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Writing or Talking


Raymond Coulombe

Plenty of people love the idea of being a writer. You get to keep odd hours. Then there's all that hanging around in coffee shops. Dress code is pretty wide open, but black is always a good choice. They picture themselves at parties, sipping wine and pontificating about their latest project. Not only can a writer drink on the job it's practically a requirement. Long hair and beards are fine too.

You've seen these people, the ones who talk about being a writer. They are always talking up the story they are going to write. They talk about the wonderful plot twists that nobody else has thought of. They talk about how their ideas are better that those hacks out there who actually get published. Talk. Talk. Talk.

Talking is not writing. Talking is a social activity. Writing is pretty much a solitary pursuit. Sure, writers keep odd hours. That's because the time of day isn't important to them. Their solitary pursuits slowly isolate them from the normal activities that the rest of the world partakes in.

Did you ever seen a real writer in a coffee shop? They hunch over their computer, oblivious to the world. It's possible they are in a coffee shop because their hands shake too much in the morning to brew their own coffee.

Of course writers drink. When writing, you are god. Empires rise and fall at your command. Then a writer takes a break from writing, looks around his cramped apartment and piles of overdue bills and stacks of rejection slips. You'd drink too.

Many writers are absolute bores at parties. (excepting the QM crew of course, we are the most interesting people in the room.) Writing is not talking. Some writer's pretty much forget how to talk. Also, talking to people is all first draft stuff. They are used to working over their ideas a number of times. Brilliant writers are rarely more clever than everybody else. They just work at it longer. A guy that writes great dialogue often can't speak great dialogue.

Writers dressing in black? Maybe. If a writer is really lucky, they are married and their spouse has a sense of style. If not, they are just as likely to wander off in boxer shorts, bathrobe and flip flops -that goes for both sexes.

As for long hair and beards? Proper grooming takes time and money. Neither of which the average writer has much of.

Real writers have an almost superstitious fear about talking about their next writing project. I believe that fear is based in reality. It's like a person has only so much creative energy. Talking about writing a book exhausts the energy needed to actually write the book. Most writers I know won't talk much about a project until it's at least down on paper as a first draft. Writers will talk about what they have written. That's safe. The muse has done her job and can take the rest of the day off.

So . . . don't tell me about your great story idea. Show me a first draft.

2010-02-07 09:40:55
Not a good one, any way.

2010-02-06 10:13:25
Have to disagree with the previous statement. The editorial obviously applies to both genders and is a very true statement about the difference between doing and talking about doing. Or the difference between the wannabe and the writer. To think that it somehow excludes women because of the boxer short comment (my assumption) is nit-picking in the extreme. It's also sexist. Believe it or not, tank top and boxer shorts is a uniform for some women when at home.

2010-02-02 15:38:56
And of course there never was a writer that was a woman. Try a rewrite with a little more gender parity. Other than that, an interesting read.

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