“I’m gonna write someday, when I have free time.”

This is also something people say to writers. (From Clutch #20, by Clutch McBastard. Clutch is one of my favorite comics zines, and I’m bummed he’s no longer drawing them. Come back, Clutch!)

Among my writer friends on Facebook, people are circulating this short humor piece from the Huffington Post called “S**t People Say to Writers,” after those at-first-hilarious-but-almost-immediately-inane “Shit people say” videos that were popular a few months ago. (Props to Huff Post for having the wisdom to avoid making this into a video.)

The list is short, but I’m not going to share the whole thing here; go visit the site. I did want to highlight — and respond to — a few of the funnier ones here, though. (The title of this post is one of them.)

  • Have you been published?

I both love and hate this one. I love it because it gives me a chance to share my work and, better still, the generous publications that ran my work. But I hate it because when most people ask, they mean “Have you published any books?” And, um, no. I’m working on it! But no bites yet. And frankly, even if I had a book out already, I think most of the people who ask are pulp-genre readers, so if I told them what I write, they’d probably still react like this:

  • What do you write? Oh.

It’s a little like the reaction I get when I wear my “Trust me, I’m a doctor” t-shirt. “You’re really a doctor?” Yeah, I have a PhD. “Oh.” Because they thought I was a surgeon who drives a Porsche and lives next door to Jon Stewart. And, not so much.

  • Do you know Stephen King? What’s he like?

Strangely, I don’t know Stephen King. You’d think we’d be best buddies, because, you know, we’re both writers. But no, I’ve never even met the guy.

I did go to grad school with someone who’d met him, though. She was a closet romance novelist (writing under the pen name “Denise Richards,” which she swears she picked before the actress became famous), and one year she got elected president of her romance writers organization. It was her job to organize the annual convention and invite the keynote speaker, so the previous president dumped a huge list of authors with agents’ contact info on her, and as she was scanning down the list, she spotted Stephen King. “It’s not just romance writers,” she was told. “Those are ALL the writers.” And she figured, what the hell? Shoot the man an invite. And lo and behold, not only did Stephen King accept, he even called her personally to thank her.

So, you know, I know someone who once had a phone conversation with and later sat in the same room as Stephen King. That ought to count, right?*

  • My mother loves your books.

That’s so funny! My mother isn’t always sure what to make of my books. 😉

  • I’ve got a great story for you!

This actually happens pretty rarely, but a few times it’s actually paid off. The first time it happened, the story the guy told me I just had to write turned into “No Milk Would Come,” which is forthcoming in Scintilla Magazine. So keep your eyes open for that to come out. And yeah, if you have a story idea for me, let me know — I’m game!

I have one other thing people say to writers that wasn’t on this list, and it drives me up the damn wall. Thankfully, I don’t hear it very often, but every once in a while, someone who’s never written a word of creative work in their whole life will nod knowingly and confide in me the secret to great writing, in case I hadn’t figured it out for myself yet. The secret usually sounds something like this:

  • Oh, writing a novel is easy. You just sit down and type a few thousand words each day, and before you know it, you’ll have your book!

And they smile and pat me on my back, utterly unaware how fortunate they are that I’m a pacifist.

Not all writers are pacifists, though, so people out there reading this, please, for your own safety, NEVER say this to a writer.

Here’s what you should say to a writer:

  • Oh, that’s so cool! I’d love to read your work sometime. 

And then clear your schedule and make some time for reading, because we will take you up on it. 🙂

* I don’t know Stephen King, but I do know a whole slew of really awesome writers. They’re in the list of links in that sidebar on the right. Go check them out.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

10 thoughts on ““I’m gonna write someday, when I have free time.”

  1. “I’ve got a great story for you!” – actually my friend Lucy regularly says this to me. She’s usually right, having suggested the plot for my first novel and for my first prizewinning short story.

    Trust me. I’m a psychopath, by the way.

    1. Thanks! I’m enjoying your blog, too — having dipped my toes in journalism many years ago (I never made it out of the wading pool, but I know what the deep end looks like), I admire the hell out of newspaper and magazine writers. 🙂

  2. It’s not just what they say, it’s that vague far away gaze that says “How does she get away with sitting on her back end all day?” Somehow writing is not viewed as a ‘real’ job and of course most of the time it’s not…it’s an addiction 🙂 Is that why I get funny looks?

    1. Yes, exactly! Sadly, I sometimes get that same reaction when I tell people I teach English. “Oh, is that all?” A few people have even said that out loud to my face. It’s baffling.

  3. Don’t forget that you are also in the boat of being a teacher, which means to many people, you are not talented enough to do anything else so you became a teacher (always bothered me).

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