Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Attention nonwriting public: we don't want to talk to you about our book.
Talking to non-writers about your project is like telling a stranger about the dirty dream you had last night, except not only did you have it, but you're so proud of it you want to charge people money to read about it.
Why do non-writers care so much about a profession that has nothing to do with them?
1. They think writers are wizards. They want to see a trick.
2. Like all Americans, they believe they could be a writer, if they had enough time or took the right memoir writing class at the learning annex; talking to you is a servicable substitute.
3. They're bored and assume you can entertain them with your book idea, because all stories start out as brilliantly as the end-product they check out of the liberry on DVD.
4. They don't understand that creative people often don't talk about their process because to them, the creative process is exacly like baking a cake. From a box. Who doesn't love showing off their birthday cake? (Don't get me wrong, this is not about the cake. I am not dragging cake into this.)
So you tell them to be polite and you get that look: 'Oh. That doesn't sound anything like [insert favorite hack author].'
So what do you say when a non-writer has put you on the hot spot?
1. Rattle off technical jargon like pacing, branding, genre, ouvre, feminist menstrual journey.
2. If you have an MFA, recite the plot of The Faerie Queene or Remembrance of Things Past, as you interpreted it from the Spark Notes.
3. Retell your latest office gossip as set in 1066 England, Mordor, or a space ship, as pertains to your genre.
4. After ten seconds of listening to you, they will be feeling jealous and wish to dominate the conversation again. So, claim the book is about crochet or scrapbooking so they can naturally segue the conversation back to their own creative efforts.
5. Ask them about their kids.