Friday, 7 December 2012


Telling a stranger, at a party or in the pub, you’re a writer is a bit like announcing you’re a psychologist. Or a member of her Majesty’s constabulary. It tends to elicit a mild scrambling of the person’s conversational nous, as if you’ve just declared an interest in Scientology or the purchase of a Dido album. Their expression passes through a gamut of reactions, from bemusement and disgust, to sympathy and disdain. It can then go a couple of ways, but here’s an amalgamation of typical responses.

 - So, what do you do?
-          - I’m a writer. [When weary or in a hurry I say editor or lecturer.]
-          - What, for real?
-          - Yes.
-          - Books and shit?
-          - Yes, mostly the former.
-          - Wow, I’d love to do that. If only I had the time.
-          - Yes, you need lots of time.
-          - So, will you be published?
-          - Yes.
-          - Great, although it’s much easier these days, isn’t it?
-          - Not really.
-          - My cousin [friend/aunt/cat] is writing a book.
-          - [Dies inside.] That’s fascinating.
-          - She [he/it] is going to publish it herself.
-          - Ah.
-          - She says all writers will one day. Cuts out the publisher. Apparently, all they do is take a massive cut.
-          - I think there’s more to it than that.
-          - And they only publish friends or famous people or Oxbridge grads. Doesn't matter if it's no good.
-          - I’m none of those.
-          - So, what’s your book about?
-          - [Dies a little more.] It’s hard to summarise the themes in a sentence.
-          - Does it have a wizard and shit?
-          - Neither, actually.
-          - But they’ll make a film of it, right? I’ll probably wait till then. Books take so long and—
-     - - If only you had the time.
      - - Exactly.
-          - Well, it’s been nice—
-          - Did I say, I have this really great idea for a book.
-          - I’m just going to get another drink. [Captain Oates style.]


Jen Campbell said...

*shudder shudder shudder*

Sue Guiney said...

Great! I was in the mood for a bitter laugh. Thanks, Tom.

Lindsay said...

It's the comment claiming 'I'd like to write a book - if only I had time.' Yeah, because that's all it needs... a wee bit of time.

Great post!