I have many wonderful and well-meaning friends. That doesn’t mean that they don’t sometimes stick their feet firmly into their mouths. I can’t speak for all writers, but I’m telling you what drives me crazy. Someone has said each and every one of these things to me at one point or another.
- “You’re a writer? That’s cool. I’m going to write a book when I have more time.” No you won’t. If you’re waiting until you have more time, you’re not a writer. Oh yeah, I write because I have nothing else to do with my time. As I sit in my mansion, watching my housekeeper, I twiddle my thumbs and say, “I’m so bored… what can I do with my time? I know… I’ll write.” If you’re waiting until you have more time, you’ll never do it.
- “Oh, well that’s an okay idea. I have a better idea. Why don’t you write about…?” Your idea is not better than mine. You know why? Because I’ll actually write about my idea. I have a great idea… calorie free french fries. Oh, you mean because I don’t have a chemistry degree, it’s not a great idea, just a fantasy? Thanks for your “wonderful” idea, but I’m probably not going to write about it. I love discussing ideas, but dismissing my idea in favor of yours isn’t the way to start a discussion.
- After a friend read a short story of mine… “I don’t agree that the character is crazy. I think that the character is more of a Cassandra-like person who is prophesying and no one believes him.” No, the character is crazy. I know the back story, even if I didn’t put it in. I tell you in the story that the character is crazy, and why. It’s okay to ask questions, to say that something is not clear. But please don’t argue with me. I lived with that character in my head for weeks. If I say he’s crazy, he is.
- “That sounds like X movie, X TV show, X book. Well, not really, but it reminds me of it.” I didn’t read that book, see that movie, or that TV show. I didn’t get my idea for it from there. There’s sort of a finite number of ideas, and I can pretty much guarantee that something in a story somewhere will remind you of something I’ve written. Do you really need to tell me that? It makes me feel like you’re not taking me seriously.
- “Why are you wasting your time? That’s a lot of time for not a lot of money.” Oh, and do you make money watching all those TV shows that apparently aren’t a waste of YOUR precious time? Here’s the thing… I’ve been writing stories forever. I wrote my first novel at 12. Yes, it was awful, and yes, I’ve learned a lot since then, but the point is that if I’d be doing this anyway for free, why gripe about how much I make? Of course I’d love to make a living doing it, but some things aren’t about the money.
My stories are really important to me, and I pour my heart and soul into them. If I’m willing to share them with you, even for a little while, can you respect what I’ve done enough to treat it as such? Writing is a passion, but it’s also really hard work. Okay, yeah, it’s not hard work in the way that being a construction worker or firefighter is, but it’s still something I put a lot of time I didn’t have and effort into. If you don’t like what I’ve written, that’s okay. There are ways to say so that aren’t put-downs or dismissing. “That’s really not my thing.” “I didn’t understand why so-and-so did that.” “The story seemed to drag in the middle and I lost interest.” If you’re critiquing something someone else wrote, be specific and constructive. I’ll thank you for it.