Wednesday, May 6, 2015

People Say the Darnedest Things (When They Find Out You're a Writer) by David Rawlings

I’m fairly new to this writing caper, but I’m also not . . .

I have been writing for 35 out of my 44 years. The first phase was as a young writer with enthusiasm and time, where stories sometimes snuck in at the top of my homework. After that I was – and continue to be – a copywriter, working for 20 years crafting sentences for businesses, governments and not-for-profits to bring in cash, votes and more cash, in that order. Importantly, the copywriting enables me to put food on my family’s table, while still writing fiction.

I've had a novel unhappily simmering on the back-burner for many years. Fiction writing was always on the sideline for me; something I’d get to one day. I may have had the enthusiasm of the 10-year-old me (that folder dedicated to story lines of future books is proof of that), but it just wasn’t a focus. So this year I’ve decided to knuckle down and go back to writing from my heart and soul – and what I believe is my calling.

But now that I identify myself as a writer, I’ve found people say the darnedest things, and now that I’m concentrating more on developing my craft, I’m realizing just how far from the truth some of those comments are. Here are just a few:

“I’m going to write a book one day.”

This one has truly amazes me. Since I’ve told people I’m concentrating on my novel, I’ve heard every second person tell me they’ll write a book one day.

Apparently everyone has a book inside them and the only thing that is stopping them is the time to write it. I have found it hard not to think that this devalues the skills and talents of writers and storytellers. I don’t think the only thing stopping me from having a musical career as the next Jimi Hendrix is that I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

As a voracious reader, I’ve read some wonderful works which have left me speechless at how gifted the particular writer is. I’ve also read other novels that have trashed this myth by about page 10. So while everyone might have a novel inside of them, the real key – and true gift – is not just having a story inside of you, it’s having the patience, talent and determination to bring it out effectively. I truly respect that gift.

Maybe a novel is like an appendix. Everyone has one inside of them, but bringing it out successfully requires a certain passion few people have. Everyone else just talks about doing it.

“You’re so lucky you get to write in cafes on your laptop while you drink a lot of coffee."

Ah, Hollywood, the greatest purveyor of myths. I’ve had an endless stream of people ask me how much time I spend writing in cafés while I entertain my muse, which must be caffeine.

I wish this myth were true; I’d buy that café and make a fortune, enabling me to write more fiction. To me, cafes are too noisy. It’s hard to immerse yourself in your story and have a heart-to-heart with your characters while you’ve got a constant hum floating from nearby tables across your thinking.

I’m learning that the best place for me to write is where it's quiet. I’ve found it enables me to think, but more importantly, to listen: to God, to my characters, to my heart.

“Wow, you’re going to be rich, like JK Rowling.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this, I’d probably be earning Harry Potter-type money. I’ve learned that the only person earning JK Rowling-type money is JK Rowling. I talked to our local Writers Centre, and they know of three people who are making a living from fiction writing – and they’ve got a membership in the hundreds. I’ve published two non-fiction books (one about surviving infertility and a second on social media), and it’s amazing just how many people think because I’ve published a few books it must mean I’m loaded.

But that’s not why I write. One thing I’m learning as I embrace my writing is not to get lost in the hope of the money myth – not to expect that once my book is complete, it will be on a rocket ship to #1 on a best seller list. If anything, unraveling this myth is helping me to understand that the joy of writing can be the journey more than the destination.

So I’m still learning and being challenged to think about WHY I love writing . . . and evaluating it through the filter of how people perceive this craft. Debunking some of the false perceptions has helped me to appreciate writing for what it is, an expression of myself and a learning process.

So what about you? Have you heard some of these myths before, or what other fallacies have you heard when you bring up your passion for writing?

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, David Rawlings is a father-of-three with his own copywriting business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.

He is published in the non-fiction arena and is now focused on writing contemporary Christian fiction. These stories explore God, people, 21st century church and our modern society with humor and a satirical eye. And, in order to have more time to write, he is currently trying to find an extra day in the week . . . without much success.


  1. Somehow everyone in my family knows about the money myth. They just roll their eyes when I tell them my debut novel is going to make me famous. Great post!!

  2. Love it! Especially the part comparing a novel to an appendix. I've never heard that analogy before and it makes it seem a rarer occurrence than having a baby :-) Godspeed as you work on your novel (and become rich and famous, of course!)

  3. G'day David, great to have you on the blog.

    It always amazes me how many say they have a book in them. I like your analogy of Jimi Hendrix and music, a greta way of looking at it.

    I actually find writing the hardest thing I've done (other than parent) but that's also where the joy comes.

    Wishing you all the best with your novel. Keen to read it when you're done.

  4. Hi David,

    I'm another South Aussie from Adelaide, so great to meet you.

    I've heard the same lines too. It's funny how people assume that simply writing fiction doesn't take any particular skill. The money assumption is a good one too. People hear about JKR and her millions and imagine that's what an author may expect.

    Good on you for getting back to fiction and hope you have fun.

  5. David, great post! I'm always perplexed by money questions and people asking how much I've earned from my books. All the best with your fiction writing.

  6. Brilliant post. My favourite one comment is : Oh, you're a writer? You should write about this person that I know.

  7. I'm amazed at the people who tell me they plan to write a book, but when I ask what they are reading, they say, "Oh, I don't have time to read." How they think they can write without being readers, is more than I can understand.