Once you start announcing that you’re a writer, a lot of things are said. Questions about your work, your motivation, your plans and everything else that anyone could possibly question come up. Comments about the validity of writing as a profession, your chances of being successful in the field, and options for writing in the professional spectrum are (ahem) helpfully doled out. Sometimes even outright criticism surfaces. These are just a few of the statements we hear a lot and we wish we never did.
“What’s your [insert story, novel, or novella] about?”
We appreciate your interest, and love the fact that you care enough to ask, but…that question is pretty much impossible to answer without sounding like a moron. We’re writers, and while some of us are lucky enough to be able to speak as well as we write, most are not (me included). Intricate, sweeping epics are reduced to a few jumbled, confusing sentences mumbled by a darty-eyed writer who looks like they want to sink into the floor when this question is asked. You’re sweet, but do us a favor and read the official synopses when the book comes out.
“Can I read it?”
Thanks for offering, and I mean this in the best possible way, but NO, YOU ABSOLUTELY MAY NOT. If it isn’t already published–whether traditionally or on a site for beta readers–there’s typically a reason. We bare a part of our souls in every story we write and it’s hard to let go of our work, even when it is ready for public consumption, let alone before.
“Is [insert certain character] a real person? Who is it?”
… Maybe. But
considering that I may or may not have had them murdered with a fried zucchini in chapter three, I’d rather not say. Some writers do pull characters from their own lives and there’s always the possibility that they’ve used elements of the person asking, which can make for a truly awkward conversation if the qualities pulled are unflattering.
“Are you published yet?”
If the writer in question is not yet published, this can be awkward and embarrassing and on the whole, a humiliating reminder that they’re not as successful as they planned on being after countless drafts and years of editing. If they are, the implication that you doubt their ability to write a publishable piece can…well…sting. A lot. Not a great outcome either way.
“You know you can’t make money doing that, right?”
…Do you know how often writers hear/read that? DO YOU?!?!? Of course we know it’s not always a viable career. That’s not the point. The point is getting to do what we love, regardless of whether or not it means suffering through an office job the rest of our lives to support the habit. We know the likelihood of our work taking off is slim, but we still have to give it a shot. And even if it never puts one extra dollar in our accounts, it makes us happy.
How about you? Any particular things you hate hearing as a writer?