We Don’t Get No Respect

writing 6
“I know a guy who wrote a book about being a part-time vet in the fifties.”

“My mom’s writing a book about growing avocados in your windowsill.”

“We should team up. I have this great idea for a book about a guy who gets marooned on Venus. You could write it and we’ll split the profits.”

 

I guarantee you that every writer you know has heard variations of these. Because how hard can the writing part be? We all learned to write in grade school. Nothing to it.

 

“You don’t look like you’re working.”

 

“How much did you get done today?”

 

“Can you pick up my drycleaning while you’re at it?”

 

The trouble with writing is it doesn’t look like work.

Typing, for a start, is so indelibly connected to “things women do” that even when you are really bombing ahead and churning out the prose, people figure it’s something you can just pick up and put down – it’s not important, it’s not difficult (otherwise, secretaries wouldn’t be overwhelmingly female, amirite?) and it isn’t, in most people’s minds, connected to continuity and logic and all that.

So people feel free to interrupt you. They get miffed if you don’t respond with both immediacy and manners. They feel you should be able to concentrate on them.

I mean, it’s not like you were doing anything important, right?

And heaven forfend if you should be doing that other writerly thing that looks even less like writing: staring off into the near distance, trying to figure out if having your heroine have to climb a ten foot wall is do-able without a ladder, or if getting pickpocketed will hamper some plot twists further along.

It’s hard to explain to non-writers, even the non-writers who grasp, however dimly, that it’s a specific skill-set, and one they do not possess: it doesn’t look like “work” – there’s no sweat or power tools involved, and for most of us, there’s no actual real-estate devoted to it: you write in a café, or at the kitchen table, or, as in my case, on my laptop in bed.

Like art, and like music, it has been defined as a frill, as some kind of adult “play”, something one does “on the side”, for amusement.

 

It’s a funny thing, though.

Every tyrant, dictator, and fascist’s first act of repression is to round up and execute the artists, the musicians, and yes: the writers.

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