What the public thinks of writers

Morris_dancers_during_well_dressing,_Etwall_-_geograph_org_uk_-_505411It’s funny the reaction you get when people find out you are a writer and that you’ve had a book published. A fair few look at you as though you are a little odd – they’ve learned something slightly strange and off-beat about you on a par with finding you belong to a religious cult or are a Morris Dancer.

Others are vaguely impressed – they might say something like ‘I’ve never met a writer before.’ They tend to assume you must make some sort of significant money from your book – sadly I have to disabuse them of that notion.

51ATyzrOYVL__AA200_Sooner or later people will compare you to one of their writing points of reference. Up to a couple of years ago this was always JK Rowling. They would say: “Do you write children’s books? Harry Potter is very successful you know.”

This used to make me a bit grumpy – I know writing children’s books is an important skill all of its own – but I write books for grown ups, and that’s quite difficult to do well too. I didn’t say anything though – I’m too polite.

800px-Martin_Amis_2012_by_Maximilian_SchoenherrI remember reading that someone had the brass neck to ask acclaimed literary author Martin Amis the same question.

“People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children’s book,” said Amis “I say, ‘If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children’s book’.”

He upset some of the more thin-skinned children’s authors with that one but, I must confess, it did make me laugh.

fifty-shades-of-grey-cac1d39d5bb5c20810b1314bcbf61dee35d8219b-s2-c85These days, things have changed – nowadays authors are no longer asked if they would consider writing for children in order to reap riches beyond dreams of avarice. Now, because of fifty shades of whatnot we are asked if we would consider writing porn.

I can only speak for myself, but again, it’s a no I’m afraid. The truth is I probably know more about wizards than I do about vaguely sadomasochistic mummy porn so I’m just not really qualified to do the subject justice.

When you tell people you’re not going to try your hand at these things they seem disappointed in you – as though you are deliberately, perversely, refusing to do that which would make you successful. But of course the truth is that any writer who becomes a success is a hit because of what they do, not because of copying others.

And there’s no point trying to transform yourself into something you’re not. I’m afraid I’ll just have to continue ploughing the poorly rewarded furrow of literary fiction, because that’s all I’m cut out for.

Song of the Sea God visualIf you’d like to see how I’m getting along why not take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

44 thoughts on “What the public thinks of writers”

        1. Thanks for your encouraging statement. I have so many notebooks, filled with “starts” in writing, and then usually, I will thinks “everyone has a book in them” How could I write my thoughts in such a way that it would have meaning and appeal to anyone any one else?

          1. You know what? I read an interesting quote. Its said something like: a story is one’s life without the boring parts. You know, You write about your life, your whole existence, but you delete the boring parts and add some imagination to the awesome ones. I guess thats what writers do.

      1. My opinion Lanna is that it all comes down to practice – if you keep at it you eventually improve, same as with anything else in life. And reading – writers need to read a lot!

        1. Thanks Chris, haven’t tried in a long time, however, I could get my collection of “starts” and begin “plowing” through them. My starts and stops, are so scattered! While attending Junior College, had wanted to take one of the writing courses, but got caught up in taking Philosophy courses, the Professor was so awesome. My background was filled with many attempts at different religions, Philosophy really opened a whole new world to me! Suppose everything could work together in attempting to write “something” coherent!!!!

  1. I’d say anything that a person poured their time, heart and soul into writing should be respected – it’s unfortunate that the folks that don’t write, more often than not, don’t see it that way.

  2. Hi Chris,
    Having a talent to write, draw, paint or photograph is a wonderful privilege; no matter how small or great that talent may be. However, I think there are some talent bods out there who perpetuate a snobbery and clique- iness to that privilege and I believe that’s what alienates others to it. It’s our duty to embrace and celebrate our fellow artists and the people that enjoy our creations.

      1. Thanks Chris,

        Good on you:)
        I wish you all the very, very best in your future success and look forward to sitting down and reading ‘Song of the sea god’


  3. Ah yes….”why don’t you write a children’s book?” My brother went to art school for classical animation, and I write, so my cousin kept telling me that we were “wasting our talents” because we wouldn’t collaborate on a children’s book–never mind that we were both happily preoccupied by other creative projects. She was so insistent that finally I said, “Listen. That’s YOUR dream. YOU want to write a children’s book, so go ahead and do it. My brother and I are too busy living our dreams to live yours.” Never heard, “You should….” after that.

    Re Laura’s post: My brother theorizes that people don’t take writing as seriously because everyone is literate. People will say, “I can’t draw a straight line,” because they realize that drawing takes technical skill. Writing? NSM. It’s only when people sit down to actually write that they realize how hard it is. I used to tell my students that saying exactly what you mean is the most difficult thing in the world. None of them believed me…until they started writing essays.

    1. Ha – I agree about the writing – it’s essentially something everyone can do as a basic skill and so people assume that’s all there is to it. I also find it’s something where people can easily convince themselves they are fantastic at it, even though they have made no effort and put in no work. Truth is it’s like anything else – a skill one can improve with practice.

  4. Having just published my first book, I am beginning to hear odd things from people. My favorite is “why don’t you send your book to Oprah? I bet she would love it.” Sure, no problem. Hey, do you have her address in your contact list? People mean well but I don’t think they have any idea how hard it is to sell a book, no matter how good the book is! So we writers had best enjoy writing for the craft, and not be looking for fame or fortune.

    1. Yes people don’t generally appreciate how tough it is either to find a publisher willing to take on your book or to find readers once it is published. You certainly find those things out though. 🙂

  5. Hi Chris, I’m late here. My Saturday reading was thrown out the window of a narrowboat 🙂 My daughter asked me why I didn’t write porn if I wanted to make money from writing – can you believe that? My daughter! My response was I’d rather not write at all if that’s what it took and I’d rather not make money than write something that I didn’t want to do, so there it is. I’m with you entirely here, but I did laugh at the Martin Amis quote. Very good!

  6. I have a sister that is always telling me ‘you should write this’ or ‘you should write that.’ I just listen and don’t respond. I can’t write about something I have no interest in, no matter how popular it may be. That would be too much like work.

  7. I haven’t made it to the comparison point yet. I’m still trying to those close to me past the “oh she’s just a writer(meaning it it’s just hobby)” thing. Although, when I do mention that I like writing in the Fantasy/ Sci Fi genre, I get asked, “ So is it like Twilight?” *sigh*

      1. I can’t imagine anyone thinking, writing is a “hobby”! I watch a lot of CSPAN to hear different authors speak about their books. Always, if there is a question from audience, people want to know if it was easy for that person to write a book or books. I have never heard any writer say anything other than, it is a lot of work, and requires dedication and a love for the subject that is written about. Hobby? Some writer’s share, a book may have taken several years to complete. Who ever thought writing is a hobby, must not do much research about how writer’s spend unlimited time to stay on point. I’m no expert for sure, however, if I haven’t learned anything regarding writer’s, writing for a “hobby”!

        1. My assumption is that it’s coined a “hobby,” when writers don’t earn a living from it. But you’re right, it does take a lot of work to write a book. Not many people understand that though. Hopefully one day I’ll prove those around me wrong!

  8. Ugh. My cousin used to tell me that my brother and I were “wasting our talents” because we didn’t write a children’s book together. (My brother has a diploma in classical animation.) I have no interest in children’s books, and my brother has moved on to another artistic field. Finally, I said, “writing a children’s book is your dream, not ours. You’re just going to have to go live your dream yourself–we’re too busy living our own dreams to live yours for you.” She never mentioned children’s books to me after that.

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