14 Things All Writers Have Said (And What They Actually Meant)
There are many different kinds of writers. You've got your soulful MFA bros who just want to explain Charles Bukowski to you over a cigarette. You've got your Instagram darlings who want all the world to know that they are #dreamers who own a vintage typewriter and drink artisanal coffee. You've got your run-of-the-mill freelance writers who never put on pants. But underneath all that posing, all writers are brethren in the same profession. And there are some things all writers say.
I'm not talking about the lies all writers tell themselves (example: "I'm going to write today"). Nor am I talking about the things that other people say to writers (example: "Here's my idea for a novel you should write"). I mean the things that writers find themselves saying over and over again (example: "This is a really rough draft... wait actually I changed my mind, you can't read it").
If you're a creative writer, you spend a lot of time pulling out all your guts and feelings and insecurities, and then handing them over to someone else to consume. It can be a tough business. So if we sound like a broken record, it's only because we all have that magic combination of a large ego and low self esteem. And that's why we're constantly saying things like this:
1. "I can’t; I have to write."
Translation: "I have to go home and use a pillow to muffle my screams because my deadline is tomorrow." If you're a freelance writer with assignments and deadlines, you've been in the situation where you literally have to go home from the bar and write, because keeping your work during normal work hours is like herding cats. If you're a creative writer who is trying to finish a manuscript on your own time, you've been in the situation where you literally have to go home from the bar and write, because you also work a 9-5 and this stupid novel won't write itself.
2. "I can’t write this until…"
Translation: "I can't write this until the inspiration strikes." Or, "I can't write this until I figure out my survival job." Or, "I can't write this until I get over my break up." Or, "I can't write this until I get better at writing." If there's one thing writers are great at, it's coming up with excuses to not write. The sad truth is, no time will ever be the exact perfect time to start writing. So you might as well start at the wrong time.
3. "This is just a rough draft."
Translation: "I've poured my heart and soul into this singular piece of writing for months and months, and yet it genuinely is a rough draft because I know deep down that I can do better. I know that this piece hasn't yet attained it's true potential. Also there are probably a bunch of spelling mistakes because I can only really write in a state of frenzied panic."
4. "This is a REALLY rough draft."
Translation: "Either this is my magnum opus and I'm filled with crippling insecurity at the idea of someone else laying eyes on it, OR I wrote this in twenty minutes before class and there's a coffee stain all over the first page and partially on my new white jacket, and also I definitely used the wrong 'there' and I'm embarrassed."
5. "I wrote this so long ago."
Translation: "I literally can't remember what this is, and there's a small chance it might contain erotica." Whether you were writing centaur romances back in middle school (me), or deeply embarrassing love poetry in Freshman year of college (also me), all writers have that one period of their work that they really don't care to revisit. Ever.
6. "Well, I’m an aspiring writer."
Translation: "I'm a writer but I'm not as good as I want to be yet." A lot of us try to downplay the whole "writer" thing because we're afraid of being judged. Or we're annoyed that our first drafts don't burst forth from our skulls, ready to be published. But never forget: sucking at something is the first step on the road to being kinda good at something (I think that's from Adventure Time, but it doesn't make it any less true).
7. "JK Rowling was rejected thirteen times before she was published."
Translation: "And I've been rejected six times already, so I'm nearly halfway there!" Any writer can rattle off a list of incredibly successful authors who started at the bottom. Because many, many now-famous writers were rejected at first. And when the going gets tough, it never hurts to remind your parents of this fact.
8. "How did that get published?"
Translation: "How the f*ck did THAT get published? Here I am, the voice of my generation, languishing in anonymity while that asshole from my high school gets a book deal based on his insipid hipster blog? ...I really wish I'd had that idea first."
9. "What’s another word for 'esoteric'?"
Translation: "If I can find the perfect word here I'm sure I can rescue this screenplay that I've been trying to rewrite for the past year!" Fun fact: using a real paper thesaurus instead of the internet is actually really rewarding, because it wastes up to three times as much time. You would otherwise have to spend that time actually writing.
10. "I’m thinking about doing an MFA/open mic/zine."
Translation: "Everybody look out, I'm about to get a very impulsive haircut." There's no one set path to becoming a successful writer. Sometimes you just have to get creative and try out a few different things, to see what works. But I'm going to be real with you: as painful as it is to admit, only certain people can pull off bright pink hair (but by all means, see if you're one of them).
11. "No, it’s not about me."
Translation: "...it's only a little bit about me." If you write creatively, people are naturally going to assume that every character in your novel/web series/epic poem is secretly you. But only some of them are secretly you. The others are secretly other people you know.
12. "No, it’s not about my ex."
Translation: "No, it's not about my ex, and now you're not allowed to read it."
13. "I’m still searching for my voice."
Translation: "I feel insecure about how much I tweet." Or, "I'm really unclear on what a 'personal brand' is." Or, "I'm dangerously close to quitting my day job and hitchhiking to the Pacific Northwest." Finding your "voice" as a writer (whatever that means) can take a while. Don't stress.
14. "Oh, hey, I, uh, wrote this thing..."
Translation: "I FINISHED WRITING SOMETHING! Look! LOOK! There's my name, in print. This must be what God feels like." When your work is published somewhere, or even when you just finish an ambitious project, the need to shout it from the rooftops can be overwhelming. Because yes, in general, we don't want anyone to read our work... until the second that we want EVERYONE to read it. Because as much as we rag on our own garbage writing, at the end of the day we also love our own garbage writing. Or else we wouldn't be writing it.
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