Telling someone you’re a writer (poet, author, journalist, whatever) often gets, um, an interesting response or unwanted feedback. Many thanks to my fellow writers (and Barbara Bos of Women’s Writers, Women’s Books) for sharing these gems:
So am I!
“I have a great idea for a book!”
“I’m going to write a book when I retire.”
“I could write a book if I had free time.” *cough, cough*
“I’m writing a book. Would you read it for me and tell me what you think?”
When I told someone I wrote poetry, she waved her hand and said: “I wrote a lot of poetry when I was going through my divorce. Then I got over it.”
A cut to the heart response:
“I’ve seen your little writing things posted in Facebook,” spoken to a published memoirist whose essays have appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere.
“Oh, that’s a cute hobby,” spoken to a well-published crime writer.
Likewise, an award-winning YA author was once told “I wish I’d had a hobby like that when I was raising my kids.”
“I don’t read.”
“What do you write? Poetry? Oh – I hate poetry.”
“But no one reads books anymore.”
“What’s your real job?” (As if writing isn’t the most important thing to a writer, no matter what else we do.)
“It won’t interfere with your ability to do your [real] job, right?”
How famous are you?
“Are your books in, like, actual bookstores?”
“Huh. I never heard of you.”
“Have I read your books?”
“Are you a real writer? Or one of those e-people?”
“Do you know Stephen King?”
But you’re rich, right?
“You write for money?”
“How much did they pay you?”
“How many books have you sold?”
“So, does that pay the bills?”
“Are you going to be rich and famous, like Stephen King?”
“Write a blockbuster screenplay. You’ll make more money.”
Because this author with five books to her name isn’t wealthy “like J.K. Rowlings,” her mother suggested, “You should work on becoming a real author.”
Someone once told a novelist he was going to write a book to “secure his financial future.” She didn’t like him, so she told him that was a great idea.
Crushing our dreams
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Make sure you have something to fall back on – like typing and shorthand.”
“Why do you have to write those stupid books? Write SciFi short stories! You’re good at that!” said the sister of an award-winning romance/women’s fiction author.
“Who’s going to read what you write?”
“You are going to be very lonely.”
“Don’t writers drink and smoke a lot? And I don’t think men find writers attractive.” Thanks, Mom.
“Well, just make sure it’s not, like 1000 pages or no one will buy it!” Thanks, Dad.
“That’s dumb, you’ll never make a living at it.” Five star rude.
An author posted a flyer about her book launch party in a bookstore, and later overheard someone quip “How good could a local author be anyway?” Five star stupid.
The more odd than rude response:
“Under your real name?”
“Books, or just for fun?
“Can I be your muse?”
“Is it like Fifty Shades of Grey?”
“It isn’t like Fifty Shades of Grey, is it?”
“What do you write about? As a well-established poet says, it’s like asking a philosopher ‘What do you think about?'”
A new friend of a writer told someone that she now has a writer friend. The person asked, ”What on earth do you talk to her about?”
When one writer answers that she was Contributing Editor/Columnist/blogger for international print and online magazine for 10 years, the response is often, “So does the magazine count as being published?
“Hey, you should write a book about … [their idea]”
“Can you make me a character in your book?”
What should you say to a writer?
Most people don’t intend to be rude. I get that. They mean well. Their comments are often more about what they value than anything else.
So what should you say to a writer?
Tell us how you admire us for doing what you’ve always wanted to do. Tell us you imagine the rewards must be worth all the hard work we do in solitude. Tell us you respect our tenacity because writing is not easy. Tell us you will read our books and post a reader review on Amazon or Goodreads. Ask what we’re reading now. Ask what authors have influenced us. Ask how we got started writing. Ask about our research. Ask where to buy our book. Ask us about our passions. Or simply ask us whatever you might ask anyone else you’ve just met. There’s a world of things to talk about!
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
Angelica had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
Readers’ Favorite Finalist
USA Book News Best Book Finalist
Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters