Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yeah, I want to Write a Book

WARNING: Turn away; this post is going to be bitchy. If you are not in the mood to hear it, please go somewhere else. Go and read Stuff White People Like which is always good for a laugh. Come back here tomorrow. I promise a jolly post tomorrow.

I always hesitate telling people I’m a writer. I don’t want to hear the words that will force me to dislike the speaker. Once they’re said, there’s no turning back. A big black tick has been mentally placed next to their name and mostly I’m done with them.
I’m talking about non-writers here. People who haven’t a clue about what it actually takes to go from blank page to published book. The hard work and stress of it.

If you’re a writer, you’ve been in my place. You meet a new person (a non-writer) and the conversation goes something like this.

Non-writer: So what do you do?
You: I’m a writer.
Non-writer: Oh yeah. I want to write a book one day too.
You: (disappointed monotone, eyes searching for exit) Oh really.
Non-writer: Yeah, I blah blah blah blah blah…….. blah.
You: Nice, sounds good. I need to go fill my drink.
(You drift away and spend the rest of the time dodging the person)

Why does this conversation piss me off?

I’ve thought long and hard about it. First, of course, there is the undermining of your work. Writing, what a joke- that’s not a real job.

That’s enough in and of itself, but then you have the attitude of simplicity. It is a simple thing to write a book, any Joe can do it. It’s a sort of disrespect of all of the lessons I’ve learned, of the time and effort I’ve put in, of all of the writing I’ve done to get to the place where I’m able to write a book. For the days of re-writes- first, second, third, fourth drafts that still aren’t right. The brutal, ego-bashing search for a publisher. Then when you finally land one, the fight to get them to see your vision, which always ends in a disappointed compromise. The sales figures that have you earning less than the woman who washes your clothes.

And what about talent? Does this not play in somewhere? Fine, everyone can type on a computer or write with a pen- but is it true that everyone can write? I don’t think so.

I know this person won’t stick it out. I know this person will start and then find a reason to justify why he can’t finish his masterpiece, a reason having nothing to do with himself or even the job at hand. A reason that lets him still keep his preconceived ideas in place. He’ll still believe he can do it. Writing a book- Easy ka Peasy.

Or maybe, just maybe, in that rare instance, this person, years from now, will get a peek into what writing a book REALLY means and will remember our conversation so, so long ago and will feel ashamed.

Okay, I’m done now.

Jolly tomorrow.

I promise.


Tania Hershman said...

Oh yes, been there. Many times. Also been in the situation where I say "I write short stories" and they say "Oh, for children?" I want to punch them. I heard a wonderful story at the Momaya Press short story awards ceremony, a previous winner talked about how she had a conversation with someone at a dinner party, she sad what you said and the woman started ranting, something like "My husband works in publishing and I have an agent and even I can't get a book published so how the hell do you think you will?"

Suffice it to say, the former winner's book is being published and she just wanted to illustrate precisely what you've brought up.

Nothing to be done!

Anonymous said...

I'm ploughing along with this novel, I've got a fair (although by no means substantial) word count behind me and I plan on seeing it through to what I feel if completion. I know I want to get it published and plan on pushing for that once the novel's at the right stage, yet I hesitate to call myself a writer, partly because I don't want to belittle those who have made it that far already.
I think if someone had a similar conversation with me I'd be asking them when they were going to get off their backside and take the leap.

Lauri said...

Tania, I'm so glad I'm not alone with this. I was starting to think I was the one undermining them.

Vic- you don't fall into this category. You are in the slog of it. you know what it all means. You are a writer.

Anonymous said...

umm, I think you've missed the most aggravating assumption: "Oh, We need a xxxz for the upcoming xxxx. You're free all day, right? Shall I put you down for two days a week?"

Lauri said...

You are so right Bonita. As a writer all of your time is free time to be exploited by others at him. ARGH!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. Know exactly what you mean. I've only had short stories and one play published so people constantly say to me 'but you're not a real writer, you haven't written any novels. And you're not supporting yourself from your writing. Oh, and by the way, I'm planning to write a novel and I'm pretty sure it's going to be published.' Yeah, right.

I don't understand where this attitude comes from. It's so patronising. I loved this post. It needed to be said.

Lauri said...

A 'Real Writer'? Eish! What does that mean?

Here there is obviously nothing like a writer. I was at the eye doctor and he asked me my occupation and I said writer.He just looked at me blankly and said what does that mean? I told him I write novels, textbooks, radio scripts, tv scripts, magazine articles, newspaper articles and short stories. He crossed out writer (which I had written) and wrote journalist.

Anonymous said...

oh boy does this post resonate, argggg! and the comment by Bonita is just too close to home -
"oh, you aren't working, can you, xyz..."

I wish I was a representational artist - I'd love to do a drawing of the amazingly rude face that goes along with "you write POETRY???"
writing is a ton of hard work - thanks for say so!

Lauri said...

Kayt I think you could do a lovely piece of artwork on this!

It's funny how all of us are thinking the same thing.
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