10 Things to Never Say to a Writer

The topic of careers is often an interesting one. It's a great opportunity to learn more about other people while allowing you to gain insight about jobs that may have piqued your curiosity through the years.

But mention you're a writer, and the whole discussion changes. In fact, many times it's not much of a conversation at all, as the topic usually results in a) awkward silence b) a bevy of bizarre statements or c) both.

Here's a fun look at 10 comments a writer can live without hearing. Some are downright humorous while others make our blood boil.

1. "Oh, you're one of those types."

No, we don't write poetry under birch trees while pondering last night's Downton Abbey episode. Jennifer Lea Reynolds photo.

Why, of course we are. We sit around all day under the open arms of a shady oak tree, carving poetry into its bark as we ponder mysteries like crop circles and how to easily peel a boiled egg once and for all.


We do it under birch trees, silly.

2. "Is that really what you always wanted to do?"

Some folks simply can't wrap their heads around the fact that I enjoy writing, let alone do it for a living. Sometimes, they assume I'm joking. In most instances though, they inform me that I'm "one of those types" or ask if I receive payment for my work (see the next question).

Often coupled with a head tilt and an "I'm so sorry" air of pity, this one is enough to make you want to reach into your back pocket of childhood nannie-nannie-boo-boos and ask, "Is that really what you always wanted to smell like?"


Of course it's what we've always wanted to do. Cliché but true: it's who we are.

3. "Yeah, but what do you do for a living?"

A runner up to this question is the common, "Do you receive compensation?"

Nah, I just hang around Barnes & Noble with my moleskin journal clenched tight to my penniless palms, hoping to be discovered by a literary agent who spots the #AmWriting sticker on my laptop cover and decides to present my talent to the world.

For crying out loud, writers do the same thing most everyone does for a living: work hard -- really hard -- at it.

Lose sleep over it.

Love it.

Hate it.

We wonder for much longer than we should if we would have been better off writing, "excess" instead of "plethora." This begins a domino effect of insanity; when the new word moseys in the story, the feel of the sentence is altered, throwing an entire paragraph off-kilter. In other words, it becomes a partial rewrite. All this over one measly word.

Wouldn't have it any other way, though.

We enjoy writing with a passion so great we can't imagine a life without it and its creative freedoms.

What do you do for a living?

4. "No one really reads the copy anyway."

Yes! They liked the way the ad looked. The heck with the copy!

Back in my Madison Avenue copywriter days, I got this one a lot. The smiles and satisfied expressions would blanket the client's face quicker than you could say, "But wait, read the copy too."

Wait, someone actually read the copy? Excuse me while I break out into a happy dance!

Either they had outstanding eyesight or they were so smitten by the striking visual prowess that stood before them (hey, I can admit it) that reading copy seemed virtually pointless. Words were just a hodgepodge of Afterthought Misfits, tagging behind one beautiful image after another.

So it goes.

5. "The client just decided to make this a 'product is hero' ad."

Translation: all those creative advertising meetings and ah-ha shower moments laden with clever headlines and life-changing body copy? Out the window! New title for the copywriter: Senior Phone Number & Website Inserter.

Everyone knows it's all about the pretty pictures. After all, no one really reads the copy anyway.


6. "You're a writer? You and everyone else, ha ha."

Ex. Cuse. Me?

You're a veterinarian? You and everyone else.

You're a cashier? You and everyone else.


I suppose this is a typical case of everyone professing to be an expert at something. Sure, I know that these days, everyone's blogging, posting, responding, submitting, journaling, suggesting . . . you get the point. So yeah, I suppose everyone's a writer. Some are cranking out two-sentence "blogs" riddled with typos. Others are submitting irrelevant news story responses that bash "yo momma" more than they stay on topic.

Yup, everyone's a writer.

And Paula Deen has a Brooklyn accent.

7. "You must be awesome at 'Words with Friends!'"

Words. With. Friends.

Isn't that . . . conversation?

Just because I'm a writer, does not mean I greet every sunrise with a crossword puzzle, ponder my inbox "word of the day" for hours and rearrange magnetic refrigerator letters as soon as I get home.

I love to write. But there's more to us writers than staring adoringly at our bowl of alphabet soup. Our firstborns aren't named Prose Williams or Irony Smith. We swim, bathe and drench ourselves in words, but such immersion is not synonymous with drowning.

2016-01-30-1454159823-7058452-305625_10150899568041071_1804881625_n.jpgJust because my nails look like this doesn't mean I stare adoringly at alphabet soup or play word games every night.

8. "What do you do with all that free time?"

I'll tell you what I do. I feel my blood pressure spike when such a question spews forth from your itty bitty curled up lips, that's what I do.

Free time, my sweet patookie.

9. "You're so lucky to have an easy job like that!"

Oh, yes indeed, it's a breeze to adopt various writing styles at the drop of a hat. Oh, and trying to inform while simultaneously entertaining readers? Piece 'o cake.

Blog posts? Done in two minutes. Five at the most.

My magazine column? Completed in a half hour.

Drafts? Drafts are for sissies.

When I worked as an ad agency copywriter, I used to have this quote on the back of my business card:
"When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing."
- Enrique Jardiel Poncela

True words, my friends. True words.

10. "Writing must be sooo boring."

This is akin to telling an antique automobile restorer that his passion is downright absurd to his face.

You're a radiologist? (Eye roll) Whatever.

A motivational speaker? Stooopid.

Maybe writing isn't your cup of tea, but let's agree on this: I respect your choice, you respect mine.

Writing is anything but a bore. It's a thrill, a challenge, a maddening yet supremely satisfying adrenaline rush.

I also enjoy this quote:
"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."
- James A. Michenerl

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some more tangling to do.

No birch trees in sight, thank you very much.

This originally appeared on the author's blog, Thought Buffet, in 2012. This version contains some edits.