Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Stupid People

If you haven't been on my blog in a while (which I admit is partially my own fault), you might not know that I'm still technically doing the A to Z Challenge. 

See, back in April, my Internet, electricity and even just my life conspired together to stop me finishing the Challenge in April. I wanted to finish the posts, though, so I turned it into a weekly series. Slowly, but surely, I'm getting there. And I have to say that I'm enjoying the fact that I have a ready-made topic at least once a week. 

Today, I'm going to address a little-expected fact of a writer's life: 

We all get exposed to an alarming number of stupid people. 

Which is to say: 
People who think they know everything about writing when they've never really ever tried it. 

It's easy to spot them. Some recent favorites that I've read/heard people say: 

John Green is a pervert because he writes about teenage girls. 
Writers should bow to the wishes of their fandom and change canon to suit them. 

Then there are the old classics: 

How hard can it be, sweety? 
You can't be any good if you don't have a publisher yet. 
Oh, so you're published? You must be swimming in money. 

Or the million little variations of absolute bullshit spewed by Literature teachers everywhere (Sorry. Not sorry.), which then gets perpetuated in some negative way by people who know even less about writing, because the last time they even read anything was in high school. 

In short: People who pretend to know all about my life as a writer. They then try to belittle my experience as a writer. And in reality they don't even have a vague clue. This. Pisses. Me. Off.

Generally speaking, there are three reactions: 

1) Hit a shovel into the stupid person's face. (But this might land you in jail.) 
2) Ignore the idiot, but seethe about it for days. 
3) Or basically respond with some variation of "Well, why don't you try writing and then get back to me, you asshole."

I usually go with option 3. Sometimes, I even take the time to explain. The worrying thing is that more often than not, these people insist on remaining stupid. They don't want to learn because really, they want to persist in belittling writers. Maybe it makes them feel better about their insignificant little lives. Or maybe they're just trying to bully people for daring to be even a little different. 

The point is, if you've explained why things don't work the way people imagine, and people still refuse to stop belittling you, you now know to wash your hands of the whole situation. You're not a bad writer because of not living up to the stupid person's expectations. They just can't/won't understand. 

And hey, if you've tried, you've tried. Sometimes, you don't get through to them. Sometimes, you convert people to the dark-side. In trying to prove us wrong, they not only prove us right, but discover their own love for writing. Or sometimes, they discover they don't love writing because it's so dang difficult. But at least then, you've got them to shut up. 

Either way, the important thing to know is that when it comes to writing, non-writers are the stupid ones. Not you. Never you. 

Any stupid people in your life? What's your pet peeve stupid question? How do you deal with the stupidity?


  1. Bravo! Stupid people piss me off too. I especially hate it when they say those old classics you mentioned. I usually seethe about it or say that writing and publishing is far from easy, but they never listen. There have been times when I have posted rants about how truly hard it is and everything writers do, but only other writers respond to it.

    I vote for the shovel instead! haha

  2. I have to say, option one is very tempting but you're right. 3 is better. It gives the person a chance to grow and learn and you the knowledge that you tried even if they don't want to listen.

  3. I have a friend who always asks "How many books have you sold?" I'm never quite sure if she means this week, this month, ever - but the answer is the same either way. I DON'T KNOW! I never know, and I can never put it into a context she'll understand.

    I tend not to have wannabe writers amongst my friends, so I very rarely hear how easy writing is.

  4. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting people like this yet, but when I do, I'm totally going to follow your advice and go for option 3. I would never dream of telling an artist/teacher/policeman/doctor etc how to do their job, so I don't see why other people like they're entitled to comment on mine. I saw a good one on Twitter today that was telling people NOT to plan their writing, because otherwise their MS would be 'dead on arrival' to an agent, as they'll have killed the creative spark. It's fine if you personally don't want to plan, but please don't tell other writers how to think/do their job - everyone is different.

    Sometimes I wish I could just not talk to other people. Ever.

    Great post, as always!

  5. Hey Misha,

    Now that was some powerful verbalisation by your good self. You have got to remember, dear Misha, that those who would belittle your writing efforts, are, invariably, jealous of your resilience, your determination.

    Being rather a stupid person, I'm not sure I can make comment about stupid people in my life. Then again, I deal with what I might perceive as stupidity by humouring them. Either that or get the dog to breathe on them.

    You take good care.

    Gary :)

  6. First, love that you are not giving up on a to z, and why should you!
    Now, Stupid people (or lazy idiots) are rampant! Most people think they're experts at lots of things or at least qualified to judge others based on what they hear and see and read in the media. Take my son, giant MORON! he passes judgment after hearing one phrase, drives me insane. But he's 15, it's expected and i jump all over him about it to teach himi.

    as for high and mighty idiots and writerly judges, i haven't met too many, thank goodness. I usually just joke them off and have the satisfaction that they have proven their worth with their words. as i said before, i expect most people who shoot their mouths off to be stupid until proven otherwise. they're so dumb they don't know their own saying!

    and to feel better, i'm glad i have so many writer friends like you who do know!! thanks!

  7. I didn't let it bother me, and still don't even though I've had a number of novels and short stories published (through a small/medium sized press). If such individuals comment as to something that is off, I give them that 'not quite' facial expression and say as much, offering to explain how and why things really are. Most are not really interested in the particulars, but come away with the notion that they may not be in command of all the facts.

    I do have the advantage in that I am an English teacher, and my students see my books on the shelves in the school and in local libraries and online. They usually get around to asking how much I make, and I explain briefly how royalties work and that I am not like John Scalzi (an author who about 20 miles from my school and some of the students know him or at least of him) who just signed a contract for 10 books for I think it was 3.4 million over 10 years. As proof, I am still teaching (although even if I made it big, I still enjoy teaching and probably wouldn't give it up)

    I usually tell them Skalzi (or authors like Stephen King or JK Rowling) are like professional players on Major League Baseball teams, like the Cincinnati Reds, and while I am a professional author, I'm more like a player for the Dayton Dragons (a minor league farm team that sometimes sends players up to the majors).

    There are people who are just misinformed and interested in knowing how it really is, and then there are the people who are misinformed and don't really care to know any better. And a shovel to the head wouldn't likely change that. ;)

  8. I had a co-worker who thought that I must be rich and famous because I wrote books. I was, like, "Yes, I am rich and famous. That's why I work in retail."

  9. The shovel is so expedient, Chrys. ;-)

    Taryn, that's true. Often, people don't grow, but I feel better for trying.

    Annalisa, that's probably not something I have a problem with. My number right now is seven. :-P

    MRR, it does indeed help.

    It's good to have a response plan in place, Rachel. The only thing less pleasant than encountering such people is being unprepared for it.

    The dog breathing idea is intriguing, Gary. I can do one better. I have something resembling a bull-mastiff that has a thing for peeing against people's legs. I swear I didn't teach him.

    Tara, I love what you said about "stupid until proven otherwise." It's true. Sadly, I have a "You're an idiot" expression that comes out all on its own and then the idiot in questions insists on "justifying" him/herself.

    You're lucky to go around with people who aren't all that opinionated, Terry. Where I'm from, people will cling to their half-assed opinions until the day they die.

    LOL M.J. Yeah that should have been a dead give-away. ;-)


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