you at a staff meeting. Then, work on being strong in yourself about the fact that you write and what you write, and the two will become congruent someday. But it takes time, and gentleness.

    This is why, in AW, we are taught to put a circle around our "safe" friends, and leave the rest out of that circle until we get stronger. The urge, and I have it too, is to climb up on the roof and shout "I'M A WRITER, GOD DAMMIT!" at the top of our lungs. Avoid doing that, for right now. Trumpet it in the morning pages, and fantasize about telling people. But hold it close to your heart, and tell people, "I'm a freelance author working on publishing my first novel." Then, when they want to read it, say, "You'll be the first one I tell once it's on Amazon!" and grin. Like you have a secret.

    Builds buzz, without breaking confidences. 🙂

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