What are the twelve things you should never say to a writer if you value your life?

Now that I'm a full-time author I can legitimately write the word 'other' on official forms that ask me for my occupation.

For the forms that give you a category to select, author is never there.

Not even writer or anything writing-related.

So I have to choose 'other' or 'self-employed', which are vague and bland and could mean anything from snake catcher to freelance circus juggler.

And when asked in social situations what I do, I say I'm an author, and have done so for some time, well before I left my job last year.

Because that is who I am, a core part of my identity, regardless of how many hours a week I spend at it.

Is There A Taxidermist In The House?

Telling people I'm an author invariably results in an expression of surprise, I guess because most people don't come across many authors in their day to day interactions.

And of course, we are a rather exotic species, very shy and anti-social.

Often hiding for days in our lairs, unless tempted out by promises of coffee and/or wine.

One lady even said to me with an air of amazement, 'I've never met a real author before!'

Which made me feel as if I should have been stuffed and mounted in a museum.

People ask the usual questions such as what do you write and how do you get your ideas etc and are always really interested to hear about being an indie author.

I happily answer their questions because I love talking about writing.

Hey, it's often more fun than doing it!, and doing my bit to increase the profile of indie authors.

Occasionally I'm on the receiving end of a thoughtless comment – although to be fair, the person making the comment is blissfully unaware of it.

Twelve Things That Get Writers Hot Under The Collar

A few months ago, a hot topic for discussion around the virtual water-cooler on Twitter was Ten Things Not to Say to a Writer.

It was started by acclaimed author Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame) and It invited 119 000 responses – all from writers of course.

It certainly touched a nerve, and it appears that we writers are delicate little flowers when it comes to our art.

We don’t appreciate careless comments, even though in most cases, they're not intended to hurt.

Here are my 10 favourites from that discussion, plus two of my own, in no particular order of preference.

Twelve Things Not To Say

01 What's Your Real Job?

Contributed by Joanne. She's a very successful, award- winning author with a swag of books under her belt. She doesn't need or want another job.

02 Have I Heard Of You?

Contributed by Jodi Picoult. If they haven't heard of you, Jodi, there's not much hope for the rest of us!

03 How's The Book Coming Along?

My contribution. What can you say apart from 'fine,' resulting in an awkward silence? Start talking about the scene in your novel where the scullery maid, who was in love with the butler, found out he'd got the cook pregnant, and you weren't sure whether that should be the second plot point or the climax, and watch their eyes glaze over.

04 I Picked Up Your Book In The Remainder Bin

What can I say but Ouch! And resist the temptation to ask how much!

05 Listening To Your Audiobooks Puts Me To Sleep

Ouch again – unless the book is about how to cure insomnia.

06 You Don't Look Like A Writer

In other words, you look quite normal - no ink stained shirt/just-got-out-of-bed-hair/caffeine addiction twitching/muttering to yourself in public/haunted hungry look from too many late nights and three minute noodles.

I guess that last one could be taken as a complement if it is then it's a bit back-handed.

Does anyone 'look' like 'anything' these days?

Once upon a time you could pick a person's occupation just by what they were wearing. Now it's almost impossible.

Twelve Things Continued

07 We Only Serve Decaf

No self-respecting writer would be seen dead drinking decaf. Like vegetarian sausages or non-alcoholic wine, there's no point to it.

08 I Could Write A Book If I Had The Time

Just put aside a few week-ends and you can dash one off. No need to worry about learning the craft.

09 I've Got A Great Idea. You Write It And We'll Split The Profits

Sure thing. You tell me your idea and I'll spend the next 12 months slaving away over my computer, writing, re-writing, re-writing some more, editing, editing some more and publishing the book. I'm sure you put a lot of time and effort into thinking up your idea, so it’s perfectly reasonable that you get half the profits.

10 Say Whatever You Like. At Least I'm Not Being Ignored

Contributed by author J.A Konrath. I like the positive spin. Any publicity is better than none at all.

11 Why Don't You Write Something Like Fifty Shades Of Grey?

Totally useless advice.

12 You Should Get A Famous Person To Blurb Your Book

Sure. I'll just duck over to their house and ask.

Author and blogger Chuck Wendig also has his own unique take on the issue in his blog post Ten Things To Never Say To A Writer (language warning).

Looking at it from the opposite angle, Spellbound Scribes have written a blog post Ten Things To Say To A Writer.

Any that you can add?

I'd love to hear your amusing/original/downright insulting contributions in the comment box below.

    • Actually, I’ve never had that said to me, but I’m sure there are many people who think that writing is just a matter of putting pen to paper. (or fingers to keyboard).

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