A few days ago, Twitter did what it does best, and invented a hashtag that stormed through the millions of interconnected devices and into our homes, offices, and study spaces. The #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter hashtag (which then turned into half a dozen other tags) was typical Twitter fare – part sarcasm, part venting, part sincerity, part honest truth.
Even writing this post, the hashtag was still churning over new tweets, and had several well-written and intelligent articles such as this one from the Huffington Post.
Many of the tweets focused on some of the ignorant and hurtful things that non-writers say to us – such as the off-hand comments based on loosely-written internet articles about the supposed plight of the written word:
#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter “No one reads anymore.” Good. I am no one.
— Briana Morgan (@brianawrites) July 28, 2015
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWhile others were directed at the more-condescending-than-helpful friends/family/strangers we all (unfortunately) know:
And of course, the most dreaded (and hated) sentence that all writers have to endure, the sheer cringe-inducing opinion that, apparently, everyone would be a writer if only they didn’t have such important lives:
“It’s so nice that you have time to write. I wish I had time to write a book.” #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter
— Shay Ray Stevens (@shayraystevens) July 28, 2015
The hashtag wasn’t just an excuse for writers to spend more time on Twitter, but an opportunity for us to vent and hopefully shed light on some of the prejudice and assumptions leveled against us.
Writing is Hard, and We Know It
I’m the first to admit that writers are a quirky bunch. We have our own groups, our own community, our own lingo. We hijack social media systems to create our own interconnected web of friends (such as #Bookstagram on Twitter, which now has over 1.3 million posts of books).
We have a unique passion, and we work in a difficult industry, one where success is often-sought and little-received. It is, at times, a depressing and difficult path to lead – and we all understand that. We are often our greatest critic, and that’s before our manuscripts have even gone out to beta readers or critique partners for the real feedback.
Every writer knows exactly what they’re in for – we don’t need other people to beat us down, because we do that to ourselves every day.
Writing is a hard business. It requires a lot of time, many late nights, a roller coast of emotions, and hopefully – just maybe – a very faint light at the end of a very long, and dark tunnel. We work hard for our passion. We dedicate endless hours to reading books on the art of writing, to discussing and bettering ourselves; we are willing to improve.
We aren’t asking for our books to be published – we’re willing to make sacrifices and improve ourselves to reach our goal.
Anywhere else in life, that kind of dedication would be admired and championed. Many writers start blogging and writing in their very early teens, and continue through into their twenties; I dabbled with writing during my teens, but it took me a few years of a university degree in an unrelated field to realize what my true passion and purpose in life was.
Respect Starts with Saying ‘We Believe In You’
Writers aren’t afforded the same respect though. We aren’t placed in the same basket of ‘self-improvement’ heroes, idolized for our efforts and bravery in the face of incredibly unlikely odds; instead, we face criticism from friends, family and society.
Many people do have supporting friends and families. But it’s very rare to find anyone – even loved ones – who don’t have their private reservations, their own hidden suspicions that it’s merely a ‘hobby’, something to be done ‘on the side.’
For the vast majority of writers, our passion is considered a ‘diversion’ – just check the hashtag and you’ll see that opinion expressed countless times over. It’s as though writing is for other people, not for us, but for people with some magical gift or ‘someone they know’ (another terrible piece of ‘advice’ that gets bandied around).
But on my post last week, I mentioned how authors – many, like Veronica Roth, are just in their early twenties – are moving into the rich lists; and that’s not even mentioning J.K. Rowling (despite some concerns about her wealth, she’s still impossibly rich).
Sure, every writer won’t become a King or a Rowling, but there are literally millions of authors in the world with thousands of loyal fans, living quite a decent life and pursuing their love of writing books.
With dedication and persistence, any writer can become a published author. The sad fact is – many writers quit long before they can get anywhere serious, all from a lack of confidence.
So, What’s It All About Then?
This all circles back to one point, again and again.
Amateur writers aren’t treated with respect.
Sure, once you become wealthy and have films made from your books, people will praise you, but for the fourteen-year-old high-school student who wants to pursue writing, or for the eighteen-year-old university student who is considering switching their degree to focus on creative writing, there’s a tough battle ahead.
Twitter responded to itself with #TenThingsToSayToAWriter, highlighting all of the positive things that writers need to hear. We aren’t asking for hourly text messages of encouragement but simply respect and support for what we believe in.
All any writer really wants is acknowledgement and support – we want people to respect the difficulty and the sacrifices of writing, and to believe in us.
Writing isn’t a hobby, but a passion – a commitment to ourselves and to this community we love so much. We’re attempting to become better people, to produce a piece of fiction that might be read around the world.
It’s not merely something we do, but something we are, and that makes it one of the most challenging – and most rewarding – of all pursuits in life.
How do you feel about being a writer? Do you think writers need to be respected more? What ways can writers help gain the recognition and support they need?
Leave a comment below, and thank you for reading!