Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Lisette Manning.
The Life of A Writer
When it comes to meeting new people, I’ve learned that there’s something rather strange about being an author—or rather, a strange thing often happens when people find out you’re an author.
No, I’m not referring to people asking whether I know JK Rowling or people sharing their “great” book ideas, I’m talking about a sequence of events that can be predictable, yet odd.
The first thing that happens is that the person immediately asks what you write about. It’s usually a question along the lines of, “Oh yeah, what do you write about?” (Not very creative, I know, but reality typically isn’t.)
Now, that inquisitiveness isn’t the strange part. In fact, it’s pretty normal. To be expected even. I mean, if I meet someone and he/she is a musician, I’m inclined to ask what instrument(s) he/she plays or perhaps inquire as to the style of music. Or, if a person’s occupation is something that (a) doesn’t interest me at all or (b) I have no clue about, I’m likely to feign interest with a nod or other nonverbal response, while waiting for the subject to move along.
So, the strange part is often what happens after you explain what you write about. You see, once do that, the other person is instantly placed under enormous pressure—the unstated expectation that you (the author) not only expect that person to read, but that you expect that person to read your work.
If the stars are properly aligned, by which I mean that the person does read and is interested in your book, then all is well. If, however, both of the above conditions aren’t met … welcome to the Twilight Zone.
This person suddenly becomes uncomfortable (like you’ve just asked for a sizeable loan, perhaps), before blurting out something along the lines of, “Yeah … (insert nervous laugh here) … I don’t read much ... books aren’t really my thing … (another laugh) … I can’t remember the last book I read.”
I’ll never know why people feel the need to defend or explain in such a manner, but they do. Trust me, it’s uncomfortable for all parties.
And it gets worse.
Because then the person stands there (or sits—there’s no discrimination between poses and absolutely no correlation between standing or sitting and reading or not reading—although I believe it’s far easier to sit and read than it is to stand and read. But not reading is easily accomplished in any of a variety of … well, let’s move on) as an awkward silence grows, waiting for something—approval, validation, who knows?—that I can’t provide.
Actually, I do know what the person wants—for me to say, “Hey, I know what you mean.”
But I can’t say that. On one hand, there’s a part of me that finds the sentiment well, not quite insulting, but at least a bit bemusing. It’s like telling a firefighter, “Yeah … putting out fires … I’m not really into that sort of thing. I’ve got a cool lighter app on my phone, though!” or telling a doctor, “Umm … I don’t really go to doctors … I pretty much find whatever I need on the Internet.”
On the other hand, and for obvious reasons, I can never say, “Hey, I know what you mean.” How would this look on my Twitter feed?
LOL. Can’t remember the last book I read, but please read mine.
However, those aren’t even the most compelling reasons. The simple fact is that I can’t relate to the sentiment that “books aren’t really my thing.” It’s like saying, “breathing isn’t really my thing” or “I’ve forgotten who I am,” because at least one (but probably both) of those would have to be true for me to stop reading.
I don’t leave the house without a book. I go to Disney World and read while waiting in line. I do not have a DNF pile. When I was a child I used to sneak into the hallway after bedtime to read by the nightlight. The list of things I would rather do than read is very short.
Very, very short.
In case I’m not making myself clear:
If there is an afterlife and it doesn’t have a library, there will be hell to pay. (I liked that so much that I just tweeted it—April 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm!) So, yeah, it’s pretty strange when people say that they don’t read. As Han Solo said, “I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything.”
Yes, I do realize that that quote has absolutely nothing to do with my point, but I don’t care. If people can choose not to read, I can choose to utilize an unrelated quote in a blog.
Besides, one can never go wrong by referencing Star Wars …
So keep reading.
And may the Force be with you!
Posted on Wed, January 22, 2014
by Thomas Winship filed under