“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” When Oliver North wrote that piece of gold I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking about a business dinner or a writer’s life for that matter, but here we are.
Tonight I have a business dinner and it’s supposed to be a socializing event. As an independent writer it’s hard to break away from technology. Almost everything I do needs to be done on a screen of some sort and while I understand that I need my practice at hearing others out, arguing my beliefs, and plain old face-to-face socializing, that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.
Socializing as a writer is harder than you think. It requires a lot of nodding, murmurs, and humoring others. There’s always someone pitching their great idea for your next book. Someone suddenly filled with the urge to write a book and they need your advice. Someone who thinks their life would make a great book and you need to transcribe it. Really, the list goes on and on.
I can’t help but think, wouldn’t it be awesome if there were rules for socializing with a writer? You know like basic do’s and don’ts, for example at the dinner table my mother always said no politics, religion and for everyone’s sanity no sex.
I mean somethings should be obvious like never ask a writer how their books are selling unless you’re 100% certain that the answer will be, “OMG, they can’t keep them on the shelves!”
Otherwise… I’m sorry life is depressing. I will walk away momentarily hating you.
Other things are less oblivious, like the knowledge that you should never ever introduce writers of the same genre to one another. If you want to make a love connection, you might have more luck introducing a fiction writer to a nonfiction writer. They’ll have nothing in common, but no harm will be done. No bloodshed. No crazed lusting followed by a dramatic Romeo and Juliet tragedy.
But here’s one rule I can’t stress enough, when you meet a writer, ask them about their family or hobbies. Not that I don’t love when people have an interest in my work, if it’s genuine I can tell. If you’re passing time, I can also tell and it’s annoying. I’m sick of talking about what I’ve written. I normally don’t even tell the people that I’m talking to that I’m published. I don’t breathe a word of my writing skills until maybe a year into our friendship.
When it comes to anything that I am currently working on, I really don’t like openly discussing what I’m writing because normally I’m too frustrated to talk about it. Every time I’m halfway through a story I’m filled with this dread. I’m not sure I’ve got another story in me and its sending me on the brink of an identity crisis. Chances are we don’t know each other well enough to talk about it. So just don’t expect vided detail.
Another fact. If you’re a writer, than you’re probably a writer with a drinking problem. I’ve met many writers being one myself and none of them have been sober. So here’s a tip, never offer a writer a drink unless you plan on driving them home.
I love people just as much as the next person, but writers already spend so much time alone. So it’s no surprise that when we venture out into the sunshine once in a while we get a little stuck in our ways. Truth is there is a different energy you get from having a physical in-person conversation versus typing a conversation online, through text, or just dialogue between characters and that energy can be, well, energizing to the creative process.
So here I go, out into the world. I will be polite, I will be professional, and in the back of mind I will plan to kill everyone I meet.
Because when you’re a writer it’s a job perk.