The conversation went something like this:
Person: Oh, so you’re a writer.
Rob: Yeah, I’m currently trying to get my novel published actually. It’s very hard; I mean, I spent hours writing the thing, and now I’m filled with half self-doubt and half pure elation at finding myself at this point. Y’know, because really, it’s me, exposed, on a page, just waiting for criticisms to come pouring in about what I have spent the last year or so working on.
Person: Yeah. Y’know, I’ve always thought I was going to write a novel one day.
Rob: Really! (Well then why don’t you start writing it then?)
Person: Yeah, I mean I’ve had this really good idea for ages. It’s about this guy, right, and he thinks that goblins actually exist.
Rob: Oh yeah, that sounds interesting. (and if you’ve had the idea for that long, how come you haven’t written the fucking thing down!)
Person: and so basically, what it is is that the goblins are actually little furry creatures to start with, and once they eat food after midnight, or swim, or something, they turn into these grem… I mean goblins.
Rob: Right. So, do you write?
Person: Write? No not at the moment, but, y’know when it comes to it, of course I’ll just be able to bash out a novel, no problems, no questions asked.
Rob: Fuck off you Knobhead!
Okay, so maybe the last few lines of that conversation didn’t occur, but that is what is always going through my head at about that point, and I’m sure most other people that seriously write have had a similar experience.
It winds me up no end when people do this, because it belittles all of the effort and time and blood and sweat and tears that you’ve put in to your writing. I don’t care if they are actually serious about writing, because then they have thought about it, considered the epic task in front of them; and then those statements are usually uttered with a look of fear in their eyes, as if they are about to undertake something truly life changing. Which is what writing is after all.
No, it just makes it sound easy – and that it is not. Now I want to go back a few years here, to a point when I might have been that man who was “going to write a novel.” I probably did mention it to a few people, but never to writers, and it was for this reason: I realised then, as I do now, how hard it is to achieve something like writing a novel. At that point I could barely write if I’m honest; I left school with a limp grasp of the English language and knew that what I hadn’t been taught at school, I would bloody well have to teach myself. I’m thirty years old now and I still read every textbook on grammar, language and style that I can get my hands on, and I still don’t know if I’m good enough.
So this is a message to anyone who meets a writer that shyly admits that, yes, they have actually just finished their great work that they have spent many hours, days, months, years… considering. Applaud them, congratulate them, encourage them, even if you think their work is shit; but for god’s sake, don’t condescend or patronise them with your “I might, one day; or, if I wanted to” crap, because if you really were going to, you wouldn’t be absently bandying those phrases around: you’d be whispering them quietly, a look of fear painted across your face, a slight tremble in your voice.
That’s all for now, and for all of you out there, remember: don’t take this shit lightly, and don’t let them treat it that way either.
- I’ve Finally Done It… (leonawisoker.wordpress.com)
- Fuck a therapist, writing is my therapy! (diamondpublicationz.wordpress.com)
- How to be a Successful Writer (renogalsays.wordpress.com)