5 Things Not to Say to a Writer

IMG_1253I 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.

  1.  “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.
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. “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.
  5. “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.

7 comments on “5 Things Not to Say to a Writer

  1. Yeah! I’m an artist, blogger, and language learner and I’d love to make millions doing those things. But until then, I’m happy doing them for free because I want to do what I love! Great post.

  2. ramona says:

    I was reading your writing when we were 12! I’m sorry people have said those things to you. Maybe you should print your last paragraph out on notecards and give one to anyone who is going to read your writing!

  3. It seems to be a similar story for anyone in a creative field. I’m a photographer and guess what? Everyone else seems to be one too, at least they tell me that, and oh yeah,they took that EXACT picture with their cell phone, they enlarge it and put it on their wall if they had time. Yes, I’ve heard the same story, over and over. You know you’re better, WAY better.

  4. […]  5 Things Not to Say To a Writer- Things hat have actually been said to me.  Please don’t say this to me. […]

  5. […] 5 Things Not to Say to a Writer This post is from 2013, and I remember what made me write it. I was still working at crisis back then. We had some down time and were sitting around. I was working on a story and started bouncing ideas off my Arizona bestie, who is not a writer. He pretty much said everything on this list, and it made me crazy. When I showed him the blog post, he laughed. […]

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