Things to Never Say to a Writer


by Elisabeth Wong

Alright, there’s just no denying it: we’re crazy. We just… we’re… I mean, yeah, everyone’s crazy to a certain extent, but being a writer is like the legal, non-institutionalized way of actually being insane.

Look at us. We talk about characters like they’re real or something. (Which they are, just… just by the way.)

Chances are, you’ve got a friend/ex-friend(?) who loves/loved to write. And you’re not exactly sure how to deal with this social recluse, this person who feels like they live more in a novel than in the actual world.

Well. Before we go on, let me once more remind you of the more commonly-defined difference between a writer and an author (though this can change depending on who you ask): a writer is any person who writes, while an author tends to be more legit and serious with published works.

Yeah. Most of us are writers. And here are some things you shouldn’t say to us.

1. “Oh yeah, I wish I had time to write, too.” Hey, good news, man: YOU CAN!! Writing isn’t just something people do when they’ve got nothing better to do. You don’t just wait around working or studying until you realize you’ve got an open time slot to write. (I mean, I guess this could happen, but…)

Most writers make the time to write. If something’s important enough to you, you always can find some extra time to dedicate to it. Writing isn’t just for the lazy or the slackers who are avoiding school (cough); it’s for those who love it enough to spend time with their stories. We’re not the people just sitting around all day doing nothing else. Most of the time.

2. “Wow, you actually made it out of your writing hole!” Yes, yes I did. Because I have no life other than that which I make up for my characters. Yup, you’ve got me all figured out. I mean, well, it IS true that I basically have no real friends, but I’ve got a life outside of writing! Crafting worlds with words really isn’t the only thing I’m capable of doing.

3. “Writing is so easy.” I bet you’d tell Da Vinci that painting/inventing is easy, too. And Phelps that swimming is easy. And God that making the world would’ve been easy. And here you’ve only got one of two possibilities: (1. You’ve never actually tried writing, or (2. You haven’t been doing it well.

Anything is easy if you chuck quality out the window; push-ups are easy when your stomach never leaves the ground; drawing is easy if you’re just scribbling everything on a canvas. It’s easy to fill up a page if you’re just throwing words out, but when you’re carefully considering and weighing each sentence, you’ll find out just how hard good writing is.

4. “I’m writing a book too.” Great. I’m so impressed. Come back to me and boast when you’ve actually finished it. There are so many people who have started writing a book that it just isn’t anything special anymore; by now I would say that probably more than half of my friends have ever told me they’ve started writing a book… and never finished it.

What’s actually impressive is seeing that you’ve had the guts, perseverance, and will to push through until the very end. When/if you get to that point, let’s start talking.

5. “It’s alright; you’re just a young writer.” Okay, go back in time and tell that to writers like Jane Austen, S. E. Hinton, Mary Shelley, Stephen Crane. Why can’t a teenager or even someone younger try to write well? Why shouldn’t we push ourselves as hard as we can to improve? Just because we’re not adults yet doesn’t mean we can’t put just as much effort into our writing as any adult would.

We’re going to be grown up someday, and if we put our all into our writing now, it’ll make life that much easier for us when we find we’ve got no other excuses to fall back on. We can dream; we can aim high; we can try to get published before the age of 20. We can learn to accept rejection and failure early on. What’s so wrong with that?

WE ARE WRITERS!! You cannot stop us with your puny words; we are the masters of entire worlds, wielding our pens as our magical scepters! Bring it ON, reality.




Guest post contributed by Elisabeth Wong. Elisabeth originally created her blog for a creative writing class and continues to pour out her thoughts from there. She also goes by 时慧 and 雪(ゆき).

28 thoughts on “Things to Never Say to a Writer

  1. I love when you tell someone about the book you’re writing and they get that far-off look in their eye and say, “I should write a book.” As if all we’ve put into it is deciding to write. Forget the countless hours we’ve spent practicing, reading, attending classes, research, articles, podcasts, writer’s groups, etc, etc. It’s all about just deciding to do it, because, “why not?”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My heart sinks and my stomach churns just reading the bold headings 😦 (especially #1 and #3).
    A great post for awareness in an age where everyone expects people to write (a.k.a. put in their time, health, expenses, education, knowledge) for free.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most things ARE relatively easy for people who’ve spent a lot of time learning how to be good at those things. That doesn’t mean those things are easy for someone who’s just starting out. Drawing IS easy for someone who has spent years teaching herself how to be a good artist. Push-ups ARE easy for someone in excellent physical condition. Writing well is difficult in the beginning, but it does get easier (although perhaps never actually easy).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If it were easy, more people would be doing it! I think there’s a huge step in there, somewhere, where you have to decide that you really are going to do it, and that you’re going to do it in the best way you possibly can.


  5. Exactly, Elisabeth. I starteddrawing and writing as a child writing even and S.E. Hinton was my hero because she had a published novel as a teenager, titled, The Outsiders and my favorite, That was Then, This is Now.


  6. It’s interesting the things people say to writers. The one thing I get told a lot is “write what you know.” They spout out that quote as if they heard it themselves. While it helps, it doesn’t define us. We writers love to go beyond what we know. I think that’s what good writers do.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I am always amazed at the people who think writing a book is easy. If only they could see the “temporarily abandoned” folder on my computer to see all of the projects that are unlikely to see the light of day without major re-working, if ever …


  8. Reblogged this on Sharon E. Cathcart and commented:
    I’m always honest about my “temporarily abandoned” computer file full of things that will never see the light of day without major re-work, if ever. “Writing a book must be easy” is one of the sentiments that makes my teeth hurt. These others are right up there.


  9. Good line: “push-ups are easy when your stomach never leaves the ground.” But I don’t appreciate your making fun of the way I prefer to do pushups…


  10. It’s really annoying when you’re asking for feedback on a current project you’re serious and the beta reader shows you old, awful work she did for a class. If she’s not serious about getting it out there, why share it?
    Still, what right do first time authors have to not take ‘ someday’ writers seriously if we haven’t finished the first work? We are actively working on it, but we don’t have proof.


  11. I wonder who ever gives such patronising, narcissistic comments… It’s probably the type of people who would give such sorts of comments to people of all professions and activities.


  12. Gee, I’m glad you included the “Ohyou’rejustayoungwriter” thing. I’m eleven and published and I get that comment too much whenever I’m turned down by a publisher because my parents read all my mail. (though actually it sounds more like “Oh sweetie, that’s too bad. I’m sure there are lots of other authors older than you and they haven’t gotten published so you’re doing okay.” But seriously, why is my mom putting down the other writers to make me feel better? I love you guys!)


  13. Very insightful. The only one I disagreed with is “I’m writing a book too”. I personally think we shouldn’t discourage people from talking about their projects, even if they don’t finish them, and even if it’s annoying. I think we should be encouraging, as a general rule, even if we doubt their commitment.


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