Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things People Say When They Find Out I’m a Writer

Writers are some of the most misunderstood peeps of all time. Maybe it’s because everyone thinks they can write, and almost everyone thinks they’re a writer. Everyone has a certain set of assumptions about what a writer does, how they function and what their lives are like, and these assumptions lead them to say some asinine things that I should probably not be such a bitch about. For example:

“This must be a great place to write!”

People say this if the location we’re in happens to be particularly stunning in a cultural or natural-wonder sense. People said this to me when I lived in Paris, because shit, that’s just so interesting, and they said it to me a lot when I lived in Chamonix, because of this:

In the presence of such natural splendor, I couldn’t help but be inspired, right? Wrong. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many travels, it’s that you can be uninspired anywhere.

People who don’t write act like literary inspiration is geological in origin. It’s another natural resource to be dug up and exploited, like petroleum or gold – find a big enough deposit, and you’re Shakespeare.


I’m not saying there’s no such thing as “good place to write,” because there is. It’s a place where the rent is cheap and there's no cable.

“Sooo…do you, uh, ever publish any of your articles?”

No, I print them off and wipe my ass with them, champ.

“Wow, you’re just all over the place, aren’t you?”

Said to me with a mix of wonder, condescension and condescending wonder whenever I mention my Twitter following in an offline conversation, or whenever I just mention that I’m on Twitter. I don’t have much of a Twitter following. I have about 1,000 Twitter followers, on a good, zombie-attack-free day, but I guess that’s a lot for someone no one’s ever heard of and who also doesn’t follow anyone back.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that the person saying this is always someone who doesn’t use social media at all or they use it sparingly and they look at those of us who are “always on Facebook” with a mixture of pity and contempt, because we “can’t hack it in the real world.” Right, because I write something, throw it up on some backwater blog, and then wander off to stick my thumb up my ass and twirl while thousands of people magically find what I wrote all by themselves. That’s how this works.

“Oh, you mean you have paying work?”

Said in a tone of astonishment when the person I’m talking to realizes that the “work” I’m always on about is typically done in exchange for American currency. I don’t know what’s so hard to grasp about the work-money exchange when the work in question is writing. Restaurant menus; magazine articles; newspapers; product descriptions; advertisements; corporate newsletters, websites and blogs; spam emails; user manuals and the instructions on the back of your gas bill – nobody got paid to write any of those things. All of those things wrote themselves.

Actually, the spam emails probably did write themselves.

"I have this great idea! You should totally write this!"

Okay, so other people's great ideas are kind of a pet peeve of mine. I have enough great ideas of my own, thanks. It's hard to get with someone else's idea, because it doesn't speak to me and I don't give a fuck. Ideas are like children -- the people who have them always think they're great, because they're theirs. Where you see a special little snowflake, we see a shrieking brat swinging from the ceiling fan, harassing the cat and leaving sticky fingerprints all over our vintage upholstery. Even if your idea really is as great as you think it is, it's yours. You understand it. You see where it's coming from and where it's going and what it needs to do to get there. I don't. Write it yourself.

“Oh, you’re an author?”

No, unfortunately, I am not an author. I say “unfortunately” because, not only would I totally love to be an author, but also because you know what an author is. If I were an author, I could say “Yep, I am, I wrote Blah Blah Blah and Yada Yada and This Thing,” and it would save precious minutes of both of our lives that I must instead spend explaining what I actually write while you stand there with that “but I thought all those things wrote themselves” look on your face.

Probably still easier than explaining the plot of a story I haven't written, however.