This week’s article is a coping mechanism for you when you have to deal with family, friends, coworkers, and fellow coffee shop customer, AKA the non-writers. This is your everyday group of people who just don’t understand the writer mentality and why you do what you do.
Below are ten basic comments that non-writers will say (or have said) to you. I’ll attempt to translate what they are really saying, offer advice to the situation, and then provide you with suggestions as a response to their comments. If you haven’t heard at least one of these comments, I figure you’re not doing the writing gig correctly would be very surprised.
Ten Comments Non-writers make to Writers.
1. So you’re still writing your little story/poem/etc.
Translation: I thought for sure you would have given up this silly little dream of yours and moved on to something more productive.
Advice: Non-writers can’t believe your determination for any project you are working on. To tell them that it takes a long time to complete any writing project will add fuel to their fire. You know you need to be patient when it comes to writing, you also have to be MORE patient when it comes to dealing with non-writers.
Response: “Yes, I am still writing my little story/poem/etc. As long as my hands are on the keyboard, they aren’t crushing your windpipe. Now BUZZ OFF!!”
- Must be nice not having a real job.
Translation: Boy, I wish I could sit around all day and earn a paycheck doing nothing.
Advice: Believe it or not, preachers hear the exact same thing. Everyone assumes that all THEY do is preach on Sunday. But I digress; if writing is how you earn a living, you’ll definitely hear this one a lot. Naturally they wouldn’t say that of Stephen King or James Patterson. But since you’re not them it’s open season for comments.
Response: “It may appear that I’m not working but let me introduce you to my fans and see if they think I need to get an actual job.” (Take non-writer to your platform and your reviews section. If you don’t have either, get some!
- Writing doesn’t sound too difficult.
Translation: You just put words together to make sentences, and sentences together to make paragraphs, and then you make it long enough to turn it into a book. Simple!
Advice: They’ve just explained everything they now know about writing which is what was taught in elementary school. Beyond that they are clueless.
Response: “Writing is just a tad harder than that. You see, first I have to research my idea and take notes, then I find some images for inspiration; and take more notes, then I write down a character list; which stems from webpage after webpage of names (male and female, plus ethnic background), then I outline my story; taking more notes, then I jot down snatches of conversation (overheard on the bus or in a restaurant) which might add to the flavor of the story, then I come up with a few twists that will totally catch my reader off guard, and then I will write my story.
Of course, that is only the first draft. I will then go back over all of my notes and double check my research; possibly researching some new stuff which came up and make new notes, then I will edit my first draft and begin the second draft.
Then a few more drafts later, I will send it off to my beta team to read all the while compiling notes and suggestions they have for the story, then I will write another draft or two before it’s finally finished. But yeah, it’s not difficult.”
- I always thought I’d write a book after I retire, when I have some time to kill.
Translation: Writing for is for old people who have nothing better to do with their lives now that they don’t have a job. Sure beats sitting on my butt all day and watching paint dry.
Advice: Everyone wants to write that great All-American story; the next Harry Potter or Twilight. But to them, there’s no time to do it and by the time they’ve retired there is no initiative to start which is why watching paint dry becomes easily fascinating.
Response: “Waiting until retirement may be fine for you. However, I figure by the time you retire and begin your first novel, I should have 30 done and available for purchase, and at least 6 of them already made into movies.”
- Wait a second, creative writing degrees are a real thing?
Translation: You actually went to college to become a writer? It must be one of those ‘gimme-courses’ like Basket Weaving 101.
Advice: This will be a hard one to live down because if you’re not a journalist then, to them, all you did was take a bunch of “fancy” college courses to make you seem smart. And for all they know, you printed out your own degree found on some instant degree website.
Response: “Yes, it’s a real degree and I didn’t have to memorize all 31 flavors to earn it like you.” (OR something along the lines of whatever their job involves; hopefully retail or fast food. If they have their own degree…good luck with that.)
6. Have you been published yet?
Translation: Obviously if you are a writer you should already have something available for me to pick up at my local bookstore to read.
Advice: At first this sounds like a question of genuine interest but given that this comes from a non-writer it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. This question goes hand-in-hand with questions 1 and 2.
Response: (If unpublished) “Thank you so much for your interest. I am still working on my novel but I will make sure that you are the first to know when it is available for reading. Perhaps you’d like to be a Beta Reader or a member of my Street Team? You know what? Nevermind, I forgot who I was talking to.”
(An e-book author) “Yes, I do have a book published but it’s only available online. That means you have to buy it from the internet. You know the place where you visit those sites about Justin Bieber to express your man crush? Yes, I have been looking at your browser history.”
7. Can I be a character in one of your stories?
Translation: Gee, something tells me that you might just be famous like Stephen King or that Patterson guy. Maybe if you put me in your book, I’ll be famous too!
Advice: Everyone wants a piece of the action and you just know that they would actually make a great character. I mean after all, your serial killer needs an extra victim and it should really be a gruesome death.
Response: “It’s funny you should mention this. Why just this morning my agent called and said my story was one victim short and I think you would be perfect to play the fanboy who gets knifed backstage. Or perhaps a grisly death in the mosh pit.”
(Give updates to him on the whereabouts of the character and slowly describe the horror that he’s experiencing.)
- So I have this great idea I think you should be using in your book…
Translation: (See #7 above)
Advice: I don’t know how many times I personally have been told this. I was once told by a maintenance employee that I should be writing her life story and how difficult it was for her to leave her homeland and enter America. Some people, I guess, think that fictional stories are unnecessary.
Another friend of mine came up with this idea that everywhere this character went he would trip and stumble into another world. It’s one thing to be accident prone but that is one of the worst running gags I have ever heard. After the second or third stumble my readers would riot and burn me in effigy.
Response: “I’m sure you have a great idea but why should you share it with me? You should write you own book and use the idea in that.” OR “Hey, I heard (insert author’s name) is looking for new ideas why don’t you send them an e-mail with your idea in it? Chances are they’ll use it and have it published long before I do.”
- Aren’t writers just professional liars? They tell stories for living, after all.
Translation: Yes, I’m jealous of your creativity and yet I’m not man enough to admit it, so here’s a diversion instead.
Advice: This question comes at a point when they have nothing else annoying left to ask. It sounds more like a lame attempt to keep asking you questions when in fact they have run out.
Response: “Professional liars? I’m sorry you have us confused with politicians.”
- You’re writing a book? Tell me everything.
Translation: I’m not one to wait until it comes out, I want to know now!
Advice: Yet another attempt to get involved in your story. (See also #7 and #8) It could also be that he is fishing for ideas that he might sell to another writer in the hopes that THEY will use them and give him the credit for the idea.
Response: Tell you everything? Sure! (Describe the last TV episode of one of your favorite shows but change it into the genre that you write.)
Overall, whether we like it or not, we have to contend with non-writers on a daily basis and their questions. One thing to remember though is that any non-writer could be a future reader of your as well as a fan.
Let me know the difficulties that you’ve had in dealing with non-writers. Do you have other questions you’ve been asked? Share with me in the comment below.
To check out copies of my books and stories, visit my Author Page on Amazon.com