Writers are weird ducks – at least as far as ‘normal’ people are concerned. Our brains are a never-ending source of people, places, ideas, stories, worlds, languages, dialects and facts – many of which don’t actually exist. Except in our heads.
And we love to research. We collect strange, trivial facts like little boys collect bugs – can’t get enough of them. And given that we spend an extraordinary amount of time alone (in our heads) we’re not particularly good at social intercourse. Read – we lack filters.
But we’re creative. And creative is fun. And we want to share the fun. Especially since we spend so much time in our heads in our little rooms making stuff up.
So it might not occur to you that some things you just don’t want to share with your friends or significant others. Like:
1. The fact that you know at least 50 different ways to kill someone. Poisons, weapons, hand to hand combat, choke holds, garrotes, tools of torture, lethal herbs, how to mimic real life heart attacks – you know them all and find them fascinating. Sure, you need to know these things because you write murder mysteries. But do you think that cute guy or gal you just started dating wants to know that you could kill them 50 different ways?
2. That they are an inspiration for a character. Now you may think this will flatter them or make them feel special. However, given human nature, chances are they will search your stories for anything that even remotely sounds like them. Or they’ll criticize you for depicting them as a bitch or a jerk or stupid or somehow incorrect and unflattering. And God help you if you break up – a lawsuit could be in the offing.
3. That ten minutes into the movie you’re watching you know who did it or how the story will end. You’re a writer, you recognize plot points, inciting incidents, red herrings and every other writer device employed to create a story. And you’re okay with that because you enjoy seeing how other writers use those devices to craft a story. Your girlfriend/boyfriend, mom, sister, friend however, is not a writer. They don’t want to know the ending. They want to be surprised. So don’t ruin it for them.
4. That basically you think for a living. Let’s face it, we write and we write a lot but before we write, we think. While we’re writing, we think. We just think all the time – working out plots, character arcs, playing what if… Whatever. And the truth is a lot more thinking hours are logged in than anything else. This will surprise and likely disappoint your non-writer friends. Because they can think and nobody pays them for it. And let’s face it, we already have to deal with people who think that writing is the same as talking and since they can talk, writing really shouldn’t be a job, right? Imagine the response to the thinking angle. Although there’s boundless evidence that many people don’t or can’t think – everyone believes they are thinkers – and brilliant ones at that.
5. That you talk to your characters – regularly. Come on, admit it. We all do it. We all talk to our characters almost as much as we talk to the ‘real’ people in our lives. It’s part of the process. But strictly speaking, talking to imaginary people likely classifies as one type of mental illness or another. And those meds are expensive. And though you get a lot of alone time in a little room, they usually won’t let you have writing implements.
6. That the character you created that they adore was once a clown with a gambling problem and a criminal record. It doesn’t matter that the character is currently a super hero who uses laughter to do good in the world. If you tell them about previous incarnations it’ll ruin it for them. They’ll never see the character the same way again. Ditto for first drafts.
7. Any idea you have for a book. Sure, there might be a few writer friends or beta readers you can run an idea by. But the average lay person will inevitably turn that conversation into an idea they always had for a book. They will then proceed to tell you all about their idea and offer it to you because they’ll never get around to writing it themselves. And heck fire, they’ll split the profits with you too. In the alternative, it may be such a good idea that your friend blabs it around and next thing you know, somebody else has written the book. Keep ideas to yourself.
8. How many books you sell/money you make. Unless you’re a NYT bestseller (in which case they’ll already assume you are a bagillionaire) keep your sales data and financial gain or loss to yourself. It only opens the door to criticism and suggestions of finding a real job or worse, advice on how you could do better.
If you keep these things to yourself you may pull off living up to the carefully crafted image of the mysterious, interesting writer that you’ve spent years creating. If you don’t ,you’ll just be Arnie’s and Mabel’s kid who lives in their basement and refuses to get a real job.
How about you? Have you told friends or family too much about your writerliness? Were they shocked, disappointed, sad? Did they point their finger at you and laugh? What do you keep to yourself as a writer? Speak your mind in the comments below.