The Elevator Speech – How Do You Discuss Your Writing?

I was at a networking event for work last week and was asked by a new acquaintance, “Tell me something about yourself that no one would think to guess.” I thought for a moment, and told her “I am currently working on my first novel!” She instantly sounded intrigued and started asking me a slew of questions about what it was about, what the characters were like, where/when it was based, etc.

As proud as I am of my novel and of my writing in general, I immediately got incredibly nervous and anxious about discussing my precious baby. I gave her a brief run down, but honestly didn’t know what to say, how much to divulge, and what to say/not to say to avoid sounding like a rambling moron. I’m rather shocked at how self-conscious I am when talking about my writing. At this stage of my writing career, I don’t write for anyone but myself. To quote one of my favorite authors, “I want to be recognized for beautiful work, for good work, for real work” – Cheryl Strayed. I want to produce work that touches others, that makes people feel something.

That being said, I’m constantly worried that when asked about my writing and when I discuss my work, people will judge it, will think things like “Well, that is is a stupid idea for a book!” Which is so silly as I know I shouldn’t give a rats ass about the perceptions of anyone else! Because of that fear of judgment, I often shy away from discussing my work.


I’m completely comfortable discussing my writing with other writers, with my close friends, and family. I’m sure that I will become less anxious about talking about my writing with strangers as I do it more frequently and push myself out of that comfort zone. I think one of these first steps is to create an “elevator speech” for each of the different styles of writing I have; have a little speech prepared when discussing my novel, my poetry, my short fiction, and so on. This will give me a baseline to start with and further expand on if the conversation warrants it. I have an elevator speech for work, why not for my writing?

What about you, fellow writers? How do you push through that initial feeling of anxiety when discussing your writing? Is it normal to feel a little self-conscious and nervous when talking about your writing? What do you say/not say? How do you know when to stop talking, when to continue, and how do you handle any negative feedback?

Happy writing! 🙂




9 thoughts on “The Elevator Speech – How Do You Discuss Your Writing?

  1. It is absolutely fact, with the responses I receive, I do become startled.
    I guess when people ask the common question of, ”why do you write”, it certainly does put you on the spot! Nonetheless, talking about it does make it a lot easier eventually:)

  2. You know from first hand experience that I have this problem! 🙂 I’m getting better at owning it, but like Erik said, at least part of it is owning that you’re a writer. It’s been easier for me lately because professionally I’m a technical writer — and since “writer” is the noun there, I don’t feel so weird calling myself “writer” by itself — but I always had trouble with it before I got paid for it on a regular basis. People still think I’m talking about fiction when I tell them I’m a writer, though, which makes it difficult in a different way.

    I still have trouble owning up to my novel, and a lot of that is feeling like a fraud. I tell people I wrote a novel and they expect that it was published by a big publishing house and it’s available “at bookstores everywhere.” Somehow telling them I wrote a tiny novel from an indie publishing house makes me feel like the novel lacks legitimacy. I definitely need an elevator pitch for it.

    1. Exactly! That feeling of our work lacking legitimacy is one of the core issues I’m talking about. Which is sooo ridiculous! I know that practice will make perfect, the more we talk about our work with strangers, the more confident we will be in doing so. We really need to find a writing group (an in person one). I’d be down to traveling to Portland for that! Salem has pretty much nada.

      1. There’s supposed to be a good writing group at Powell’s, but I’ve never checked it out. Maybe we should try it out together! 😀

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