Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Five Annoying Things a Writer Will Hear

1. Have you got a publisher? *Asked by those who know you don't have a publisher but who ask nevertheless...*

I'm amazed by this question. It's creepily pessimistic and ignorant.

I know why some people ask this question and it smells like fermented schadenfreude.
"No, I don't," is my honest reply.
I am sure they are relieved when they realise that I must be a mere mortal after all.

In some cases, this question is asked to remind the first time author who dared to dream that writing is not all art and image, after all, one has to be published to be taken seriously.

No kidding! But thanks for reminding me to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. What was I thinking? Now that the chore of finding a publisher is looming ahead, I realise the error of my ways.

2. I would love to read your book! *And they don't read it.*

I know the usual reason for this. My friends and colleagues are too busy and focusing on a novel takes effort. I totally understand.

But there are other people who say things without meaning them.

I think writing, you see, is not easy and people who say they are writing a novel are a bit out of the ordinary. So when they meet writers, the majority of non-writers are often at odds with what to say. They will often throw a word of encouragement or say something sympathetic to imply that they are interested and they wish you well. They will say, "I would love to read your book."

Then unfortunately because these people are quite normal and have little imagination, they can not conceive that you would actually complete the damned book and sure enough, before they know it, this monstrous thing comprising at least 300 dense pages is waiting for them. A chore.

Don't freaking say it unless you mean it.

3. I would love to read your book when it's published (variation of 2.)

Some well meaning people have said that.

It's actually confusing and annoying at the same time.

It's confusing because I think, well hang on, I've got a manuscript. Would you like to read it?

Or does it mean that unless a manuscript is packaged, distributed on the shelf or available online, it's not a book for you and you won't read it?

I'm sure they intend no harm but for us writers, it's about words not packaging.

It's also annoying because I am incapable of ignoring the phrase, "when it's published". Yet another subtle reminder that my book is seen as worthless and not worth reading, unless it's published. In some cases that is true. But after reading the amount of crap that is actually published these days, I fail to see the correlation.

4. I have loads of fantastic ideas but I just don't have time to write. One day I'm sure I will.
(Said by a true original, who only has to give a shit to become successful.)

Fantastic ideas, huh?

Well guess what? Really, guess! It's a no brainer, honey. You are not a writer. You don't have the grit, perseverance, research potential, thick skin, single mindedness and inclination to write. If you are not bursting to write by now, no matter how much you incubate, honey, it won't come out.

5. *Insert some pretentious vocabulary here.*

Sometimes, when people find out someone is writing a novel, they immediately assume that they must impress them (or compete with them) by using presumptuous vocabulary in their presence.

I have to say this. There is this subtle fascination for the writer's expression among non-writers. It's as if they wait for some fabulously composed prose or the latest word du jour, as if the writer is expected to be a true artist with words. And failing that, well they must not be a very good writer...

It is this assumption that irks me. The assumption that the mere act of writing must be a process of vomiting complex or unique words from the dictionary. As though writers are seen as persons who ought to have such a grand command of the tongue they write in so as to be good at what they do.

I tend to think that today, being a writer is all about:
-EDITING - ensuring that you deliver a piece of work that the publisher will read

So excuse me if I'm too busy to care about vocabulary too much.

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