Google Something Clever 2.0: How to Talk to a Writer

Jul 15, 2013

How to Talk to a Writer

Summer is upon us, and with it comes increased social interaction. I don't know about you, but my summers generally consist of at least two parties a week. When being introduced to someone at a party, one often asks their new acquaintance what they do for a living. It's a nice way to pretend you're interested in the other person, and it gives you a chance to zone out while they're yakking about themselves for ten minutes.

If your new friend tells you that she is a writer, don't make assumptions. I recently met a woman who assumed that "writer" was synonymous with "biographer." Why, of all the different types of writers, would she guess that? And why would I ever choose to write about somebody else, when I'm so fascinating?

 Don't assume that we all know each other. No, I've never met Stephen King, or the guy who creates the New York Times crossword puzzles, or that food blogger from Portland that your cousin told you about. Would you assume that all doctors, dentists, nurses and veterinarians are in the same social circle?

Please don't make any guesses as to how successful I am. If you assume that I'm Internet-famous, I'll get embarrassed explaining that I'm not. Conversely, if you assume that I write what amounts to an online diary because I'm so bored and lonely staying at home, I will be insulted.

Now that you've made friends with your writer, you may be invited to interact with her on a more regular basis. To keep her around, here are a few more tips:

Do ask how her writing career is going. Keep it open-ended. A good way to phrase it is, "How is your writing career going?" A bad way to phrase it is, "Did you finish your novel yet?"

Read your writer's work. All of it. Every single thing that she writes. If a subject ever comes up that your writer has previously covered, she will look to you to see if you mention her work. Watch for steely-eyed glares and clenched teeth. This is your cue to say, "Oh, didn't you write a terrific article about that recently? Everyone, you've simply got to read it."

Don't ask your writer if she "actually makes any money doing that." If you already did, and she was kind enough to answer in the affirmative, do not ask how much. Writing is the only career that gives casual acquaintances the impression that they have the right to see your bank statements.

Compliment your writer at least twice a day. Writers subsist on a diet of coffee, ego-stroking, and little else. Try to be specific. Use as many superlatives as possible: "Your latest article was the most informative thing I've ever read! You are the most talented person in the world! And your ass is definitely not the fattest ass I've ever seen. How do you do it?"

Good luck with your new friend. I'm sure you'll take great care of her.

This post originally appeared on In the Powder Room.