The other day I was having dinner with a close family member/friend and somehow we ended up on the subject of careers. I say somehow because I try to avoid that topic like it’s a mass murdered. But everyone I know wants me to quit my day job because, well, it’s not a good situation (you can read a little about it here), so they tend to weasel the topic into discussion. After me, once again, poo-pooing the idea of law school, they asked me what I really wanted to do. So I told them. And it went a little something like this…
Me: “I want to be a writer.”
Me: “I want to write books. Novels like James Patterson or John Sandford or go look on my bookshelf. Those kinds of books.”
Person: “Well, you have to write a one first.”
Me: Long pause. “I did.”
Person: “Oh,” their face droops before they snap, “Well, I didn’t know that.”
Le sigh. I shrugged and didn’t say anything more. It wouldn’t do any good anyway. But, for the record, I did tell this person that I’m writing books. Multiple times actually and they never once asked me about it. So I just figured they didn’t care.
That’s not what bothered me though. No. What really annoyed me was when they said, “Well, you have to write one first.” I mean, really? Wow, you don’t say. Thank you for that insight; I didn’t realize that’s what you have to do to become a novelist. I only read books all the time, but it never clicked that writers actually *gasp* write them. So take note writers out there… step one, you have to write a book. In case you didn’t know.
Although, I think the really sad thing is that almost everyone I’ve told about my writing has said that to me. Even my therapist said it to me. Oh and that was before she laughed in my face. Literally. Let’s just say that was the last time I saw her.
I’m not sure what the inclination is to blurt that phrase out. Maybe surprise? Or shock? Or someone trying to squash what they think is a pipe dream? I don’t know, but if you’re in that situation please try to refrain. There’s a million other things you could say, like, oh I don’t know… What’s your plan for pursuing that idea? Do you have a book in the works or an idea to write about? What’s the longest thing you’ve written before? How are you doing on that goal? Anything other than “you have to write one first.” Because I think we, as writers, all know you have to write one first.