Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things People Say When They Find Out I’m a Writer

Writers are some of the most misunderstood peeps of all time. Maybe it’s because everyone thinks they can write, and almost everyone thinks they’re a writer. Everyone has a certain set of assumptions about what a writer does, how they function and what their lives are like, and these assumptions lead them to say some asinine things that I should probably not be such a bitch about. For example:

“This must be a great place to write!”

People say this if the location we’re in happens to be particularly stunning in a cultural or natural-wonder sense. People said this to me when I lived in Paris, because shit, that’s just so interesting, and they said it to me a lot when I lived in Chamonix, because of this:


In the presence of such natural splendor, I couldn’t help but be inspired, right? Wrong. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many travels, it’s that you can be uninspired anywhere.

People who don’t write act like literary inspiration is geological in origin. It’s another natural resource to be dug up and exploited, like petroleum or gold – find a big enough deposit, and you’re Shakespeare.

Ta-da!

I’m not saying there’s no such thing as “good place to write,” because there is. It’s a place where the rent is cheap and there's no cable.

“Sooo…do you, uh, ever publish any of your articles?”

No, I print them off and wipe my ass with them, champ.

“Wow, you’re just all over the place, aren’t you?”

Said to me with a mix of wonder, condescension and condescending wonder whenever I mention my Twitter following in an offline conversation, or whenever I just mention that I’m on Twitter. I don’t have much of a Twitter following. I have about 1,000 Twitter followers, on a good, zombie-attack-free day, but I guess that’s a lot for someone no one’s ever heard of and who also doesn’t follow anyone back.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that the person saying this is always someone who doesn’t use social media at all or they use it sparingly and they look at those of us who are “always on Facebook” with a mixture of pity and contempt, because we “can’t hack it in the real world.” Right, because I write something, throw it up on some backwater blog, and then wander off to stick my thumb up my ass and twirl while thousands of people magically find what I wrote all by themselves. That’s how this works.

“Oh, you mean you have paying work?”

Said in a tone of astonishment when the person I’m talking to realizes that the “work” I’m always on about is typically done in exchange for American currency. I don’t know what’s so hard to grasp about the work-money exchange when the work in question is writing. Restaurant menus; magazine articles; newspapers; product descriptions; advertisements; corporate newsletters, websites and blogs; spam emails; user manuals and the instructions on the back of your gas bill – nobody got paid to write any of those things. All of those things wrote themselves.

Actually, the spam emails probably did write themselves.

"I have this great idea! You should totally write this!"

Okay, so other people's great ideas are kind of a pet peeve of mine. I have enough great ideas of my own, thanks. It's hard to get with someone else's idea, because it doesn't speak to me and I don't give a fuck. Ideas are like children -- the people who have them always think they're great, because they're theirs. Where you see a special little snowflake, we see a shrieking brat swinging from the ceiling fan, harassing the cat and leaving sticky fingerprints all over our vintage upholstery. Even if your idea really is as great as you think it is, it's yours. You understand it. You see where it's coming from and where it's going and what it needs to do to get there. I don't. Write it yourself.

“Oh, you’re an author?”

No, unfortunately, I am not an author. I say “unfortunately” because, not only would I totally love to be an author, but also because you know what an author is. If I were an author, I could say “Yep, I am, I wrote Blah Blah Blah and Yada Yada and This Thing,” and it would save precious minutes of both of our lives that I must instead spend explaining what I actually write while you stand there with that “but I thought all those things wrote themselves” look on your face.

Probably still easier than explaining the plot of a story I haven't written, however.

19 comments:

  1. I get really annoyed when my ex and my older kids always bitch about how I'm constantly on my computer. I try not to tear their heads off, but I think, Dudes, I write. It's what I do. I happen to do it on the computer. Would you be on my ass if I were constantly writing with a pencil in a notebook? Just because I'm constantly on my computer, it doesn't mean that I'm constantly on FB playing Candy Crush!

    I do that on my cell...duh?

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    1. Ugh, I totally lived with a guy who used to say, "You don't work, you just type all day." Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long.

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  2. My husband is constantly giving me "ideas" to write about. I know he's trying to help, but... Yeah. You get it.

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  3. I think about telling people I'm in intelligence so I can't talk about my work. But, then, as I'm now also "old", people aren't so curious about what I do anymore.

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    1. I tell people I'm an acrobat and then when they ask me how it is I say, "Oh, you know, it has its ups and downs." They never laugh, though.

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    2. Hahahahaha. I've got to try that.

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  4. It's like there's a very short finite list of jobs people understand and 99% of the population get stupid questions/assumptions about their jobs. You'd think we'd all stop doing it... but nope. Until I met somebody who writes basic "how to" instructions for tech sites, I totally didn't even think about where all the text came from, just like most people have no idea about how many *staff* it takes to run a college (ever time I say I work at a college people ask what I teach. nope. try again.)

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    1. I guess you're right, I'm always asking people what they do and then being like, "Dur what is that?" So we're all guilty, and we all suffer.

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  5. So would you be what they call a copy writer? I get ads all the time from Writers Digest to pay about $500 or so to learn how to write like this and make money. I have been tempted, but never sent in the money.

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    1. I think those ads are a scam, I never took any courses like that. I got a BA in English and the rest of what I know I've learned on the job.

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  6. I can relate, I've heard many of these. Or how about the one time I made a typo on a personal (not fan page) FB posting to my FRIENDS (not public), and she writes back, "If you're a writer, you really shouldn't have any spelling errors." It's like, um, this is a FB personal post that I happened to write in the 3 seconds that I happen to have while typing on the small buttons on my phone, so geez, give me a break!

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    1. I had a similar thing happen when I was aggravating some troll with one or two-word responses, and she was like 'YOU CALL YOURSELF A WRITER IF YOU WERE REALLY A WRITER YOU'D WRITE A RESPONSE I BET YOU'RE NOT WRITING A RESPONSE BECAUSE YOU CAN'T WRITE' only it was funny.

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  7. You mean I could get paid to write spam emails? Ho boy, that's definitely the job for me!

    Dear sir/madam,

    I'd like to congratulate you on winning our squizzillion dollar lottery which you never even entered. Aren't you just a lucky little bunny! So if you'd like to send us all your personal details (don't forget your mother's maiden name), we'll send you your check in five to seven weeks.

    Sincerely, The Internet Lottery Company.

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    1. I think the catch is that you must agree to be paid in Nigerian naira.

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  8. Nigerian naira and some goats. Or a camel.
    ~PolishSpring

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    1. "This camel is too small! BRING ME A BIGGER CAMEL!"

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  9. My wife and I are the only people in our families that are artistic in terms of writing. When my book published in February, i started getting these questions too. My favorite is

    "so, are you making a lot of money"

    Internally i say, "yes, you greedy dooshbag, i arrived here on my gold plated Ferrari", externally I say, "oh, not really, it's more of a hobby". Then I image them on fire.

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    1. Oh, I know, I love how suddenly everyone think's it's perfectly alright to interrogate you about your finances when they find out you're a writer. But then, of course, if you admit that you're not RICH! FILTHY RICH! they take it upon themselves to start helpfully suggesting all kinds of other jobs you should try instead.

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