A Twitter hashtag called #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter really got my attention a while back. Bet you can imagine why.
Some well-known writers (Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coben, S.E. Hinton, John Scalzi, et al.) played along with the rest of us lesser-known and unknown scribes. Collectively we whirled and howled about stuff like:
- Low pay and no pay
- Folks who question why we have to use so many cuss words
- The assumption that we’ll never get published, i.e., be “real” writers
- People who treat what we do as a hobby
- Those who swear they could do this too, if only they had the time
Were we being thin-skinned? You be the judge. Here’s the kind of thing that writers report having heard:
“It’s pretty impressive that you spend so much time on something that has so little chance of success.”
“I downloaded your book for free online. Could you please sign this printout of it?”
“It must be so nice to have time to write. I’d love to give up work, too.”
“Writer’s block doesn’t exist. Get on with it.”
“It must be lovely working from home. You can combine your writing with housework and childcare.”
“What’s your backup career plan? I hear your industry is dying.”
Nice, huh? Imagine being told, directly or not, that you’re a goof-off or a talentless hack. What, exactly, can you say to that?
And to all you folks who say stuff like this: Did you ever have a thought you didn’t speak aloud?
Maybe the writer you were insulting might have been thinking, “Dang, that’s the ugliest dress I’ve ever seen and it stopped fitting her 10 pounds ago” or “He really needs to reconsider that comb-over” — but said nothing because, well, manners.
Tell me something good
I put a few of my own tweets out there, including:
- “Want to write for us?” (What’s the pay?) “No pay. But think of the EXPOSURE!” (People *die* of exposure.)
- “I want to write for (company that employs you). What’s your editor’s name and e-mail address?”
- “Can you read my stuff & tell me if it’s any good?” (Here’s my coach/edit rate.) “THAT much? Just for READING?”
Now I’ve decided to go the other way: a list of 10 things you should say to writers. Why not? We regularly hear the most bizarre and sometimes even insulting things about what we do for a living.
And yes, I am projecting. I would love to have at least some of these 10 things spoken directly to my face.
1. You write for a living? Cool! What’s your genre?
2. Where can I buy your stuff?
3. A friend of mine is a writer. I have some idea of how hard you guys work.
4. I wish I could do what you do, but I can barely write a Christmas newsletter.
5. How do you stay motivated?
6. Can I put an ad on your website?
7. Next round’s on me!
8. Trolls. Screw ’em, right?
9. I need writers. Could you do 500 words for $1,000? Great!
10. Wait…You’re that Donna Freedman?!? OMG!
No, I’m not holding my breath. But it’s a nice fantasy, and will give me something to focus on the next time someone says, “So I just finished writing a book. Would you read it over and tell me if it needs any changes?”