I used to happily declare myself “a writer”. I’d (admittedly) find a way to slip it into conversation. I’d proudly list it as my occupation on doctors’ office forms. Somewhere along the way, though, I realized letting people know about what I do is more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re a writer, maybe you can relate to my 10 Reasons.
- People are insanely, unreasonably happy when they beat me at Words With Friends. As if the ability to put sentences together has anything to do with what tiles you get. By the way, I know you’re cheating. No one knows what xebec means.
- People expect me to dress fashionably, especially at book signings. Doing something for a living that you find mysterious does not make everything about me unusual. No, I did not make these earrings.
- People expect me to know every author and every book on the market. Did you read [insert obscure book title you’d never heard of until someone suggested it in book club]? I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t know who wrote what classic book offhand, remember details about books I read in 10th grade English Lit, or live my life studying my profession. I love to read, and of course I try to be well read, but if there’s a choice between reading Moby Dick or reading Heart of Darkness on a Saturday night, I’ll choose drinking vodka at least half of the time.
- People ask me to read things that they wrote. Or that their children wrote. Or that their grandchildren wrote. If I wanted to read badly executed poetry, I’d read my 4th grade diary. By the way, I think you are a great friend, but you won’t think I am after ten minutes of hacking into your debut novel. No one's first attempt is the finished product, and I’ve spent too many years criticizing my own writing to remember tact when speaking about yours. (Also, just because I write doesn’t mean I can revise your resume for you.)
- People correct my social media status updates/blog entries. Unless you are an English professor, and unless I’m submitting a term paper to you, please keep your red pen in your pocket. Writing status updates and tweets are not WRITING in the creative or professional sense of the word. You caught me with a “their” instead of “there”? Congratulations. I was in a hurry and you’re a douche. Also, I don’t keep my editor on speed dial for reviewing 2AM FB statuses about why I can’t sleep.
- People assume I’m an expert on the things I write about. Yes, there was a terrible fire in that story I wrote ten years ago. No, I’m not in fact a firefighter. You should probably be looking for a fire extinguisher now.
- People want me to write about them. Well, if you insist. I do like to write about grisly crimes. I could start plotting your death by working through the details of it in my next book. Okay, just kidding. I’m sure I could name a character after you though, as long as you don’t ask me later why I named a crack whore after you. No, it doesn’t mean anything that “your” character is: overweight, comically short, nasally or unfunny. I didn’t actually base the character on you. It’s just a name. Unfortunately, there’s no call for a gorgeous Russian princess with your name in this or any other book.
- People think I’m waiting to make it big. Writing a New York Times Bestselling book is surely the secret dream of every writer out there, and of course, I'd love that, too. However, it’s like winning the literary lottery. Heck, being published is like winning the literary lottery. This may shock you, but I write because I enjoy it (and someone is sometimes paying me for it), but I’m not holding my breath waiting to see my name on a list. There are plenty of writers out there who are neither bestsellers nor broke artists. We happily float somewhere between writer’s block and delightful fluidity, and surprisingly, we do not sustain ourselves solely on Ramen noodles while doing it.
- People think what I do is a hobby. “Oh, you’re a writer? That’s really cool! So, what do you do for, you know, a living?” OR "Can you actually make any money doing that?" OR "Well, of course, I'm sure you just do it for the love of your craft." (The third is always a good excuse to underpay a writer.)
- People think what I do is easy. Do you know how often I wished I’d become a mailman, or a waitress, or a court reporter? There are times I wish I had a job title that didn’t have to be clarified or a workday that ended at 5pm. (A writer’s job is never done. When we’re not writing, we’re thinking we should be writing.) Conversely, people sometimes think what I do is incredibly hard. “Oh, I could never do that!” This often makes me feel worse. Writing isn’t rocket science. I’m not discovering the cure for cancer. No one’s life hangs in the balance. I don't do anything practical that affects your life in a specific way other than to entertain you. I’m not a nurse, doctor, electrician, plumber, grave digger. Most of the time, I just pour stuff out of my head, and I’m slightly embarrassed when I actually get paid for it.
As a writer, I know I shouldn’t just end my ranty blog with the last point, without some kind of conclusion or summary. Just like I know half of my arguments contain fragmented sentences and one or two may end with prepositions. Rather than correct my grammar, or secretly compare my writing skills to yours (didn’t you read #5?), tell me instead, writers, which of these is on your top ten?