As the cashier was ringing up my purchase, he smiled at me. "Shouldn't it be the guy buying flowers and wine for you?"
Um, thanks, dude.
OK, I wasn't really offended. I even laughed and mostly meant it. But how does he know I'm not a recent widow or a lonely woman planning to go home and guzzle the wine while composing a love note to myself to "discover" on the doorstep with the flowers in the morning?
I figure this inquiry belongs on the list of things you probably shouldn't say to most women. You know the list. It includes gems like "you're looking a little tired," and "when is the baby due?"
There's a similar list for writers. I've already shared my feelings on the "are you published?" question (go here if you missed it). Beyond that, there are several other comments I've learned to tune out, that nevertheless have the high potential to rub a writer wrong.
Any question that ends with yet. Have you finished the book yet? Have you gotten an agent yet? Have you heard from that editor yet? Has your book come out yet? Maybe it's just me, but there's something about the word yet that implies the person asking believes you will be selecting your nursing home before the task is accomplished.
I've thought about writing a book, but I just don't have time. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we all have 24 hours in a day? I know we all have varying degrees of responsibility in our lives, from family to work to cataloging our belly button lint. But every successful writer I know becomes successful by making time – often late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I takes a helluva lot more than free time to complete a manuscript. To imply that what separates those who've finished a book from those who haven't is the possession of two idle hands seems like an invitation to demonstrate the bitch-slap capabilities of said hands.
Will you read my...? I added this one to the list hesitantly, because I often do judge contests and offer critiques to newer writers. But the key word is offer. Authors get hit up over and over again to give feedback on other people's work. While it's flattering, there's just no way most of us can say yes and keep up with deadlines and commitments to existing critique partners. There are fabulous resources online for finding critique partners and beta readers. Go here if you want to hear about some of them.
Do you think you'll ever write a real book? Ah, this is a favorite among romance writers. Don't worry, I won't get on my romance soapbox again (go here if you want to see that). There's an assumption among people who don't read the romance genre that authors who write it are only doing so until they muster the skill to write a real work of literary fiction. Do other genres get this? I don't know, but I do know that according to Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2010, romance fiction generated $1.36 billion in sales in 2009 and was the largest share of the consumer market at 13.2%. It was the second top-performing category on the the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists (outpaced only by the movie tie-in category). That sounds pretty "real" to me.
Whoops. Where did this box come from, and why am I standing on it?
So that wraps up my list of things that rub writers the wrong way. Did I miss any? Have you heard any gems that make you feel especially stabby? Please share.
And don't forget to visit The Debutante Ball today where I'm blogging about my fellow Debutante Kim's new release, All I Can Handle; I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters With Autism. I had a surprising reaction to this book, so stop by and see what it was.