Thursday, April 16, 2015

That ’10 Things People Say to Writers’ List Thing

You’ve likely seen it in an e-Mail chain or in your Twitter or Facebook feed: That list of “10 Things People Say to Creative Writers (but probably shouldn’t).” It’s definitely a conversation starter, at least among several of my writer friends.

Most of these are amusing in their own way. Only a couple of them are really irritating, and even then it depends on the person doing the asking. It’s easy to distinguish between someone asking an innocent question and THAT PERSON we’ve all encountered, who’s hoping to hitch his wagon to yours so you can pull them to some “Writer’s Promised Land” that people seem to think is out there over the horizon somewhere.

Looking over the list, my first thought was that there are a lot more things people say to writers that didn’t seem to make the cut here, but maybe the person who compiled the list was trying to keep things simple, and perhaps even family friendly. For example, there’s no mention of the classic, “Want to write for me? I can’t pay you, but....” I figure that one’s missing because the list is aimed more at things said by people who aren’t writers, or who have no connection to the writing or publishing realms. Fair enough. With that in mind, let’s see what we’ve got:

1. “So, you’re still writing your little book/poems/etc.?”

I’m sorry, did you say something? I was pondering the death of a character in this next scene I’m writing. Come to think of it, the character looks a lot like you, all of a sudden....

2. “Must be nice not having a real job.”

A “real job?” As in, “soul-sucking hell I tolerate in order to pay the bills and I’m miserable all the time while I’m overworked, underpaid, and constantly threatened with being laid off because the shareholders need another hundredth of a percentage point on their stock shares in order to be appeased for one more quarter?” If that’s what you mean, then no, I no longer have a “real job.” I gave it up so that I could do this all the time, and now I’m happier than I’ve been in ten years. Look at my face. This is the face of a dude who’s happy.

3. “Writing doesn’t sound too difficult.”

Neither does what you do for a living. Where do I apply?

4. “I always thought I’d write a book after I retire, once I have some time to kill.”

Actually, you don’t kill time. Time kills you. This process varies in speed and intensity from person to person, particularly for people with “real jobs.” Your mileage may vary.

5. “Wait a second: creative writing degrees are a real thing?”

To be honest, I can’t really speak to this one with any authority, as I don’t have a writing degree of any sort. However, yes, they are a real thing, and I suspect that like many if not most degrees, they offer nothing of actual value even if you manage to land a “real job.”

6. “Have you been published yet?”

Here. Let me Google that for you.

7. “Can I be a character in one of your stories?”

Absolutely. I’m always looking for a name to give to a relatively minor character who needs to suffer a horrible, agonizing death in order to advance the plot, just after my main character sleeps with your spouse or partner because your namesake is an inconsiderate and inept lover.

8. “So, I have this great idea I think you should be using in your book....”

If it involves the horrible, agonizing death of a character I name after you, I’m all ears.

9. “Aren’t writers just professional liars? They tell stories for a living, after all.”

Stories. Alibis. Let’s not get too caught up in the jargon.

10. “You’re writing a book? Tell me everything.”

Now this one I like. Most writers—at least the ones I know—actually do like talking to people. I certainly enjoy engaging a reader (or group of readers), and if you give me the opening, I might very well tell you everything about the story I’m writing. For one thing, it gives me a chance to interact with other humans, rather than just arguing with the voices in my head.

Okay, writers of every sort: What questions to you field on a regular or even frequent basis that make you cringe?


Charles Gramlich said...

Do make any money at it?

Liane Spicer said...

Why don't you try to get your book on Oprah?

KeVin K. said...

Not exactly a question, but twice in the last ten years I've gotten:
My wife would never let me quit working to be a house husband.

Neil A. Waring said...

Thanks for today's smile. All are pretty funny. I often hear, "Hey, I'm going to write a book too."
A Book - Hum!

G. B. Miller said...

I field the ever popular, "So, how goes the writing" and "How's your book doing these days?"

Anonymous said...

My favorite fan story is the time a very nice lady brought a copy of one of my books to a convention signing, and it was filled with colored tabs where she had found a spelling or grammar error. The best part? She didn't blame me, but instead directed her "ire" at my editor. LOL