Friday, 31 July 2015

Ten Things Not To Say To A Writer!

The hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter has been trending on Twitter the past few days, in a big way. 

If you haven't heard about it, go google right now! It's basically a hashtag for writers to express their frustrations as to how the craft is misunderstood and generally disrespected by the majority of the public.  So many writers - both aspiring and established - have embraced the hashtag as a means of venting their frustrations. To give you a taste of some of the tweets, have a look at this article on:  Thought Catalog. Seems the most common refrain goes along the lines of ignorant dismissal: 'So what's your real job then?' (this line by Margaret Laurence always ricochets in my mind to that one: 'When I say 'work', I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.' Amen.) Many of the tweets also show the assumption that writing is a hobby and one that everyone can do apparently, given enough time. Pah!

Oh I can agree with so many of them. And this got to thinking what are the ten things I hate to have said to me in relation to writing... Hmmm:

1. "Ah, creative writing - you mean calligraphy." (Complete cluelessness. This actually was said to me, on a few occasions!) 
2. "Yes, but when are you going to get a real job?" (Peevish cynics/jealous onlookers suffering from a big lack of vision/imagination/dreams of their own) 
3. "Don't you have to be older to be a writer? You know, have more life experience." 
(Ageist and completely incorrect as to who writers are and what they do - because no, we are not all writing memoirs.) 
4. "Yes, but apart from that, what do you do?" (Haughty undermining) 
5. "You have to be really lucky to get a book published these days - like winning the lotto!" (Er no, snide dream disser, you don't need luck when you've got talent and drive.) 
6. "Then again you could be lucky like -insert name of popular prolific chick lit author here"- (Well I hope NOT! since I don't want to sell-out my literary soul! Hard to understand every woman is not a chick-lit writer - or reader - for that matter!)
7. "Maybe you could write my life story, be a bestseller!" (Narcissists' input - happens more than you'd think...) 
8. "Oh I've always wanted to write a novel,  everyone has one in them." 
(Belittling. Er, no. Sure, everyone has a story or stories in them, but not everyone has the ability to transmute these narratives to imaginative written expressions.)
9. "Oh... so you're a journalist!" (Inability to comprehend the actual variety of genres in writing) 
10. "Did that really happen to you?" (Inability to understand ah, the premise of 'fiction') 

But I have to say, despite all of these things, there is one absolute worst thing than these. When I mention I write or want to be a writer, this response: _____________ . 

Big bad blank. Nothing, nada, nope, didn't hear that, don't want to hear that, what?!?!  Not what they have said, but what they have not said. A complete ignoring. Try it. As Carolyn See put it in her excellent guide to writing - 'Making a Literary Life', if you want to stop a conversation dead in its tracks, mention the fact that you write, or aspire to being a writer. Whoa! 

What about you fellow writers? What are your ten things? Writing is a misunderstood craft, especially when it's committed to as an active career. #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter shows just how much. Darn it. But we accept the mantle valiantly. To write is to battle silence, indifference, ignorance, dismissal, misunderstanding, all of it. So, on we go, regardless of what people think of our profession/obsession/occupation.

But anyway, not to end on a cranky note. Here's ten things we writers would like to hear more:

Ten Things To DEFINITELY Say To A Writer:

1. How is the writing going? (genuine interest, acknowledgement) 
2. What an exciting profession! (admiration, respect) 
3. You're a very talented writer/I love your work. (recognition)
4. What a joy to create for a living! (support)
5. I really enjoyed your work (Plus that is to say I did actually read it) 
6. I love reading books. (support of your industry)
7. What do you write? (interest) 
8. What writers do you admire? (interest, upped)
9. I'd love to read your novel/script/poetry/articles. (support and encouragement)
10. Writing is hard work! (Yes, thank you!)


Observer: Hashtag Has Famous Writers Venting And Bonding on Twitter
Huffington Post: #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter is Funny, But Also Good Etiquette


  1. they do not have to love my work. i feel mocked when this generic comments are made. writing is not posting instagram pictures. not everyone is beautiful not every piece of creative writing is good writing. This generic kind of 'recognition' does not get me anywhere. that is why i got off blogger where people say nice things solely in order to promote their blogs and receive something nice in return.

    But this post mad me think. frankly i have reached a stage where quotes like the ones above do not really bother me anymore. Its the writing that counts and not what the world thinks you are doing or what you aren't. And it happens to others as well. My friend is a dermatologist and a guy she was dating said to her 'but you are not real doctor this is more like a beautician isn't it?'

    great words, here, btw, xx

    1. Thank you so much Louisa for reading and commenting. I completely agree with you! You're right - it is a kind of 'generic recognition' for sure. Stereotypical almost now. And not considerate.

      Good on you that you don't let it bother you! I don't really either, but still, it is annoying and it would be nice if the overall assumption of writing and writers was on par with the nature of the very work itself.

      But you're right. It is the writing that counts and not what the world thinks of what you are or aren't doing. Well said! I love that. And of course it happens in other professions - artists too I should think. (And doctors? Jeez!) Thanks so much for sharing your views :)

  2. Yes, and yes, and YES. I very rarely refer to myself as a writer; I use hesitant terms (and even then, only with a handful of people) like "I do a little writing" instead. Which drives me crazy, because writing is in me like blood or bones or breath, it's that essential, and I hate that I make it seem smaller than it is so as to avoid the types of comments that you mention above.

    I think writing is something that a lot of people aspire to, but either haven't got the talent or the time to achieve success in or satisfaction from it, and a lot of the derogatory comments come from a sort of jealousy - it's creative, it's magical, it's out of the ordinary, and if certain people can't have it ,they'll try and make it less than it is so they don't have to feel disappointed about its absence in their own lives. If that makes sense.

    Always such lovely truths and pearls of wisdom in your words, Siobhan. A pleasure to come here and sit in your corner of the world for a bit - like curling up in a cosy bookshop :-) x

    1. Cheryl, I am the exact same when it comes to describing myself as a writer! I feel like it is a secret profession; that underneath my ordinary everyday job attire I'm wearing a W- emblazoned superhero suit of writer. That it is always shushed in adherence to how people will react. I only tell a select few too. To other people, I dally around it.

      You could be right - it could indeed be a form of jealousy. I think I would even like to think so, then it would seem that people respect and admire the craft, instead of what just seems to me like plain indifference. I always think of how important writing is in relation to how important stories are to us as the human race: we all have them, we all tell them, to others and ourselves to fashion a reality from, to endow, to endear, to support, to survive really. And I think how great to be a writer - to be a recorder of some of these stories, a scribe of humanity, a sort of eye-witness to Life, attuned permanently to life as we live it. And that's why it really annoys me when people either diss or dismiss it. (Now I'm thinking of the brilliant writing guide I mentioned in this post - 'Making a Literary Life' by Carolyn See when she remarks that to some people 'the idea of writing is about as strange as crossbreeding a tomato and a trout', ha.Very funny and feisty book.

      Oh, thank you so much, that's such a lovely compliment :) And ditto too to your blog - a luminous place of beauty and poetry :)


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