In a previous post, I talked about why I sometimes hesitate to talk to non-writers. These are some common things that I hear from downers that make it very difficult for me to want to talk about writing with people I don’t really know about:
Statement: “You’re never going to make any money at that.”
Response: “Thanks for the vote of confidence. Also, so what?”
This is probably the most common one that I hear, and it really bothers me. First, I’m not really sure why you need to make money at something to make it worthwhile. I would absolutely love to sell my writing. But that isn’t why I do it. I do it because there are stories in my head and I want to see what they look like on paper. I do it because I enjoy writing them, and people enjoy reading them. Making money at it would be nice–I mean, who doesn’t want more money? But this statement automatically equates an action (writing) with a motivation that may not exist (making money).
The underlying rationale behind this statement seems to be that not many people “make it” as writers. And it’s true that not many people turn into super rich and famous celebrity writers. But I go to bookstores a lot and they are just filled with names. There are plenty of people who write professionally and even make a full-time living at it.
Writing is a skill you hone with practice. These kinds of statements make me depressed about the prospect of ever being published as a writer. If I don’t hone my skill, I really will never get published, and it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Statement: “Let me know when you get a real book published.”
Response: “My short stories are writing too.”
There is this perception that writing short stories is not doing real writing. Let me tell you something–writing short stories is hard. You don’t have time to flop around and try to find your way to the story. There is a level of precision you must have to communicate your plot, characters, and setting, all in a digestible chunk of less than 15,000 words (the common place I see people start saying they are accepting novellas.)
Besides, I get offended that you have judged the qualities of my writing without ever consuming it. Who knows, you might like my book that I haven’t managed to finish or get published. You might even like my short stories, even if you’re not the kind of person that reads short stories. But even if you don’t, that doesn’t make my writing somehow less ‘real.’
Doing responses to a couple of statements took longer than I thought it would and I’ve run up against my self-imposed 15-minute time limit. Also, I have to go to work. I’m sure there will be a part three.