If you're a writer, you probably spend a lot of time alone. Most of that time is spent browsing Ebay for vintage typewriters, playing tiny games where you slide candy around on your phone, and reading articles about your zodiac sign. Occasionally that time is spent writing. So, when you do emerge from your writing den and change out of your pajamas in order to socialize with other living human beings, you don't want to hear the same old things you always hear. Because there are some things all writers are really tired of hearing.
To be fair, when I tell people that I'm a writer, they're usually supportive. They almost always wait until I'm out of earshot to make a snide comment. Sometimes they even find time to say, "Oh, that's cool!" before they immediately ask, "So how do you make money?" Being a writer, like being an actor, artist, or professional clown, comes with a slight stigma. People don't think of it as a real job. But I, at least, have sunk a significant amount of money into my Creative Writing degree, so it's too late to turn back now (plus it's my dream or whatever).
So, fellow writers, here's a list of things that we're all tired of hearing. Really, really tired:
1. "What are you writing?"
Well, now I'm not writing anything. Now I'm talking to you about what I'm writing. But really, if I wanted to tell you what this story/play/poem is about, I would tell you. Writing can be an intensely personal (i.e. embarrassing) process, and most writers don't want to discuss their work in progress. And if a writer does want to tell you what they're writing about, you probably want to change the subject before they start describing their collection of experimental personal essays line by line.
2. "Can I read it?"
NO. I mean, no. Sorry, but no. You can read any of my published articles, which are out there on the internet, so I can't physically stop you. But you cannot read this script/novel/prose piece that I'm working on. The same way that I don't usually walk outside before putting on pants or stand in my kitchen eating raw meat with my hands, I don't let people read my garbage writing before I've finished a draft.
3. "So… what do you do for money?"
The joke's on you, because I don't HAVE any money! ...which means that the joke's a little bit on me too, I guess. But really, writing does pay money. Not a lot of money, granted, but enough to keep professional writers in ramen and sweatpants. So please stop asking how I make money. At best, it's insulting, and at worst, it reminds me of all that money I don't have.
4. "But what’s your job?"
...writing. Writing is my job. Yes, many writers have another three or four side jobs, because we need to buy coffee and fresh pajamas, but many of us write as a job. So now that I've told you what I do as a job, please stop asking what my job job is.
5. "Ooh, I have a great idea for a novel!"
That's great! I invite you to write your own novel! I will gladly read it once it's published! But please don't tell me your idea for a novel, short story, or graphic novel memoir, and then expect me to write it for you. I don't even have time to write all of my own ideas. I probably can't write yours. Especially since I don't think you're going to pay me. But thank you for your interest in my free services?
6. "Here’s what you should write about…"
I appreciate the people who occasionally email and ask me to write an article about their new app or brand of hummus. It's lovely that you've read my writing! But I can't write you a free ad! Hummus is not a book! Ditto goes to all the friends, friends of friends, and grandparents of friends who've asked me to write about their lives or favorite subjects. Sorry.
7. "You should work for free! It’ll be great for exposure!"
...but can I eat exposure? Look, I know that sometimes it's worth it to get your writing out there. But a confusing amount of people seem to think that writers will work for free for a start-up blog. I assume these people also refuse to pay their bills at restaurants but promise to post a glowing Yelp review. Because minor exposure is the same as money! (It's not.) Writing is a skill that has value, and writers are already poor and sad so please stop trying to convince us to work for free.
8. "Will you read my screenplay?"
Y-e-e-e-s, I'll read your screenplay. I support other writers! But please don't be mad at me if I can't help you get it produced.
9. Will you read my boyfriend’s sister’s ex-girlfriend’s screenplay?
Um, no. I'm a powerless writer and not an editor, I don't know how I could help your boyfriend's sister's ex-girlfriend by reading her screenplay?
10. "Will you write my screenplay?"
No! Come on, we've been over this!
11. "Where do you get your ideas?"
I weep endlessly into my keyboard until I give up and quit writing forever. I steal from other writers. There's a little old man in Schenectady, New York who sends me an envelope full of story ideas on the 15th of the month, every month. I've never had an idea. I stalk my ex's new girlfriend online and draw inspiration from her Instagram. I free-write on the subway so that I don't accidentally make eye contact with the creepy guy staring at me. I don't know where I get my ideas, man. It's a struggle!
12. "So are you going to be an English teacher? Or work in marketing?"
English teaching is a fine and noble profession, and I'm sure it's populated with many writers. But, to reiterate, writing is sometimes a JOB. Or even if I'm not a professional writer, please don't tell me about other non-writing jobs that you think I'd be good for. You're not my career counselor or a Buzzfeed quiz, so you can't tell me what to do with my life.
13. "You're a writer? What a fun hobby!"
No, it's not a hobby, or a phase, or a cool quirky thing that I'm doing on the side before getting a real job. The world needs books and quality television scripts and listicles! There's a writer behind every bad movie you've ever watched, and every angry blog post you've ever shared, and every magazine article you've ever read in a dentist's waiting room. Most people wouldn't want to live in a world without writers. So please stop telling us it's a hobby.
Images: Green Chameleon/Unsplash, Giphy (13)