Why I Hesitate to Talk to Non-Writers, Part 1

A lot of my acquaintances are surprised to learn that I’m a writer.  This is because I always engage in a mental cost-benefit analysis before I decide whether to tell someone that I write.  It isn’t that I am shy about discussing my work.  Though I used to be extremely hesitant to discuss what I’m writing, now that I have a bunch of rejections under my belt, I have stepped past the point of caring whether people think I have a stupid idea or not.

The problem is that I’ve found that the vast majority of non-writers that I talk to writing about fall into two camps: (1) you’re not ever going to get published and you’re going to make any money at it so why bother, or (2) oh that’s so cool can I read what you’re writing.  In other words, they’re either a downer or a supporter.

Talking to supporters makes me enthusiastic to write.  But I don’t like to talk with downers.  They approach the whole idea of writing from a place that is completely foreign to me.  I usually find the conversation depressing.  A conversation with a downer about writing usually ruins my ability to sit down and plug away at a draft for a couple of hours at best, or ticks off a malaise that keeps me from writing for weeks or months at worst.

How people are going to react to me telling them that I’m a writer is a complete toss-up.  The old adage ‘appearances can be deceiving’ is extremely true when it comes to trying to figure out which camp a person falls into.  I’ve had people that look as nerdy as I am unexpectedly turn out to be downers, or they might even be hostile to the very idea of someone presuming to try to write something.  And I’ve had people that look like non-readers wax enthusiastic to me about their favorite YA authors.

As a result, my default is that I wait to talk to people about writing until I have a better idea of whether they’ll be a downer or a supporter.  This entire process would be a lot less complicated if the downers would refrain from doing certain things.  The next time I get a few moments for a substantive post (nanowrimo is still alive and well in my house), I’ll give a few examples of statements from downers, my personal answers to the statements, and why the statements are hurtful.

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