One Simply Does Not Write A Book

“Ah, you’re writing a book. What an easy life you have.”

How many times have you heard that or other comments where the person speaking to you feels that being an author or a writer is the easiest job in the world? Do these types of comments put you on the defensive? Should you fire back with the hours and hours you spend on research? Do the words “you don’t have a clue” spring to mind? Are you always on the defensive, explaining how you don’t spend all day in five star restaurants or on talk shows?

You’re not alone. I can’t count how many times I’ve cringed when I see “that” look on someone’s face. I just know what’s coming next. So, one must ask: “How do I make non-authors understand how much work is involved?”

The first thing you need to say is that one simply does not write a book. Imagine their expression of shock and disbelief when you drop that on them. Most people will tell you that it must not be such a hard job to write a book. After all, thousands of people publish a book daily. Why, you probably knock out a book between the time you wake up and the time you shove the kids out the door to get them to school.

That can’t be further from the truth. Writing a book isn’t just sitting in front of a monitor and pounding out the next Great American novel. Even fiction requires research, both before you start and as you’re progressing through your manuscript. Writing a book requires hours and days of intense concentration. Robert Henilein alluded to the actual process of writing a book in his novel, “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.”

“There is no way that writers can be tamed or civilized. Or even cured. In a household of more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick. Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears or become violent. Or he may not hear you at all… and, if you shake him at this stage, he bites.”

Or, as my husband has discovered on several occasions, one does not approach the working writer quietly, out of their line of sight while they are busily pounding away on the keyboard. Such an interruption has always results in a loud shriek and then an angry tirade about disrupting the flow of a major plot point.

Another perception is that authors price their books too high, making it impossible to buy a book, thereby forcing fans to pirate sites in order to pick up the much sought after novel.

In order to put this into perspective, I would challenge all those claiming books are too expensive to think of them as entertainment. How much are you willing to pay for a nice evening out? Will you elect to purchase fast food because the restaurant you’ve been wanting to try out is too expensive? Will you wait for a movie to become available on Netflix instead of seeing it in the theater? Would you tell your children they must endure a flip phone with none of the features they so desire in a smart phone? All of those things are expensive, and yet you fail to apply the purchase of a book to the same reasoning you use to stay top of the line with other luxuries.

Reading a book has always been one of the most sought after relaxation techniques, until society connected via the internet. At a time when publishing is changing every moment, when it’s now possible for an individual to publish their book without an agent or publisher behind them, society has, for some strange reason, decided that reading is no longer an acceptable pastime.

The view of the ordinary person on how a writer exists, however, remains in the era of the 1920s. They see the “glamor” given to greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain. Most people envision writers as people living in their lonely garret, bent over a keyboard, and who are anti-social, until they must appear on talk shows to talk about their latest novel.

Look around you. Observe the woman reading every label in the grocery store. She could be a writer, reading those labels while she plots out the climax of her latest work. The man mumbling to himself isn’t having a mental breakdown necessarily. He’s figuring how to get male hero hooked up with female who won’t give him the time of day. Authors today often give up time with family. They work late into the night or through the day, deeply immersed in their latest project. A writer may scurry away to social media, posting the strangest updates, in order to see if their latest ideas will attract public attention.

One last bit of advice to remember: Care for the writer or author you know. Treat them with cautions optimism when they bewail the wall called writer’s block. Offer them a smile and chocolate (or their favorite snack) when they stumble out at three in the morning, only to realize they have to make the kids lunches and chase away dust bunnies before they can get back to their novel still in the early stages after having spent a long weekend working on it.

Remember, we as authors or writers have personal lives too. We walk the dog, clean the cat box, make meals, mow the lawn, and mostly, we observe those around us with the idea of working the people we find interesting into our next work. We are as human as you are, and to explain what we do as our chosen profession, one must understand:

One simply does not write a book.


Cyn L. said…
You said it! :-) My time in college as a history major taught my husband that the best--and frequently, the only acceptable--interruption when I was up to my eyes writing major research papers was to tiptoe in quietly, threading his way between the stacks of open books all around my desk, put a cup of tea on my desk, kiss me on the head, and thread his way out again. Happy to say that the training stuck! ;-)
KC Sprayberry said…
Exactly. My hubby and children are trained now too. It's amazing how much support they give me. But it does take training and thinking about all those other things to realize that we mostly labor in lonely splendor, only emerging to talk about what we're doing.
Bernard Foong said…
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou
I live by this rule as much as possible. Thanks for the article, KC.
KC Sprayberry said…
Thank you, Bernard. Very wise words to live by.