I stood in sunshine on the sidelines of our son’s soccer field – the first game of the season – and a mom I had not met yet smiled and thrust her hand toward me. “Hi, I’m M___,” she said. “Thanks for all the email organizing you did for the team last week.” Her glasses glinted in the sun and her eyes were bright and friendly. We stood together with our arms crossed against a chilly March breeze and watched our ten-year-old boys warm up. The sunshine and our boys’ laughter made me feel melty.
“So you’re an author?” she said. My melty body seized. I am? I looked around. Who told her that?
“Uhhhhhh.” I said. And then I remembered my email signature: Andrea Badgley, Author at Butterfly Mind and Andrea Reads America. “Well, author might be too strong a word,” I said. I squirmed. “I write a blog. Well, two blogs.”
I smiled weakly. I don’t usually talk about my blogs except with my writing group and a couple of close friends, and I felt too center-of-attention talking about them on the soccer field sidelines. I shoved my hands in my pockets, then crossed them across my chest again.
“So what do you write about?” M___ asked. Her body faced me and she still smiled. She was truly interested.
“Uhhhhhh.” I said. My mind raced. What do I write about? What do I write about? I could not think of a single thing I write about. A tiny Buddha! I wrote about a tiny Buddha. But what relevance does that have for M___? Writing. I write about writing. My God, how lame! Who cares about writing except writers?
“Uhhhhhh,” I said again. “Well today I wrote about the lunacy of the writing life.” I grimaced. I probably looked like I had gas. None of the parents would want to be my friend after reading that. “And, uh, I wrote about a little Buddha figurine last week.” I saw bewilderment in her eyes. Totally bombing here. “I write about whatever is on my mind, I guess.”
She tilted her head and furrowed her eyebrows. “And do people care about those things?” she asked. “Do people read your blog?” She seemed doubtful. I didn’t blame her after the pitch I gave her.
“Well, yeah,” I said, practically apologizing for what I put readers through. “My blog’s name is Butterfly Mind because I’m kind of all over the place.” I smiled weakly again.
“Oh, I like that,” she said. “Have you seen The Butterfly Effect?”
And then, to my great relief, we were off on another subject.
All week I’ve thought about our encounter, and how that’s not the first time I’ve been caught unprepared when someone asks me in real life what my blog is about. In real life and real-time, I have to answer on the spot instead of being able to chew the tip of my pen and stare off into space while I craft a succinct response. In real life, someone is looking in my eyes, is smiling at me, is genuinely interested in what I’m going to say, and I feel like I always let them down. I decided, No More. I’m going to craft a response now, while I have the leisure to answer in the way that is most comfortable to me: on paper.
I write about motherhood. Books. Hipsters. The writing life. I draw diagrams about the relationship between snow days and parents’ alcohol consumption and am writing a series on difficult subjects we talk to our kids about: sex, souls, charity, the “F” word. I write slices of life from our time in Florida, Virginia, Minnesota, and Spain. Sometimes I’m funny. I call my blog Butterfly Mind because, as you can see, I flit.
I’m going to repeat this aloud while I clean, while I shower; I’m going to practice this until I can rattle it off without thinking. Next time I’m at the soccer field, in the dentist’s chair, at the hair salon, or on the highly unlikely occasion when I’d be in an elevator with an interested stranger, I will have an answer when, in real life, someone asks, “What do you write about?” Next time, I’ll pitch it right.