So you go to a party and are introduced to a stranger for the first time as a writer. Said stranger moves his chair up to you and decides to be nice. “So how’s the writing coming along?” he asks. Or even better, “What’s your novel about?”
It seems to me that only writers are graced with such pleasant conversation starters. Imagine someone wanting to make small talk at a party with a person from a different profession. “So how’s the coding coming along? “And how’s the plumbing going?” (unless you are personally invested in the results of said work) or “So how are the surgeries keeping you occupied?”or “What’s your criminal case about this week”?
Come as these questions might from an assumption that both writer and writing are easy to understand, and that if at all considered work, rather than a hobby or accomplishment, writing can be capsuled into a minute or two’s worth of small talk over mini quiches and samosas in someone’s drawing room.
Perhaps, to an extent, such assumptions are justified. Writing, after all, deals with the human condition and who better to understand (and ask questions about it) than the human while socializing in society.
There is though, another category of human who might approach you at said party over the exact same quiches or samosas. This is the person who, on finding out that you do some writing of sorts, will state very sincerely, “You know, there’s a book in me. It’s waiting in here. [Points to the heart, mostly. Only sometimes the head.] As soon as I have some time . . . time . . . time. . . [Wistfully. You guys have the good life. I have to work.]”
Depending on how far this person is from anything writerly, or how serious he is about what he is saying, he could be showing any of the following exemplary signs of confidence :
- Writing is a spontaneous, god-given gift. Fortunately, he has it and now it just needs to come out.
- What separates him from book and fame is just time for the hard work. If he had the time, he’d just sit in his room and type the whole thing out. How could he be involved in base activities like reading, researching, training or expect a learning curve in this labour of love?
- Writing is a solitary activity. The writer writes and then becomes a success. There’s little trial and error or give and take between writer and audience, little usability testing, if you will.
- He isn’t necessarily a good writer or looking to be. He just needs a few contacts who will get him a great book deal.
“Do you know anyone?” he asks. “Shall I bring something to your writing group?”
17 thoughts on “Of cool writer dudes”
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To be fair, but I also do get a lot of snobbery from other writers. I am not famous and due to a lack of rich parents or a spouse, I do have to work to make a living. And getting snippy remarks from other writers, proclaiming that anyone who writes less than six hours a day is phony, isn’t really helpful. Also, living in Berlin, if you write anything but three-line poetry which doesn’t make sense, you are not a real writer.
“I write crime-fiction”, I said.
“You write for the money”, her replied.
To which I say: Writing is hard enough. Don’t make it harder by being a dick.
Its funny that you bring this up just as my sister and I were discussing how to celebrate skilled writing /writers and interest a new generation. So we came up with a solution: a reality show akin to American Idol…FOR WRITERS. Get celeb judges who enjoy promoting the written word in all forms (a Stan Lee for comic book challenge, an Oprah for a magazine article challenge, a poetry challenge w/ Russell Simmons, etc.). And why not? There are reality shows based on just about every prpfession now: seamstresses, cooks, hair & makeup artists, DUCK HUNTERS?! There is no one lobbying for true writers/artists of the page! Book TV is dull and seemingly promotes only historical novels beating the dead horse already…why not air it on OWN network?
Many don’t consider the level of skill & effort it takes to write copy say, or a blog article…so Bravo for you! Come to think of it, why not the Bravo Network? ^_^
I totally get this. It’s funny how people approach me when a mutual friend says something offhand like “oh, he’s an aspiring writer” or “he blogs…”. It always seems to be a weird conversational block.
Your blog struck a nerve. I’ve been in your shoes many times over the yeas to the point that I shrink back when someone introduces me as a writer (my husband loves to do this because he’s proud of me). Even those close to me often say, “You know I think I’ll write a book like you.” This last came from a relative who’s been an account all her life. I try not to be offended and instead say, “Go ahead” knowing that soon enough they’ll realize that you don’t just wake up one morning and sit at the laptop and “write that book.” Thanks for the post!
By the way, coding can be quite fascinating, one can talk about it for hours, so if you meet the wrong type of nerd (the one who likes to talk if he finds somebody he thinks is interested), better don’t aks that question or else you are going to learn more about it than you ever wanted to know (on the advantages of strongly typed vs. untyped languages, about inheritance and overloading of methods, about tail recursiveness, …) 😉
That was a good read… I haven’t come across anyone like that, at least not yet. 🙂
When I owned and operated a cabinet shop, people would look at the furniture I made or the work I did in their house and say “I could do this myself, I just don’t have the time.” I grew to hate that expression, and to this day (that was 1985) I am very careful to never say that to a creative person or even a person who is simply good at whatever they do. I write a few blogs, I might have a novel in me, but I can’t imagine the effort involved in coaxing it to the surface. I admire people who write for a living and I appreciate any help they offer me.
The one i like the best is when they say they have a great novel in them and want YOU to write it!
I never mention or claim any kind of writing ability, because, I don’t consider myself a writer by definition (whatever is the general consensus in this regard). And if by some cross wired exchange I do mention that I write sometimes, then I’m looked upon as someone that has WAY too much time on my hands. A lady of leisure.
Truth be told, I do have a lot of time on my hands right now, for just a little while longer, at the very least.
The one I get all the time is: “I’m kind of into writing, but I’m not any good/don’t have anything to write about.”
So many stories of meeting different people who give me the same response.
“What genre do you write?” they ask highly interested.
“Fantasy.” I reply unabashedly.
End of conversation.
If being a writer wasn’t ‘unrealistic’ enough, telling them I write in the dreaded fantasy genre sure will give me the condescending frown that pops up right on cue.
In several Bollywood flicks, the reluctant father-in-law asks a would be son-in-law: ‘Oh, you write, is it? But what o you do for a living?’ (!)
At parties, I find that people generally are not very interested in hearing about the process of writing, but we can often get a good conversation going about the setting of my current novel: China during the Japanese invasion of 1937.
I smiled at your reference to plumbers. People love stories about plumbing disasters, and every time a plumber is called, the homeowner is either smack in the middle of a disaster or fears that one is about to hit.
Not many non-writers realize just how much goes into writing a book – never mind getting it published! The thing I suffered from all my life was a general put down for not being instantly successful, as though writing was my excuse not to do anything else.
It was fine to tell people I was a writer, but the next question was always had I published anything yet. When the answer was ‘no’ I became something else to them. I’ve had people tell me I should be out delivering pizza or doing a paper route – this in my 30s and 40s (even when I had a job), as though I wasn’t capable of anything more intelligent.
But that’s me as a fish out of water – my social circles, family, etc., are not artistic types and have no appreciation there. The one exception to that, fortunately, is my husband. As for the others, now that I am published – twice – they don’t recognize it as effort or skill, it’s ‘luck’ to them. They didn’t expect me to make it and refuse to recognize it now. Only one family member read my first book, but didn’t tell her friends, won’t visit my blog and hasn’t even asked about the sequel.
I’ve let them go.
I’ve found my family, now, and it’s in Blogsville.
This sounds like every exchange I have with my parents. I’ve just stopped bringing writing up when I talk to them. They don’t mean to, but can’t help dousing me in condescension.
Don’t despair. You and those who ‘get it’ know the importance of what you do.