10 Things to Never Say to a Writer


Have you hurt a writer’s feelings lately? Do you even care?

Here’s a fun look at 10 things a writer can live without hearing:

1.  “Oh, you’re one of those types.”

Why, of course we are. We sit around all day under the open arms of a shady oak tree, carving poetry into its bark as we ponder mysteries like crop circles and Lindsay Lohan.


We do it under birch trees, silly.

2.  “No one really reads the copy anyway.”

Yes! They liked the way the ad looked. The heck with the copy!

Back in my Madison Avenue days, I got this one a lot.  The satisfied smiles and “awwwws” would ooze from client’s mouths quicker than you could say, “but wait, read the copy too.”

Either they had outstanding eyesight or . . . (sigh) they were so smitten by the striking visual prowess that stood before them (hey, I can admit it) that reading copy was virtually pointless.  Words were just a hodgepodge of ugly Afterthought Misfits, tagging behind one beautiful image after another.

So it goes.

3.  “The client just decided to make this a ‘product is hero’ ad.”

Translation: all those creative meetings and ah-ha shower moments laden with clever headlines and life-changing body copy? Out the window! New title for the creative department: Senior Phone Number & Website Inserter.

Everyone knows it’s all about the pretty pictures; no one really reads the copy anyway.


4.  “Is that really what you always wanted to do?”

You’ve really always enjoyed writing? Seriously?

Often coupled with a head tilt and an “I’m so sorry” air of pity, this one is enough to make you want to reach into your back pocket of childhood nannie-nannie-boo-boos and ask, “is that really what you always wanted to smell like?”


Of course it’s what we’ve always wanted to do.  Cliché but true: it’s who we are.

5.  “Yeah, but what do you do for a living?”

Um . . . no offense taken.

I get it. We all just hang around Barnes & Noble with our moleskin journals clenched tight to our penniless palms and wonder about tomorrow.

For crying out loud, we do the same thing you do for a living: work hard—really hard—at this writing thing. Lose sleep over it. Love it.  Hate it. Wonder for much longer than we should if we would have been better off writing, “excess” instead of “plethora” (thus beginning a domino-effect of insanity: when the new word moseys in the story, the feel of the sentence becomes altered, throwing an entire paragraph off kilter . . . in other words: rewrite. All this over one measly word. Wouldn’t have it any other way, though).

We enjoy writing with a passion so great we can’t imagine a life without it and its creative freedoms.

What do you do for a living?

6.  “You’re a writer? You and everyone else, ha ha.”




You’re a veterinarian? You and everyone else.

You’re a cashier? You and everyone else.


Guess it’s a typical case of everyone professing to be an expert at everything. Sure, I know that these days, everyone’s blogging, posting, responding, submitting, journaling, suggesting . . . you get the point. So yeah, I suppose everyone’s a writer. Some are cranking out two-sentence “blogs” riddled with typos. Others are submitting irrelevant news story responses that bash “yo momma” more than they stay on topic.

Yup, everyone’s a writer.

And Paula Deen has a Brooklyn accent.

7.  “You must be awesome at ‘Words with Friends!’”

Words.  With.  Friends.

Isn’t that  . . . conversation?

Newsflash. Some of us have never even played the game.  Just because I’m a writer, does not mean I greet every sunrise with a crossword puzzle, ponder my inbox “word of the day” for hours and rearrange magnetic refrigerator letters as soon as I get home.  (Although I have been known to respond to emails in rhyme . . .  ah, must be the coffee kicking in).

I love, love, love to write. But there’s more to us writers than staring adoringly at our bowl of alphabet soup. Our firstborns aren’t named Prose Williams or Irony Smith. We swim, bathe and drench ourselves in words, but such immersion is not synonymous with drowning.

8.  “What do you do with all that free time?”

I’ll tell you what I do. I feel my blood pressure spike when such a question spews forth from your itty bitty curled up lips, that’s what I do.

Free time, my sweet patookie.

9.  “Lucky you, an easy job like that!”

Oh, yes indeedy, it’s a breeze to adopt various writing styles at the drop of a hat. Oh, and trying to inform while simultaneously entertaining readers? Piece ‘o cake.  Novels?  Done in one, two weeks tops. My blog posts? Five minutes. Drafts? Drafts are for sissies.

When I worked as an ad agency copywriter, I used to have this quote on the back of my business card:

“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”

– Enrique Jardiel Poncela

True words, my friends. True words.

10.  “Writing must be sooo boring.”

This is akin to telling an antique automobile restorer that his passion is downright absurd—to his face. While standing in his garage.

You’re a radiologist? (Eye roll) Whatever.

A motivational speaker?  Stooopid.

Maybe writing ain’t (yes, I said, “ain’t”) your cup of tea, but let’s agree on this: I respect your choice, you respect mine.

Writing is anything but a bore. It’s a thrill, a challenge, a maddening yet supremely satisfying adrenaline rush. It’s bliss.

I also enjoy this quote:

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

 – James A. Michenerl

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more tangling to do.

No birch trees in sight, thank you very much.


8 thoughts on “10 Things to Never Say to a Writer

  1. Amen sister! Loved this. Every word – even the ones you probably lovingly had to cut from the flow as they just didn’t fit. I know how much that hurts to do!! I particularly hate when people say (after I’ve spent HOURS and HOURS writing newsletter / feature / media release copy), “Nobody’s going to read it anyway.” Or, “Nobody reads past the first two sentences anyway.”

  2. Excellent post! So nice to know that the stupid comments I hear are not necessarily directed at me personally but to all of us writers! I like your reaction to some of these questions too — ex. cuse. me? 🙂 Will have to add you to my reader.

  3. I adore #5! As with most writers, I have serious panic attacks, before falling asleep, as to whether I should have used one word over another…but on the flip side, I think a life not debating that sort of thing sounds awfully boring! Cheers!

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