This writer acknowledges that I run the risk of being hunted down in a dark alleyway by shadowy crime and thriller writers for sharing our secrets. However, I feel that you non-writer types need to understand why we can be a pain in the arse. Call it my public duty.
The Brutal Truth
I am refuting the ‘Writers are troubled souls’ romantic notion to admit that we can be difficult, needy and impossible to understand.
We complain that non-writers misunderstand us but as you are our readers, let’s show you some respect in acknowledging that every writer has an inner diva and help you to know how to deal with that.
I can feel the weight of millions of writers’ head shaking across the world…
‘Me? A diva? But I’m so shy!’
‘ I just write in this little corner and do my own thing.’
You may be socially awkward or so introverted that you’d rather disappear up your own back passage than take part in a book signing, but you have an inner confidence that makes you a little more ‘out there’ than you think.
If you are a writer who wants readers then you are writing in order for your work to be noticed. Your work is an extension of you. Therefore you are also offering parts of yourself with it; your personality, skills, talent, experiences, memories…
I am not declaring that every writer is akin to a stage school brat vying for the spotlight, although some of you most definitely are *looks in the direction of the link-droppers and spammers on social media*.
You can still be the world’s most accomplished introvert and covet an inner desire to be seen, albeit through your writing. I am an introvert. I know. I wrote about it: The Introverted Writer and Blogger Life
As much as I wish the writing could speak for itself, that’s not how this gig works. In order for my writing to appear in people’s line of sight, I have to step forward.
I know there are writers whose writing was known before their identity, such as Brooke Magnanti/Belle du Jour of Secret Diary of a Call Girl fame. Helen Fielding also began the Bridget Jones phenomenon through a newspaper column. But they started off differently from most of us.
We have to suck it up, put our mugs out there and then add, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m a writer and here’s what I write’.
This is more personable and less diva-ish than it may appear. Placing your writing first to others can be abrupt and make you a pain in the arse.
None of us like the direct messages sent on Twitter the very second we follow another writer. ‘Buy my book/like my Facebook page/I’ll give you a kidney or my second born child if you do’ type messages piss us all off.
The same goes for writers/bloggers that disregard Facebook group threads rules and drop links to their blog or Amazon page every-freaking-where.
Be human. Be engaging. Then tout your wares.
When We Are Asked What We Do, We Can Be a Pain in the Arse
Writers can be a pain in the arse when a ‘civilian’ asks us, ‘What do you do?’ We often roll our eyes and then adopt our most patronising voice for the ‘little people’ who just don’t understand what we sacrifice for the sake of our art.
‘It’s not just writing’, we bark, ‘it’s so much harder than you think.’
We then recline upon the chaise longue waiting for the questioner to bring the smelling salts and peel grapes to placate us.
If you don’t want to be an arsehole when someone asks you what a writer does, here are my top tips:
- Make it concise. By your very nature you’re a wordy bugger but save those little gems for the page.
- Once your recipients’ eyes are glazing over you should see that as a sign they’ve given up listening to your diatribe. Even worse, if you have to check for a pulse, you really need to work on your verbal editing skills.
- Just tell them it’s great, hard, demanding and fun. That’ll confuse ‘em.
We Can Be Crap Company
Have you ever got annoyed with someone when you are talking to them because they aren’t really listening to you? *Spots many wives waving furiously*. That’s how others feel when a writer has ‘all the ideas in the world’ (TM) bubbling away in their head and becomes a bit of a space cadet.
How annoying do you think it is for non-writers to try to hold a conversation with you when you are plotting how to kill off a character? I wouldn’t share that particular plot idea if I were you, when asked what you’re thinking about. You may find it coming true if you keep on ignoring your other half.
Get a notebook or make notes on your phone. No writer since time began has managed to keep a writing idea in their head. I tried once and then found myself getting the right royal hump with the Husband when he was trying to tell me something important and he ‘made’ the idea fly away from my brain.
Poor man. I wasn’t a writer when I married him. He doesn’t deserve this and no one in your life does either. Sometimes we are going to have to force our heads out of the clouds. Scary as it sounds, there’s real life stuff going on out there.You know? That stuff you write about?
The Need to Break Writer Stereotypes
We get annoyed that the world thinks we are lazy, sitting at home in our PJs, watching box sets and occasionally scribbling a few sentences. We get angry that they all think this isn’t a proper job but it isn’t.
What? What did she say? This isn’t a proper, grown up job? How very dare she?
This is unique, fun, tedious, magical, frustrating, exhilarating, a dream come true, a path into other worlds, a thrill, a chore, an adventure and so much flipping more.
