Wednesday, June 01, 2016

IWSG: Real Writers Don’t Talk, They Write

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecuritiesIf you're a writer, join in!




An interesting woman joined our writer's group several years in, showing up one day with her fancy clothes and expensive jewelry.



She didn't really fit in with our typical writer attire, but that was okay. Everyone was welcome.



At the time, my job was to greet new people and make them feel at home. Within five minutes of meeting her, I'd heard all about the book she was writing. In detail.



It continued every time she came to a meeting. For months...and months...and months. I soon realized she likely hadn't written more than a few chapters of that book and never would. She just wanted to be seen as a writer. You know the type.



The problem with writing is that it's a fairly private endeavor. It's you, sitting in front of your computer, putting words on paper. You do that day after day after day until one day you have a novel. You should look like this:



And not like this:



It's even worse now that people can self-publish. While there are plenty of talented writers who publish their own books, there are also quite a few blowhards who do it for party conversation.



The sad thing is, nobody really cares. Trust me. Every cent I make comes from writing and nobody ever wants to hear me talk about it. If you ask me what I do for a living, I'll tell you, but I'm not going to tell you every detail of everything I've written in the past month. Which brings me to my point...

Most real writers don't talk about our work. We're too busy doing it.



Have you ever found yourself stuck in a conversation you couldn't get out of? What did you do?

70 comments:

  1. I find it awkward to talk about my writing even after it's published.
    When trapped in a conversation, just start backing away. Slow at first and then quickly if they pursue.

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    1. I feel awkward about it, too! Unless it's at a booksigning/event and a parent asks about it. Then it's time to go into sales mode. But I feel like if someone asks about it in a social setting, suddenly it's like this big spotlight is turned on me and I just want to hide!

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  2. I never tell anyone about my writing unless they ask, because I assume they aren't interested. Most people aren't, aside from wanting to know when the next book is coming out.

    For me, the worst are the writers who talk to you just to get something. I once belonged to a writers' group that met at a bookstore. During our Christmas party, a woman I'd never seen before showed up. She came empty-handed, but proceeded to inhale all the food everyone else had brought--if she didn't eat it, her toddlers did. (No one else ever brought a child to our meetings.)

    When she found out I worked for the local paper, she asked me for my editor's phone number, so she could start writing for him as well. I'd just met this woman, who'd made a horrible impression on me, and now she was asking for a personal favour when I had no idea what her work was like?

    I'm not sure how I escaped, but I suspect I made my excuses and ran.

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    1. Yeah, people will ask, but they really want the VERY condensed version. "What do you write?" Answer with two or three words and they're happy! If they want to know more, they'll ask. I have found that if I tell people I'm a freelance writer, they couldn't care less. Mention "children's author" and I have their interest. Weird how that works!

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  3. I would be a little leery of someone who went on and on about their writing without being asked.

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    1. I think that translates to every field...some people just immediately go into "brag" mode. Those people usually have very little to brag about! The people who really do live interesting lives are people who won't talk about it--usually because they're so immersed in it, they don't think of it as something to brag about, if that makes sense!

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  4. Blah! Blah! Blah! love that pic!! I don't like talking about my writing with people who don't know the writing world. I do have a few non-writing trusted friends who I can talk to - but this is mainly about marketing and promotion. I remember being in a conversation with an top British agent a few years ago (at which point I had no book - just a working progress) and I continually said the most stupidest things ever!! So if anyone wants to know how NOT to talk to an agent, I will gladly share my wealth of knowledge and experience :):)

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    1. That pic was my favorite. I love talking to writers about marketing and promotion and all the crazy things we go through...I think that's the difference, too. Writers who are published often will be more interested in sharing tips on running our own businesses, as it becomes after you're published. I can't think of a single conversation I've had with a published author where she described in detail the plot of her latest novel. Unless they were trying to work something out that they needed help with...I'm all about that kind of conversation!

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  5. I'm nosy, tell me everything. I would ask her where she was in the book and how she came up with the idea. Sometimes people are so excited about doing something they're just stuck at that stage. It is up to others to see if we can help them move forward. If not then you just have to find a way to avoid the talker. Saying you forgot something or calling to a friend then apologizing to the talker and going off to someone else are good ways to get out of the conversation without looking too bad. But then again sometimes you just have to end it, feelings be damned.

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    1. I think there's a difference, for sure--a writer who's actually interested in getting feedback will ask for specific help. The types I'm talking about are those who just want to brag. "Yes, my latest book is set in the Renaissance period and my hero is a..." (Imagine that said in the most hoity-toity voice possible and you see what I mean!)

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  6. I have told most everyone I know about my book. I mentioned it on Facebook for those I don't often see in person. I'm always visiting my library and wonder if I should tell the workers there about my book.

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    1. When my first book came out, I did the rounds...libraries, bookstores, you name it. I learned pretty quickly that apparently those people are regularly approached by self-published authors selling books out of their trunks. They often get a "deer in the headlights" look, even when you walk in and hand them a stack of bookmarks. Now I just donate an autographed copy to each of my local libraries, usually by mail, and include a nice letter offering myself for any family nights or events they have. It's more about letting them know I'm here and part of the community...and interested in supporting THEM any way I can. But I stopped the walk-ins because it's apparently become a problem in their world!

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  7. I'm used to most people in my life not asking or caring about my work, so when someone does seem genuinely interested, I'm usually stunned and stumble all over my words. I'm sure I make a wonderful impression. :)

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    1. SO true!!! I've actually had this conversation:

      Them: You work from home? So what do you do?
      Me: I'm a freelance writer. I write content for websites and marketing firms.
      Them: (Blank stare)
      Me: I also write children's books.
      Them: That's SO cool! What age group? Would my kids like one? (etc. etc.)

      I just learned to skip the freelance part. Nobody cares. Let them believe I make a full living off of writing children's books. I might even sell books as a result, and the freelance stuff takes a total backseat to that anyway!

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  8. This made me smile. You're right. Even my close friends don't want to hear about my writing saga. And it's hard to articulate anyway. I used to blather about everything in my life to anyone who would listen. I don't like people who do that, so I don't do it anymore.

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    1. LOL, yes, I think we all do well to remember that people mostly just care about themselves. If they ask you a question, it's often to be polite. I've been to three new hairstylists now and not ONE has asked me what I do for a living. If I find one who asks a single question about my life, I'll likely go back for a second round.

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  9. I get this A LOT - "You write so well, you should write stories"

    Um...

    I do! LOL

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    1. Before I was published, I had a fairly successful blog on another site. Thousands of views a day. I can't TELL you how many times people said, "You should write a book" and I'd reply, "I've written about 30." WRITING a book is one thing. Getting a publisher to BUY it is another.

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  10. That's why I don't even go to writing groups - why would I want to talk about writing when I could be writing? And as someone who has a bit of blowhard in her genes, I'm always afraid of sounding... braggy, I guess is the word?

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    1. I personally found when I was starting out that the best resource was Romance Writers of America. There was a local chapter that met once a month. They had the BEST writing workshops...the kind you'd find at an annual conference with any other organization. They had presenters come in and do workshops--so it was mostly about that. (That's where the scene I describe in today's blog happened, actually, but it was limited to the 'before meeting' part, where everyone was talking for 10 or 15 minutes or so and enjoying the free breakfast...thank GOD we had to sit down and shut up after that. I couldn't have taken an hour of her!)

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  11. I think I've met her before or at least people like her :-) Writing is definitely a solitary pursuit.

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    1. Wealthy writers are the WORST!!!!!!!!! They're the most likely to either self-publish or pay a vanity press...they don't care. They just want their name on the cover of a book so they can show off to all their friends at dinner parties. And, whatever you do, don't read the books they write. Self-involved people don't write good books, no surprise.

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  12. haha!! I loved this one. I've met so many people like that. Unfortunatlely I'm always finding myself in convos with people I want to get out of--I'm one of those "listeners" and in college word used to get out that I was a "listener" so I was the girl everyone dumped on without ever asking how I was. Drove me INSANE.

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    1. When I worked in an office, it was horrible. I had the hardest time getting away from people because I'm just not good at it. And my job required me to leave my desk and go help people with computer problems, so you can only imagine the long-winded "it's all about me" conversations I'd end up in. I had a friend who would pretend his cell phone had just buzzed. He was SO believable at it. He'd say, "Oh, have a call. Gotta get this. See you." And rush off with the phone pressed to his ear.

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  13. I never discuss myself as a writer or my writing, unless a friends asks me how my writings coming along. And then I usually say a little something and change the subject.

    I doubt a non-writer could understand the trials, hard work, and insecurities that we face. And Yes, it's a totally private endeavor.

    I don't belong to a writer's group. It might be fun to talk with another writer that understands.

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    1. Writer groups are great...but I was talking to a friend about our RWA days and she's still in it. She said, "Yeah, it's not like that anymore. The Internet." I realized then that I'm totally relating RWA to the 90s, before everyone socialized on Facebook and Twitter. You HAD to go to a writer's group to find writers. (Although we did have listservs and AOL groups and such back then.) I think it's a lot harder now to find a good in-person writer's group because you can do so much online.

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  14. My wife's coworker once said to me: "So I hear you're a man of letters!"

    I just stared at her blankly.

    I just write sh*t, lady. No need to get all fancy.

    IWSG Post June

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    1. That made me laugh out loud. A man of letters? That sounds so old-fashioned! Does your wife work at a university or something?

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  15. I’m told I’m a good listener but that usually means I’ve not been able to get a word in edgeways for the last three hours. :)

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    1. Oh yes, that can definitely be the problem with being a good listener.

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  16. I'd much rather have someone say they enjoy my work rather then ask me what I'm writing about (and realize they are just making small talk). Or, knowing I'm a writer, someone asks "So, what do you do?" (Can you just hear the crickets?)

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    1. Oh, but that would mean they actually READ your work. Which most people don't do...but the second they have something they want you to help them with, they don't hesitate to ask. Grr.

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  17. LOL! I went to writing workshop a couple years ago with a woman like that. It was sad, but we all humored her and probably chuckled behind her back. I didn't chuckle. Just sayin'.

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    1. We had a vanity-published author (before e-based self-publishing came along) who showed up with her book. During that time, we were still reading chapters of our work. She read hers and YIKES it was bad. And it was in published form! We talked about that woman's horrible book for years.

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  18. I would think writing for a living would be most time consuming and difficult. I applaud you for doing so. I could never focus on writing that long to be successful.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Ahhh the glamorous life of writing about relocating servers. That's what I'm doing today! Beats an office job, though, for sure.

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  19. I don't tell people I'm a writer. I still say I'm an at-home mom. I think I'm going to have to switch though since I have a story in an anthology out and hopefully more stories on their way. I guess there's a big difference between promoting a published work and promoting yourself before there's much written.

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    1. Say writer, for sure. And then when they ask what you've written, hand them your business card with a link to your page where your book is. You may get a book sale out of it!

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  20. LOVE the gifs in this post! They're so true! Personally, I love listening to other writers talk about their work - I could ask them questions all day long, but that's only because I very rarely meet other writers IRL. But if I was in your situation, I'd get fed up pretty quickly, I'm sure. I always feel awkward talking about my own writing though, even when people ask about it!

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    1. I do rarely meet them IRL these days but when I do, it's usually someone who paid a publisher thousands of dollars or self-published their book about their toe fungus or something...

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  21. Interesting question: have I been stuck in a conversation I couldn't get out of? I'm kinda of a loner, so not very often. The last time some guy wanted to impress me with his philosophy on life. I wanted to gag, but sat there politely; as my eyes gazed around the room a few times.

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    1. I'm an introvert...so mostly I end up engaging in small talk when I encounter people I don't know.

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  22. I find that often when non-writers ask me about my writing, they don't *really* care to hear the answer other than "it's great!" or "I'm published!"

    I'm in Romance Writers of America, and over the past year or two they've "cracked down" on their membership that you have to be actively writing to be a full member with voting rights. You can be an associate member, come to meetings, but not be able to vote or be on the board. That opened a whole can of worms where people debated what does "actively" writing mean. Basically, they determined you have to have written something of 20k words in the past 3 years. Many of us do that in a month, but the uproar was there. How dare a professional writing organization force members to write! Since then, the fits have died down. Hey, if you want to write as a hobby go for it. When you align with professionals, then I think it's appropriate to have benchmarks.

    thanks for a great post!


    Goal, Set, Check! Setting SMART goals

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    1. I'm glad you mention that...YES! I can name people I knew when I was in RWA who joined the organization so they could meet their favorite authors. It works, too. We had some great best-selling authors who visited our little local chapter meeting. But how do you get them to prove it? Do they have to send a copy of their manuscript? And how do they prove when they wrote it?

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  23. good post and way too true. I was in a writing group. Nice folks. But I ultimately left about the same time a few others did - the folks who actually were writing, bringing stuff in to critique, and moved on to publish. The others are no doubt still reading the same stuff with no progress. Indeed - writing is butt in the chair, crank it out, and edit edit edit....Good blog post

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    1. LOL, that does happen, doesn't it? I met a few slow writers along the way. They'd work on the same manuscript for YEARS. I guess that made them happy but eventually you have to call it done and send it out!

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  24. I love this. Most writers and artistic types are so quiet and shy. It's taken me a long time to "come out" and talk to people. I'm still not the greatest at it (Military Husband, on the other hand, is totally an extrovert). But give me something to write? And I seem like the most outgoing person on earth! Haha.

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    1. I've learned there seems to be a divide in writers...some fall on the side of being an introvert who would rather be at their keyboards. Then there are the others who love writing, but they also LOVE being out around people, being seen as a successful writer, presenting at conferences, etc. There's no one right way...but it has to be hard on the latter group of writers because so much of we do means sitting alone for hours at a time.

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  26. I know people in various arenas who are show horses passing themselves off as work horses. I cringe inside when I see others believing anything these show horses say.

    Stephanie, I have been thinking about your A to Z theme recently. In Japan, there's a boy who has gone missing after his parents made him get out of their car as a punishment for misbehavior. He was left at a forest. When they came back minutes later to pick him up, he was gone. There is a search going on for the boy right now. I feel sad thinking about what could've happened to him. Have you heard about this story?

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    1. I'll have to look that up, Cynthia. Sounds so tragic!

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    2. I have good news. They found him.

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  27. I can barely talk about my writing to other people and will go so far as to avoid it.

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  28. First, I slowly start to back away. Then I try the "I really have to be someplace" excuse. It sort of works.

    Interesting that she would join a writers group without having written much. In my group, we all submit regularly (except for me, lately, as it's been 2 months since I've made any progress). Well, I guess we all need our egos stroked in some way.

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  29. Oh man, how annoying :) Usually I just smile and nod, and dash away as soon as I can!

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  30. I agree -- no one really cares about our writing lives in detail. And talking about the writing (instead of writing) tends to suck the energy out of it.

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  31. I avoid telling people I'm a writer. It's just easier to keep writing and to keep my mouth shut. I told a friend I was going to try to seek representation from an agent. One day later she asked if I'd gotten an agent yet. UGH. Sheesh. UGH.

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  32. For me the question is more like: when have you not found yourself stuck in a conversation you couldn't get out of?! People tell me everything, without prompting. I have one of those faces and auras that seems to send out the signal to insecure people that I care. Even when it could be the farthest thing from the truth. They talk at me all the time. *sigh*

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  33. I'm a very private person and really don't like to talk about my work. I write, not talk. :)I figure they're not really interested in my story anyhow.

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  34. Stephanie, I'm more interested in people, what they do and what they are about. So I like to push the conversation for them to talk about themselves.

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  35. Have I ever found yourself stuck in a conversation I couldn't get out of? All the time. I must have one of those faces or something where someone will just start telling me their life story!

    What did I do? Prayed someone would save me. :)

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  36. I don't usually talk about my writing unless someone asks me about it and then I only tell them what they are asking. If they ask more- then I do answer them. Most of my family and friends had no idea I had written a book until after I had an agent (and many learned of it when my book was getting published)! :)

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  37. Getting out of boring conversation: a trip to the bathroom usually does it.

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  38. Oh I have been stuck in conversations which is either all about them or that they know about everything. I usually back away, say I have to go to the bathroom or say "that's interesting.Hey Bob, come here. Mike just said something interesting" That is all that is needed for Mike to keep talking but now to Bob who is giving me the stink eye.

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  39. Hey, I think I've met that lady . . .though she's been a guy more often in my life. I've left more than one critique group because it turned out to be a group of people who talked about writing instead of a group of people helping each other write more effectively.


    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

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  40. I agree! I find that I actually sound like an idiot when talking about my own work. In fact, when trying to explain the plot, I sound like I'm completely unfamiliar with the work (unless I've been practicing the pitch). Just last night someone saw me reading my manuscript (red pen in hand) and asked if I was a teacher. "It's my novel," I said, and then my heart began to race because I feared that she would ask me what the book was about. Thank God she didn't!

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  41. Yikes! Why talk about it?
    Well, I have to admit, I do talk abut my writing, but mostly only in the IWSG and a few blog posts. Outside of that, I have learned no one else cares. Certainly not my family or friends. Even if I were to finally get something published, I'm certain they still would not care. All the better to just get back down to it, and do more writing.

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  42. I made some friends during National Novel Writing Month whom I met with almost weekly for over a year. One super nice lady would drive us crazy, interrupting everyone's efforts to ask advice. She wasn't the one who stopped my attendance, though, annoying as that could be. Another gal and I went to lunch to celebrate my meeting the NaNoWriMo challenge when we wrote together at her home last November 31st. I wanted to really talk, but she ignored me in favor of a stupid smart phone game. For an introvert, that broke any will to socialize. Now if I would just pick up that story I want to finish...

    Best wishes on your writing! My publications are very limited and I'm so glad to know folks who make a living at the endeavor.

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  43. I rarely talk about what I'm writing unless I'm probed by my close friends. In fact, most of my coworkers and others I talk to are not even aware that I have a blog, let alone that I'm working on some writings. As an introvert, I do get stuck in conversations quite often. I try to find some "thing" I have to get to asap to end the conversation.

    I like that cat at the computer meme :)

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