10 Things to Never, EVER Tell a Writer (A Friendly but Frank Reminder to Non-Writers)

Writers and non-writers have a diverse possible range of interactions with each other. Some people happily page through new draft material as it is generated. Others can be baffled or even angered by the supremely introverted nature of writing and a process which many non-writers regard as selfish and unnecessarily private (also known as “a lack of results”). It’s not impossible for such privacy to destroy relationships – and sometimes, it sure seems like we don’t care about saving them because everything has to cede to the all-important “W” word at the end of the day.

Well, non-writers, I’ll let you in on a secret: we do care, but not in the ways that you might. We’re cranky because we’re desperate to get ideas out before we forget them; for some of us, that’s a dreadfully tiny window of time. Likewise, anything and everything is a possible distraction. We’re disorganized or slobbish because, contrary to popular belief, writing is not a linear process; sometimes, the only solution is an abstract or opposite concept. We sleep in late because some of our brains operate best at night, not because we wanted to pull a Hemingway and polish off another bottle. [although heaven knows that I’ve wanted a drink after writing certain chapters!]

It can be frustrating to explain “the process,” so I won’t bother. Take this as impartial advice from a page in a user manual, not a list of prejudiced insider jabs. If you value your life, please don’t tell a writer any of the following – and for the writers out there, please don’t believe any of it:

“Writing is an ideal example of idleness/laziness/incompetence.”

“Writing isn’t challenging/difficult/disturbing/a threat to sanity.”

“Writing doesn’t demand a lot of time.” [possible variation for those in pursuit of a long-term project: “writing is a waste of time”]

“Writing isn’t for serious-minded people.”

“Writing is only for PhD holders and saps.”

“You can only be a good writer if you go to college.”

“Writing is perfectly compatible with life at large.”

“Fiction is the easy way out.” [possible variation if the writer is male: “fiction is only for ___” (insert favorite derogatory term implying a lack of strength or manliness)]

“Writing and publishing are blatant forms of money-grubbing.”

“Writing is easy, and editing is even easier. After all, the basis is already there – you just have to smooth things out!”