Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Words No Writer Wants to Hear

Every writer knows what I'm talking about. The first phrase that people seem to think of whenever you tell them you're a writer.

You say, "Yea, I'm in the middle of editing my book and sending out queries"
And they say, (all together now), "That's really cool. You know, I've always wanted to write a book. I thought about it, but I'm too much of a procrastinator."

Sound about right? Yes?

This drives me crazy. I mean, more often than not, the person saying this actually thinks he or she is impressing me by doing so. They think that relating to you when you've spent years perfecting your craft and they have no idea what they're talking about is a good idea. (This is also similar to the reply that those in the LGBT community often hear: "Oh, you're gay? I had an aunt/friend/second cousin twice removed who had a gay friend once back in 1987." I get the joyous opportunity of hearing this at least one every couple of months...)

But back to my main point...why do people think that telling a writer that they have always wanted to write is cool? "I've always thought about doing that, I just never had the time." Like they're talking about some new Indian restaurant they've been meaning to check out. Like it's so simple to just write a novel. Nothin to it. (As long as you have the time at least.) Oh yeah, that's the only thing that separates us writers from everyone else. Not that we make time, pushing for nearly twenty-five hour days, just to get our work and home and writing lives all taken care of. Not that we spend hundreds of hours writing and editing and querying and networking. Not that it actually takes, dare I say it, talent.

No, it's just one day we woke up and said "Hey, I feel like writing a novel. ...And golly gee! Today's my day off, so I might just sit down and get it done."

To all of those people that have always wanted to write but haven't, do you know what we hear when you say that? We hear two words--you haven't. You haven't written a novel. You haven't sat down and tried. You have no idea the effort it takes, and you obviously don't care too much about writing a novel if after all these years, you've never even tried. So if you want to make us feel good, tell us "wow, sweet. Hey, with your persistence I'm sure you'll get that thing published in no time." That's what we want to hear.

Other things you shouldn't say or ask when someone first tells you he or she is a writer:
1) Cool. I love to read. (Wow, impressive! Have you graduated from the "See Spot Run" books yet.
2) What's your book about? *Only ask this if positive you want to know. And certainly don't ask it if you only have 30 seconds to spare. Better yet, say, "I'd love to see a synopsis of it sometime."*
3) Do you intend to get published? (No, I just enjoy working late nights and stressing out for no particular reason.)
4) Once, for a fifth grade english project... (Yeah, totally don't care.)

Oh my. Maybe I'm just picky and vaguely psychotic--it would fit some lovely writer stereotypes--but I just wish that people could feel comfortable with themselves and whatever they do instead of trying to up their appeal by trying to talk about something they don't know about.

What do you think?

<3 Gina Blechman


  1. I don't know, I think it's just human nature to try to find common ground with another person. I think 90% of the people who say it, don't mean it to be offensive, so I don't take it that way. Unlike the people who sneer at writing as though it's some sort of hobby.

  2. Actually, this is a psychological phenomenon. People often try to relate a similar experience or interest to create a bond. Inserting themselves into the conversation topic is supposed to put the other person at ease and allow for more open communication. =)

  3. I'd put those words behind, 'I liked your book, but...' (from an agent, publisher or reader-you're-desperate-to-impress)

    But yes, I too have been frustrated by the 'Oh everyone's got a book in them. I know once I find the time, mine will be amazing' people.

    Kind of belittles the hours of labour you've put into honing your craft...

  4. What an interesting topic, certainly made me have a think. I guess this ties in nicely with "How do you know when you are a writer and not a dabbler?"

    I am fairly new to writing myself (as i have previously declared *grin*) but i have launched myself at it. I am here to earnestly craft the stories in my head onto paper in a form that other people will find appealing. Talk about a challenge.

    Perhaps, and i mean perhaps, it is the intent behind the words that annoys? That is what annoys me the most. (So naturally this is where i look for explaination.)

    Sometimes the intent behind is just that they are either idiots or are stuck for words (as Tracy sort of suggested) but sometimes it is something else.

    I have had a situation recently where this sort of 'discussion' has taken place. ie hiding behind "i have always wanted to write a book..." lies the real meaning of "It's nothing hard, anyone can do it..."

    NO that is NOT the way it works!

    Or in MY case, the captain subtext was "Oh but i started dabbling in writing long before you so i was writing before you..." NO NO and again NO. I admit to being childish in reply, and arguing back about work i got published in the newspaper when i was younger.

    Anyway this reply is moving too much in topic.

    In the end, the only way to deal with these little annoyances is to WRITE WRITE WRITE and write BETTER than all the idiots that try and usurp your glory.

    so go and write! *grin*

    Great post by the way Gina, really written with the stinging emotion behind it! Great writing!


  5. So true! This post made me laugh, thanks! I did get a comment that I appreciated once.

    "My husband once asked me if I had a novel in me. I told him that after talking to you that it looked like too much work."

    See, she gets it!

  6. What I hate is when they then proceed to tell you in great detail about the book that they're not writing OR attempt to convince you to write their book (usually suggesting that you can have a percentage of the huge amount of money that will be generated).

  7. Or how about the guys who chat you up with, "I have this idea for a book, I've had it for ages, you have to help me! Just take my number, we'll talk about the book..."

    Lucy, bisexual tourist and writer-procrastinator extraordinaire.

  8. Actually,

    check out this comment over at a fellow crusader site!!