Five Things: What not to say to a writer

Category: Writing

Writers are temperamental souls. We weren’t always like this, but the job enhances our natural insanity. If you know or are married to a writer, you might have observed that your once well balanced friend/spouse/work colleague now varies between what seems like a normal person and someone who occasionally spends time laughing hysterically under the table while drinking absinthe. 

If you want to keep them on the thin edge of sanity, it may be time to consider some things not to say to a writer:

  1. Do you write for children? Especially to a female writer. Especially one who has children. I have written for children. A bit. And loved it. But the absinthe drinker in me wants to say, “No!  I write about death and desperation and drugs and sex!” Just to see what happens next. 
  2. What kind of books do you write/ what is your book about? I have no idea. After I finish a book I sit down and try to work out what the hell I’ve been doing for the last year and in some way boil that down into a paragraph. It’s agonising, soul destroying and makes me feel a bit dirty. You just made me relive that all over again.
  3. Am I in your book? I will say no. The real answer is maybe. I’m not sure I even know. If you are you might have been chopped up a bit, dissected, and some bits of other people welded on. Or I might have written I hate you over and over throughout the book in secret subliminal code. The point is, I know as much as you do. Read the book. Make up your own mind.
  4. Will you read my book? At this point you may notice the writer grabbing at the air for invisible absinthe, or perhaps running and hiding under the table. Let me explain what they’re thinking. 'Under the following conditions: Once it’s published; Once you’ve debased yourself like you just asked me to and made it sound spine tinglingly amazing in no less than 25 words; If it’s had loads of good reviews; If it’s been read and liked by somebody I know who likes the kind of books I like; If you pay me a substantial reading fee.' It’s not personal. You might have written an amazing book. But my reading time is limited and very, very special, and the pile of ‘things you must read’ grows daily.
  5. Ah, well, it worked for JK Rowling! Do I really need to explain that one? There are two differences between JK Rowling and me. Money, and, um, money. And she’s written quite a few more books, to be fair.  And she probably spends less time hiding under the table. So quit asking me stupid questions and let me get on with it. Though I might just stay under this table for a bit...

Kirsten McKenzie

Kirsten is the author of The Chapel at the Edge of the World and The Captain's Wife. Kirsten's short fiction and poetry has also been published in Gutter magazine and New Writing Scotland. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories. Find out more about Kirsten's work on her website.