Margaret Ethridge

What are you thinking?

“What are you thinking?”

Ugh. One of my least favorite questions ever.

Let me state for the record that it’s not me; it’s him. It’s true! This little touchy-feely inquiry usually comes from my husband. In defense of his alpha male status, I will say he only resorts to using it when he catches me staring fixedly at the handle on the refrigerator door, the back of a dining room chair, or the trees whizzing past the car window.

Still, there’s no good way for me to answer. How am I supposed to tell the man I love that I’m thinking about getting another guy naked?

Not for real. Just in my head. I swear.

He doesn’t get it. Not many people do. My mind is always racing. It doesn’t matter where I am— the car, at the day job, during dinner, or drifting off to sleep at night—I’m always filling in plot holes or working on a pitch. Friends catch me gazing into Nowheresville all the time. I can slip out of a conversation and into an imaginary world with startling ease. It’s embarrassing. It’s rude. It’s something that I have to make a conscious effort to control. Oftentimes, I fail.

I’ve tried to explain this bizarre case of writer schizophrenia to the non-writers in my life, but I don’t think they actually buy it. They nod and smile and secretly wonder if I need to be fitted with a Miracle Ear. I have to insist that my hearing isn’t the problem. It’s all these words swirling around in my head.

Living a non-fictional existence requires the folding of laundry, meal consumption, spousal conversation, and in my case, an excess of day-job-related conference calls. I can’t simply sit down at the computer whenever I like and unleash my plot bunnies onto the page.

Writers live two separate but intrinsically intertwined lives. There are the days when I find the key to my WIP while on my quest for the answer to the eternal question—What’s for dinner? That’s why I’m staring at the refrigerator handle. No one else can see that the back of that dining room chair holds the answer to exactly how much chest hair our hero sports or if my heroine has a birthmark. The trees zip past the car window almost as fast as the lines of dialogue running through my head. I keep a notepad handy, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes I just have to hope I can hang onto the thought long enough to jot it down.

Yeah. So…All of this to say, the next time you see a writer-friend staring at a potted plant as if it held all the secrets of the universe, cut them a little slack. For all you know, that philodendron knows everything.

Oh! You want to know what I tell my hubby when he asks that infernal question? I tell him to buy the book.


Tim Bunny agrees with me. He always does. I control the yogurt treats.

5 thoughts on “What are you thinking?

  1. I’m a pushover too, Brinda, but I’m not nearly as bad as the man. He’s totally bunny whipped.

  2. Everyone always wonders why there’s so much crap in my purse. Well, pretty much every receipt, gum wrapper, and sticky note has scribbled plot points and dialogue on it. And sometimes it takes me a while to get around to transferring it to my special ‘Story Ideas’ document. An inspiring file name, I know. So I totally get you, Margaret. I have stared at many fridge handles too. P.S. I heart Tim so hard.

  3. That Time, he’s a charmer. I have plot bunnies scattered all over the place too! I’ve recently fallen in love with Evernote (thanks to fellow DSRA author, Brinda Berry). I make notes on story ideas there, add web pages for inspiration, and track details on WIPs in the program and it rocks!

  4. I love the bunny, He is so cute. My husband knows to never ask me what I’m thinking, because I tell him. After having to listen to a few scenes he decided what’s in my head needs to stay there. Loved your post, Thanks for sharing.

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