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Getting Serious

by Libby Malin

Ever since my first book was published (mumble-mumble years ago), I've enjoyed talking about writing. In fact, when I've done talks at bookstores, schools, or book clubs, I've happily shared with audiences my Important Writing Lessons:

  • Learning to write well will serve you well even if you don't choose to be an author.
  • If you do choose to be an author, learn all you can about the business side of the writing "industry."
  • If you do choose to be a novelist, write the darn novel.

There's more, of course, in my bag of writing advice tricks. When it comes to doling out writing info, in fact, I can talk for hours with the zeal of a missionary trying to convert the multitudes. Maybe it's because I had to learn so much on my own. I'd like to help others the way some published authors helped me, sharing advice and expertise even when they didn't have to.

So for a long time, I was hard-pressed to say no to any request to talk to somebody about writing, as long as it fit into my schedule.

There have been a few times, though, when I've regretted my willingness to be generous with my time. These include the following examples:

  • The writer who wants to get started in writing, but hasn't even finished writing a short story.
  • The writer who loves to write but doesn't want to share her stories with anyone.
  • The artist who wants to tell me his story and share what he's written and possibly even interest me in helping finish it and getting it published.
  • The teacher who wants to write but thinks she has to quit her day job to do it.

In each of these instances, I'd happily met or talked with the individuals involved, thinking they wanted me to share hard-learned lessons so they could advance their writing aspirations.

In truth, they don't really have writing aspirations if they're not, well, writing anything. Or unwilling to share that writing with anyone. Or unwilling to face the sacrifices one must make in order to pursue publication. With the exception of one or two, what they really want is for someone to listen to their ideas, and . . . well, I'm not sure. Tell them how great they are? Write the stories for them?

These incidences are rare--it's much more likely that I encounter would-be writers who are serious about their writing dreams--but they've happened enough in the past few years that I've become a bit more selective with my time. I don't jump any longer at any opportunity to help a "friend of a friend of a friend of a friend" who wants to know about the writing business. I ask a few questions first, and, if it's going to be a one-on-one meeting, I might even suggest they spring for lunch. :-)

This newfound choosiness comes from a writing lesson it's taken me awhile to absorb: if you're serious about writing, you guard your writing time. As Robin pointed out in yesterday's post, meeting deadlines means sitting down to write, write, write, even if you're not always happy with what you first put on the page.

Giving up that precious writing time to consult with someone who turns out not to be that serious about writing is a disappointment, to say the least.

Don't get me wrong. I still love talking about the writing business--but with people who really want to hear what I have to say because they're serious about writing.

Has anyone else here encountered this issue--being asked to help out folks who turn out not to be so serious about writing after all?


  1. Not yet, but then, I don't get out much...

  2. Great post Libby! Being in PR and knowing what it takes to get an author started in the business, a lot of people are surprised by the amount of work that an author will have to do, even when they have input from their publisher. I know a lot of people who want to be authors, but I know that they just think they need to write a book and that's it. It's an interesting and ever-changing industry, and I love working with people who take it seriously and will do whatever it takes!

  3. Hi Libby,

    I think most people THINK they ARE serious about writing, but don't realize they aren't. Some may realize this when they try writing over a period of time and see that it takes dedication to the craft to become a published author.

    Over my 20 years of writing I've met so many people who say "I've always wanted to write a book", and 99% of them think it would be easy if they just had the time to do it. :-)


  4. Oh, yes. Definitely. I also love the people who think they know all about writing - and proceed to tell you you don't know what you're talking about.

    I've learned - don't heckle the hecklers. I smile and wish them well.

  5. Judi,

    Oh, that's happened to me, too! Someone once went on and on to me about the book biz -- and he'd never been published and wasn't even trying to be published.

    Here's another pet peeve -- folks who tell me about a book a friend had published, and it turns out it was self-published. I have nothing against self-publishing (more power to folks who try), but it's not the same thing as what we do.

  6. Oh, yeah!!

    I once spent, at a 'friend's' request, hours researching websites to help her get started. Then, in a nonchalant manner, she told me she 'lost' the email, and could I send it all to her again.

    Well, by then I had deleted the email from my 'sent' box.

    I told her sure, and then didn't do it. But then... she wasn't really a friend, just a kinda/sorta acquaintance who was a beeyotch on wheels to most people.


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