Things That People Say That Get On Writers’ Nerves

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Living and Life, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post reflecting on the craft of writing (outside of Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, I mean), so I thought it’d be good to do one. And I figure a good one would be to write on things people say about writing that annoy writers to no end when they say them. You may have even heard some people say these things on writing and, whether you treat writing as a craft, a business, an art, a passion, or a calling, you’re bound to at leas give the speakers an eye-roll. Occasionally you may even call out the absurdity of what they’re saying, because to your ears it’s all so ridiculous.

And why did I decide to pursue this particular topic? Maybe because not too long ago someone said one of these to me and I just got so annoyed with it.

I want to write, but I hate reading. That’s like saying you want to be a chef but you hate eating gourmet food. It’s just not something that’s done. Writers read because it’s how we developed a love of literature, it’s where we study the work of others in order to better understand and improve our own work, and it’s just plain fun for us. So saying you hate reading is basically saying you’re not going to write because you’re not willing to do what’s absolutely essential to becoming a writer. I’d understand if you said you have trouble finding the time to read (we all do, even part-time workers like me), but hating reading is just inexcusable for any serious writer.

I’ll write when I’m retired. This is actually the one I heard recently, when I asked an acquaintance who has a very unconventional and interesting career to write about his experiences. Just because you suddenly aren’t obligated to go to work from 9 to 5 on weekdays doesn’t mean things are magically going to fall into place and you’ll have the time, energy, and will to write. If that were the case, I’d have retired right out of high school! Plus, who’s to say that in retirement you won’t just become busier? It’s happened, I’m sure.

I can write better stuff than the crap they’re publishing these days. First off, I hope you’re not including my work in that grouping. Second, you think you can write better? Pony up! And if you decide to actually try to write something better than what’s out there, be warned: while you may feel that everything you’ve written is more real and heartfelt than what you find at the library, not everyone may agree. Agents, editors, publishers, and readers can be very particular about what they think is a good story, and they may not always agree that you’re better than the other crap writers out there. Often times, what’s popular enough for you to read and decide it’s crap is popular for a reason, so just know what you’re competing against.

I have a story all in my head. Commas and all. I just have to find the time to write it. Okay, let me call the writing fairy to give you a sabbatical to write. Most writers carve out the time to write from their personal time. We don’t expect the time to find us, we actively make time. I’ve written when I could be taking a nap. One of my friends who recently published her first book wrote in notebooks on the buses to and from work. There are writers who get up an hour before everyone else in the house and stay up an hour later just so they can jot down 500 words or so and feel like they’ve made progress. So don’t expect to find the time or let it magically appear: go and make time!

Writing’s not something you can make money off of. Usually no, writing is not something you can make thousands of dollars off of. The writers who are able to write full-time are lucky. Most have day-jobs because writing alone will not pay the bills. I certainly have not made enough money off my work to take up writing full-time. However, most writers don’t get into the business for the money. We get into it because it’s a passion, something we really enjoy, and the money comes secondary to all that. Sure it’s nice, and we wouldn’t mind some income from our writing, but it’s not the main reason why we sit at our desks or on the couch punching out word after word after word. If it was, I would’ve given up writing a long time ago and would’ve gone into law.

I have this idea for a story about… I’m going to stop you write there. Normally I’m interested in hearing about other people’s stories, but I have a question: do you have any intention of writing it? If you don’t, it probably wouldn’t be good for hear it. I might just run away with it and use it for the basis of my own potential bestseller. Well, I wouldn’t, but there might be some unscrupulous fellows who would.

There are too many writers out there already. I can’t make an impression. Every writer worries about this, but most don’t let it keep them from trying. And you never know: you could end up being the next JK Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or William Shakespeare. But first you have to put yourself out there. Besides, if I was worried about impressions, I would’ve given up writing a long time ago and gone into–oh you know what I’m going to say!

I’m good, so I don’t need to edit. Even the greatest authors needed to edit! I don’t know a single author who doesn’t need to edit. We all make mistakes that others will point out, we all have flaws in our stories that will turn readers off. That’s why editors exist: they catch these problems before the book makes it to publication. Otherwise you have all that crap online that has little to no editing and that brings a bad name to self-publishers. So even if it’s sometimes a little expensive, you might want to shell out a little money for a copy-editor or a beta reader to take a look at your work, because it’ll improve your work vastly and you will benefit from it. Heck, I think the only writer out there who doesn’t need an editor is God…wait. There are some ambiguous phrases in the Bible that make no sense, and some that have garnered a lot of controversy. Plus the tobacco and marijuana plants: were they really necessary for the world? Yep, all writers need editors.

What are some things people have said to you about writing that you think si utterly ridiculous? What would you say to them?

  1. “Have you ever considered writing something… serious?” Never heard it, but I do think it would make me want to punch them in the mouth.

    • First off, I hate it how people treat literary fiction like it’s the only fiction worthy of being “serious”. Serious according to who? And genre fiction can deal with all the heavy themes that a literary fiction story can: growing up, fidelity, hope and faith, etc. Heck, Stephen King was examining the psychology of bullying before doing so was considered combatting a national health concern!

      And if someone said that to me, I’d probably ask what they meant by serious. And then if it’s the usual answer I’d reply, “Only if I wanted to write bad stories for the rest of my life. Because that’s what’d I’d get if I wrote only those sorts of stories.

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