Friday, November 16, 2012

In the Defense of Non-Writers

We've all seen it, and only we would understand it. Ever heard of the Twitter hashtag, #thingsnottosaytoawriter? Here are some of the better ones if you missed it.

I dread telling people I'm a writer in real, non-Internet life. The most I ever say is, "Yea, I'd love to be a writer" or "I like to write." I rarely ever, ever tell people that I am actually writing a book because I hate hearing things like, "Oh, can I read it?" or "Ah, it's not published yet? Why don't you just self-publish it?"

Non-writers don't understand how hard being a writer truly is. It's not just putting words to a paper. Ernest Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Revealing this side of our lives is like opening ourselves to people who think writing is some magical fantasy when it clearly isn't. It's hard, being told that writing is not the grueling task it is. It's frustrating, and you can't reply because they wouldn't understand unless they actually wrote.

But would they?

I'm starting to feel that I SHOULD tell people that I write books (I probably won't, though. I'll chicken out. But I'll know that I should tell people.)

It's not because I don't hear painful things from people who don't realize what they are saying. I do hear it. I hear it a lot.

It's because all those negative words disappear in a heartbeat when you meet that one person who understands; and that person can come from anywhere.

It happened twice to me.

It came from someone I know, just today. When I told her that I had no current plan to make writing my "legitimate" paying career, she looked at me and asked if I truly liked the 'serious' job. She knew as I knew that my one true ambition is to be a writer. She had read some of my writing before (not my books), and what she had to say about my writing made my day, and probably my year. It couldn't have come at a better time either, right when I was getting so down about my book and getting lost in this NaNo hoopla.

The second time happened a few months ago when my cousin was getting married. First off, my cousin knew I was writing a book; he had seen my Word document and saw through my desperate pleas that the 300-400 page document was "nothing". He hadn't told us until a few weeks before he proposed about his plans, so I was chiding him about not revealing important information. He whispered to me that I hadn't told him about my book, and I sputtered and said that it wasn't anything big. He then replied that writing a book was as important and life-changing as marriage.

I can't tell you how much that meant to me. I never felt that any non-writer would understand until that moment when I realized he understood perfectly (I hope, unless he was just making things up). The first incident that happened just today will replay in my mind over and over, because she had hope in me when I was losing it. Seeing real live people believe in your writing is something unimaginable.

Telling people about your writing is hard. That's why I don't do it. In fact, I doubt that almost anyone outside my core family knows that I'm actually writing a book (other than you guys); even the woman today didn't know, and I chickened out from telling her. Maybe I'll tell her when I actually finish.

Either way, the most encouragement I ever received from non-writers was from these two people (maybe they are writers too, but they just hide it?).

Telling people about your writing can be horrible when you see their reactions and hear what they say. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding things you ever do in regards to your writing. All the ignorant comments of non-writers made famous in #thingsnottosaytoawriter will be wiped away with one sentence from someone who truly understands, if only you reveal yourself.

(Again, I bet I'll chicken out. But these accidental revelations are amazing ;) )

(If you need some writing inspiration, check out this site. If you didn't know, I LOVE quotes.)

How do you feel about this? Do you like revealing your love for writing to non-writers?

(I am so close to the 50 follower point! Just one more, just one more....)


  1. That's great two people actually encouraged you! I didn't tell anyone outside of family until I actually had a book deal, and even then I didn't tell many.
    One more - you'll hit it!

  2. I also shy away from mentioning it to people unless they ask first. Even then it makes me embarrassed, and I either say very little or fumble to describe my book to them. Not so good.

    Now that I'm moving to the soon to be published side, I'm really going to have to work on this.

  3. Congrats on 50! And you chicken out of far easier stuff than telling people you write. Lemme see...something like your freaking Jokes the post. Somebody who can relate to writing can definitely boost your psyche.

  4. Non-writers just don't "get" it. They can't--most of them anyway. It's so much more than just putting words on paper... And the whole world/process is too much to explain! I keep my writing life private for the most part--but I feel like I'm open about it so much with blogosphere that I have tons of support... It's good to let others know about our writing because it makes us accountable--but I too, purposely don't bring it up to some! ;-)

  5. I do admit the I write YA novels, but that's usually when people ask what I do. Some look impressed. Others look like I stepped in doggie doo. I'm not sure if that's because I'm a writer, or because I write novels for teens.

  6. Not much more I can add. The comments above pretty much covered everything I would have said.

    Except, don't let people get you down. Whether it be writing, shop work or even brain surgery ... there will always be someone that discredits or disparages what we do. Well, I say to all the tall poppy's, let them do better!

    This is one of my favourite quotes:'They fail, and they alone, who have not striven' - Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    Hope you manage to figure out how to follow me blog :)

  7. I feel you. When I was in school and told people my major was English, they would for some reason always ask (and still do!), "Oh, so you want to teach?" What? No? I don't understand why they equate the two.

    Then, one day, when I took a wrong bus to somewhere, and it was just me and the bus driver chilling on the ride back, he asked me what I was in school for, and when I said English, he said, "Oh, you wanna be a writer?" It was like YEEEEESSS!! lol Someone actually understood!

  8. Oh man. It is SO hard to tell others about my writing. Even now that I am actually legitimately published (short story) it is soooo hard. People don't understand how difficult it is to put together a novel-length work. Well, how difficult it is to put together a GOOD novel-length work. That takes a lot of time and a lot of learning.

    Interestingly, my mom (a visual artist) really gets the whole process and fear and time and market and... all that stuff. I didn't tell her for years for fear that she'd 'over take it' but actually, I have a great confidant now who gets it.


  9. Coming into this discussion late, but I had to throw this quote out there (especially cause I know you love quotes, like I do):

    “What no wife of a writer understands is that a writer is working when he's staring out the window.” -Burton Rascoe

    Not many people understand the writer's life. But, boy, do I love finding those few people who do. :)

    P.S. My name is Bria. Hi. I love your posts. They are very insightful and helpful.