This is no proper, ordinary mundane job. So stop being a pain in the arse and complaining when people goad you that writing isn’t really work.
You know it is. That’s all that matters.
You chose it, whether you do it full or part-time. How many people can say that about their jobs, their work, nowadays?
You are privileged my writing friends to be doing something that you love and which lights a fire in your belly. It’s the kind of thing many will never find in their lifetime.
However, non-readers, confession time… we also do occasionally sit in our PJs and watch box sets. It’s cosy and possibly research.
We Are a Nightmare When We Are Revising and Editing
We will change like a glorious sweet child into a sullen teenager, as we merrily tappety-tap through our first draft only to hit writing puberty; bracing ourselves to revise and edit our little kid first drafts into adult novels (not that kind of adult novel, although you naughty erotica writers do).
Do what most sane parents would do when the hormones start racing around with reckless abandon. Shut the door on the ‘kid’ writer and first draft, let them work through that angsty shit in private, and wait for them to emerge one day as a more pleasant, grown up version.
Move out If Your Writer Gets Writer’s Block
This is the most important advice I can give to any non-writer.
Many articles would like us to believe that writer’s block is not real. That’s like telling women that PMS is a lie. Big mistake.
Writer’s block can be seen, heard and painfully felt not just by the writer but everyone within a 100 mile radius.
We will wail and gnash our teeth.
We will take to our beds.
We will moan that other writers aren’t having a hard time of it.
We will vow that we will never be able to write again because our muse has deserted us.
Writers, let’s get a grip shall we? Do you know how funny it is to watch an hysterical writer lamenting over writer’s block? Look in the mirror when you do and have a word with yourself.
You will write again.
If you can write a shopping list, you can write a sentence. It will happen again. You haven’t run out of ideas. Your brain just isn’t feeling creative right now. Do something else.
Do you think a bricklayer says, ‘I have lost my bricklaying muse of how to put cement on top of bricks, therefore I must go and hide in a dark corner, comfort eat, and wait until inspiration returns?’ Nope.
‘But a bricklayer isn’t creative?’ I hear the snide retort. Really?
You go and make a house and then tell me that’s not creative. Bennie Bricklayer may have lost a little of his mojo that day but he gets on with it, using the basics of what he knows. We can too. ‘Nuff said.
We Can Be a Bit Weird
‘Weird’ is fine if you’re comfortable with it. Personally I love it.
But remember, if you talk to others about your characters like they are real live people, stare at strangers whilst making notes, and stalk famous writers because you love their writing; you deserve every weird label that gets thrown at you.
Fill your boots but non-writers may think you’re a pain in the arse. Possibly even more so for that writer who has taken out an injunction against you.
We Expect Our Loved Ones to Love Our Writing
Your dad may be a burly bloke who likes a good thriller but he simply must love your romance novel because it was written by you.
Your gran should be calling you a ‘clever girl/boy’ for your gory horror novel even though she jumps out of her skin every time the phone rings.
Our loved ones must love our written works because we wrote it.
No, no they don’t. I feel genuinely sorry for those closest to us.
Some writers will ask you to read their work with an assurance that any form of critique is fine; they can take negative feedback. Don’t do it! It’s a trap! Just step away.
You will thank me when you don’t have to deal with a quivering lip and tear-filled eyes that betray the nonchalant, ‘That’s fine’ comment after you dared to say, ‘I don’t get it’ or worse, ‘It’s not my thing’.
If you ever want to have friendship, family connections or sex ever again, do not read the work of your beloved writer.
Hide When Bad Stuff Happens
When we get bad reviews, scathing feedback, or worse, rejections, the whole world must pay attention to how our writing world is crashing down around us.
I strongly recommend counteracting this by either taking the dejected writer to the pub or going on your own. I have no other advice here.
For the writer, the world does officially end every time these events occur. Strangely enough it then begins spinning again with every positive review, feedback or acceptance. Odd that.
We Are Pains in the Arse but We Are YOUR Pains in the Arse
We want you to be proud of us. Like everyone in this world, we want to be validated by the fruits of our labours.
We make sacrifices and we appreciate the ones you make alongside us as you lose us to the writing gods.
We have successes, expect you to pay stupid amounts of money and invest lots of time to celebrate and promote them.
You are lulled into a false sense of security that all is right with the world once more when we finish the novel or blog post.
Then we start the next project and it all begins again.
Just don’t tell us we’re a pain in the arse. Only we are allowed to admit that. To those writers still denying the truth of our difficult natures, let Matt Haig, millions-selling author, present you with further evidence: