Friday, June 29, 2018

Stupid Things People Say to Writers (and how we'd like to respond)

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Below is my list of comments I’ve received over the past years since I’ve admitted to being a writer. 

In the parenthesis after each comment is what I wish I could have said. 

I’m happy to report I’ve not given in to the temptation…yet.

1. Aren’t you published yet? (I really don’t have the space here to get into this. I usually just do a mental eye-roll.)

2. Can I give you a call so you can tell me how to get published. (Sure, it’s so easy I can cover it in a phone conversation.)

3. I have an idea for something you should write about. We could split the profits. (yeah, I do all the work and you get half of almost nothing. Sounds like a deal to me…)

4. I just wrote a book, can you contact your publisher/agent for me? (I could, but you really wouldn’t like what I had to say about you.)

5. Why don’t you take the day off, it’s not like you work for a living. (unprintable reply)

6. Can I read your manuscript? (Like I don’t have enough stress in my life already)

7. Writing must be the easiest job in the world. (If you like 20-hour days, pennies per hour, horrific critiques, and serving up your heart for others to chew on daily.)

8. Anyone can write a book, what else do you do? (see number 6)

9. You should get that published. (Really? Like I hadn’t thought of that.)

10. I’ve heard that if you….you’ll be a much better writer. (Nothing I like better than advice from someone who has no clue.)

11. Aren’t you finished with that yet? (Of course I am, I just decided not to try to get it published.)

12. I hate reading, it’s such a waste of time. (unprintable reply)

13. Have you ever written anything I might have read? (Yes, if morons could read.)

14. Will you read my manuscript? (*Screaming and running in the other direction*)

15. Are you still doing that writing thing? (Believe me, if I could quit, I would.)

16. When can I get your book for free? (What part of “I do this for a living” do you not understand?)

17. Can you edit/write my essay for me? (I write commercially, not academically. There is a difference, and I could probably guarantee you a failing grade.)

18. Will you make me a character? (Only if I can kill you.)

19. What do you do with all your spare time? (In the vein of number 17, why don’t you come over and find out…)

20. My book doesn’t need editing, my high school English teacher went through it for me. (There are some teachers who know about writing commercially, but they are in the minority.)

21. Writing, can you make a living at that? (Well, theoretically you can.)

22. I thought you were a real writer, these are just magazine articles (or blogs or devotions or any number of other things). (Yeah, they pay me and give me deadlines because they don’t have anything better to do.)

23. Why don’t you take me to lunch, I know all authors are rich and famous. (Obviously you don’t know any other authors. Most laborers in third-world countries make more per hour than authors.

24. Writing, it must be nice to make so much money for not doing anything. (Yep, I lay around all day watching TV and eating bonbons.)

25. My book is perfect just the way it is. God gave me every word and I’m not changing a thing. (Let me know how that turns out for you.)

These really are things I’ve heard more than once. I used to get frustrated or try to educate those I spoke with. Now I just keep a list. Well, actually I keep two. 
  • One, of all the stupid things people say to writers. 
  • Two, character sketches of those I can add to my stories. (Never underestimate the ability of writers to get even.) 

I’d love to know what folks have said to you. Be sure to add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Stupid Things People Say to Writers (and how we'd like to respond) @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

What stupid things have been said when you admit to being a writer? Thoughts from @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. I'm a hybrid author, and self-pubbed my first three books. I was told I wasn't a "real author" because a traditional publisher hadn't put out my books. Grrr! :-) Great list, Edie.

    1. Linda, that is incredibly frustrating! Blessings, E

  2. Good stuff, Edie. One I've gotten several times is: "I thought you were retired. Don't you have anything else you need to be doing?" My urge is to respond, "Not really, I use a small portion of my royalty income to fund a rather large staff to manage my property, travel, communications, legal, social, and financial affairs. That just gives me all the time I need with my keyboard."
    Jay Wright
    Anderson, SC

  3. Love these. Too funny. Thanks for giving me my laugh for the day, Edie! :-)

    1. Darlene, we have to laugh—or risk the possibility of homicidal rage! Blessings, E

  4. Before I ventured into the writing world, I was guilty of many of the same ignorant thoughts. I received similar uninformed questions when my family and I began to homeschool our children. At least, as a writer, I don’t get asked, “Is it legal?” and, “Aren’t you afraid someone is going to take your kids away?”

    Like you, Edie, I resist the urge to respond with sarcasm and instead use the opportunity to educate. I’ve been pleased to discover, if I’m patient in answering the “stupid” questions, that I may just win an advocate (and sometimes even a fan). Press on, writer friends, whether or not someone fully appreciates or understands the hard work you do.

    1. Lori, you're so right! We all have probably asked some questions that would fit this list before we knew better. Blessings, E

  5. Similar to your number 3. “People need to read the story of what I’ve been through in my life. Will you help me write it?” My answer: “I only write fiction.”
    Great list, Edie.

  6. Interesting post. I love the statements you wish you could respond with.

    1. Sometimes it helps to laugh with others who understand! Blessings, E

  7. Question: "Are you enjoying your retirment?" Answer: "I'm not retired, I'm self-employed. Retired people get a check for not working. I have to write AND sell books to get a check. There's a difference!"

  8. Number 23? I am a writer, and I recently moved to Ecuador. I am currently managing my nephew's hotel. If my employees had to depend on my royalties to get paid, they would starve. I pay them out of hotel earnings, and yes, they get paid so much more than my royalties. Sad but true.

    1. Carole, that's a common issue for writers. Very few of us actually make a living wage. Blessings, E

  9. These are in no way funny at all, but these are the questions I get all the time and unfortunately, I have no filters.
    I tell it like it is.

    The Question: When is your next book coming out?
    My Answer: When it's finished

    The Question: Are you still writing?
    My Answer: What do you think?

    The Question: Do you have a card? I started writing a book, but it's not quite finished and I would like to discuss it with you on how to get it published.
    My Answer: Can you afford me?

    1. I like these answers. There's nothing rude about them (unlike some of my answers above) Thanks for sharing! Blessings, E

  10. Oh, Edie, these are rich. And more. And then there are people who don't say anything, but they look like they are biting their tongue and sucking on something unpleasant...and I don't know what and I don't want to know what they're thinking. It could get ugly.

    1. Donevey, you are so right! I've seen that look! Blessings, E

  11. "You're a writer? Oh, I thought you said you worked."

  12. I was asked why I thought I needed to be published. I should be happy just writing. To which I said, "You're a speaker. Why do you need an audience? You should be glad to stand in front of an empty room and pour your heart out."

  13. My all time favourite - You're looking for a job? But I thought you were a writer!