Maya Spikes

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3 of the Worst Questions to Ask a Writer — And How To Answer Them


It’s the most awkward time of the year for writers: That time when you visit your family and attend various holiday parties.

The topic of what you do for a living will likely come up in some conversations as you gather with friends, family, your spouse’s coworkers, friends of friends, frenemies and anyone else in between.

Some of these conversations will be great. Sometimes we love talking about our passion, writing, with the people we love.

And then there are the other conversations. You might love writing. However, talking about it with your judgmental aunt or your cousin’s new (and nosy) boyfriend seems to temporarily suck all the joy out of writing…and maybe even life in general.

What can we writers do about this? Here are some suggestions on how to respond to a few of the worst questions to ask a writer.

1. “You’re a writer? What’s your real job?”

What you want to say: “Oh, is that a new hairstyle? What’s your real hair color?”

What you can say: (If you’re solely a full-time writer) “Writing.”

Or, (if you write part-time and have another job) “I have two jobs. Writing is one them. I also work in human resources.”

2. “Why have I never heard of you?”

What you want to say: “Well, you’re an architect/doctor/etc. Why aren’t you more successful?”

What you can say: “Every industry has different levels of success. I’m sure you understand, being an architect/doctor/etc. Sure, some architects/doctors have high-profile clients or are household names. But many architects/doctors who aren’t famous also enjoy their work while helping their clients. The same is true for writers.”

3. “Ugh! I hate reading. Books are dead anyway. Why don’t you become a teacher/accountant/mortician, etc.?”

What you want to say: “You hate reading? I can tell.”

What you can say: “Everything is not for everyone. Some people hate reading. But many other people love reading and buy e-books and traditional books. The same is true for many other industries. Some people hate sports. But many other people love playing and watching sports, and they buy sports equipment and game tickets.”

Sometimes, people (even the people you love) ask horrible questions about your writing and about other parts of your life.

You don’t have to return the favor. You can be respectful to someone who disrespects you, and still stand up for yourself and your love of writing.

Plus, if all else fails, there’s always pie. And you don’t want to answer any question with your mouth full. That would just be rude.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Stay tuned for a future blog post about great questions to ask a writer.

What is the worst question you’ve ever been asked about being a writer? What is the best question you’ve been asked about writing? Let us know the good, the bad, the funny and other interesting questions you’ve heard after telling someone you’re a writer, by leaving a comment in the comments section below.

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3 Replies

  1. Dan

    Love it — great advice and fun too!

    1. Thanks, Dan! I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

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