I’ve kind of put all my career eggs in the writer basket. Sure, I could conceivably work at a library, but it seems that most libraries have a ton of people with MLIS degrees working part-time and waiting for full-time openings to materialize. This means that they generally hire internally, and I can’t really afford to get on staff at a library part-time to wait it out. So, I guess, I’ll write for my supper.
This isn’t a big deal. I don’t mind my day job and my after work hustle and my dream job all sharing the same side of my brain. Writing is like one of three things I’m good at (the other two being eating and sleeping), and any opportunity I get to do it makes me better. But sometimes people will say really dumb things to me about writing. And it’s irritating. I’ve done an unofficial poll with other writers I know, and they seem to experience the same treatment at the hands of the unwriterly.
So, without further ado, I bring you a list of stupid things people say to writers!
1. “I wish I could just write all day.”
Boy, so do I. But the thing is that most writers have day jobs–even the published ones who are earning money from writing. And even if you can support yourself 100% with writing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re writing fiction all day. And, if you really want to write all day, then you can figure out a way to make it work. But the implied notion that writers just lollygag all day penning their thoughts all willy-nilly is insulting. And anyone who thinks writing is easy has never really tried to do it. Sure, it’s not backbreaking manual labor. But it certainly wears out your brain like you wouldn’t believe.
2. “You can make that much from writing?”
Invariably, I’ll tell someone how much a freelance project paid, or what I ask clients for. And they’ll flip out. Surely writing is a cheap gig, right? Everyone who can read and write English is functionally a writer, right? WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.
The assumption that anyone with access to a pencil or word processing program is a writer is dumb. I can buy a guitar. It doesn’t make me a musician. You can write a paragraph. It doesn’t make you a writer. It’s a learned skill–one that takes years to develop into something worthwhile. If someone can get an advanced degree in it for tens of thousands of dollars, or if it takes someone well over 100 rejections to get an agent to represent their writing, there’s a good chance that it’s hard and takes hella work.
3. “I have a great idea for you to write about.”
Fun fact: the only person who has good ideas for me to write about is me. Stephen King could whisper an idea in my ear (this image terrifies me greatly because he is inextricably linked with his stories in my head and I assume the evil and terror in his books resides in him as well) and I would still think it’s complete shit. That’s because I interpret the world one way, and other people interpret the world another way. Stephen King could probably make a hojillion dollars with his idea. And I could probably make like $3 a month as an Amazon Kindle Direct self-published author with that idea. So, what I’m saying is, keep your ideas to yourself. I’m overflowing with them. I have more ideas for novels than I will ever write. This is why I got into this business.
4. “I always liked English class.”
Me too. And I liked history, biology, algebra, art, mythology, Spanish, social studies…pretty much all of them. Here’s the thing about writers–we’re smart. We may not always have the grades to show it, but we’ve spent our entire lives sucking up all the available knowledge. It’s been percolating in our brains, just waiting for a time to come out in the form of a story or essay or poem. If information were currency, we’d be millionaires. And then we’d promptly be broke as a joke once our books came out since we just want to convey this information to others in our writing.
5. “Have you always wanted to be a teacher?”
Nope. Never. People like me shouldn’t be allowed around impressionable minds. This is true of A LOT of writers. Sure, they studied things that you can’t readily assimilate into careers, but don’t worry about it. We’re cagey as hell, and generally just all about our hustle. If we want to teach, we will. But know that no writer gets into teaching because it’s what they’ve always wanted. They’ve wanted to write. If they teach, it’s because they wanted to teach.
6. “Where does your inspiration come from?”
The grocery store. Aisle 7. Behind the moth balls and the anti-fungal toenail creams.
7. “Will you name a character in your novel after me?”
Yes. I hope you’re cool with a character who eats their own feces being named after you. And I’m really pissed that you’ve put me in a position to write a book that has a character who eats feces. But I have to teach you a lesson. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU’LL LEARN.
8. “Have you ever read _______? It’s my favorite.”
I’ve read a lot of stuff. I’m not proud of all of it. But know that I tend to absorb anywhere from 3-6 books a month. (This goes back to point 4 and wanting to have all the information.) So, chances are I’ve read whatever Oprah’s Book Club/airport sale/birthday present book you’re referencing. And while I try to get a good balance of literature, non-fiction, and genre fiction, know that I judge you when you tell me your favorite book is The DaVinci Code or Fifty Shades of Grey. This goes double for like 80% of the mass marketed YA white noise out there. There are a lot of good writers out there. When you tell me your favorite is one that I lump into the ephemeral pop culture garbage category, I judge you. And maybe name a feces-eating character after you.
9. “You must have a lot of free time if you can write so often.”
I do not. I have priorities. How dare you come at me with that flippant tone?! Sometimes you only have 30-minutes on your lunch break. Other times you have a couple of hours. But you make time for it. Know what I don’t have time for? Video games, Netflix marathons (unless I’m editing photos or something at the same time), reality TV, non-nourishing relationships, and Facebook. If writing is a priority, you make time for it. Sure, you don’t get to do some stuff, but ask yourself what your soul needs. Does it need to see and episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, or does it need to write an essay that compares an overgrown vegetable garden to your current mental state? You pick. You’re the one that has to live with yourself at the end of the day.
10. “Have I heard of you?”
No. Because you fucking read shit like The DaVinci Code and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Full disclosure: I’m not currently published under my own name. I hope to be some day. But the above question makes my blood boil. I would never ask anyone in another profession if I’d heard of them. And no writer gets into the writing game for the fame and money. If you get there, spectacular. If not, as long as you can say you’re proud of every last word that has your name on it, then I think you’ve done okay.
What are your thoughts, writers? Any questions you hate hearing?