glorious examples that I have actually heard:
“You’re just wasting your time.” – Wow. So much to the point that it pierces your guts, rips through your body, and stakes you to the nearest wall. Gee, thanks. Maybe I should just masturbate to ape pornography in my spare time, would that be more useful?
“This is great!” – Either this is praise from someone who has never read quality fiction, or it is praise from someone who HAS read quality fiction, and is trying to tell you that your work is a pile of steaming literary shit. Or, rarest of cases, you might have written some really great material, but you’ll never believe them and it will become a trunk story.
“I haven’t finished it yet.” – If you hear this, then move on. Notice there’s no praise or criticism in this statement, but the underlying meaning is ‘your stuff is so fucking boring I’ll never finish it’. Perhaps they’re just not the reading type, you tell yourself. Truth is, they might not want to hurt your feelings while hoping you’ll never give them another manuscript. Ever. Because there’s no shortage for toilet paper.
“Wow, how did you do that?” – Don’t let this one swell your ego. Though often interpreted as flabbergasted praise from someone who’s never read anything over 2,000 words, it really means ‘wow, how many hours did you flush down the shitter to write this?’. Also, this is a typical response from a sports fan that actually knows how to read, but thinks reading is a waste of time. I shit you not.
“Hey, write a story about me!” – Oh boy. We’ve all heard this one. It translates into ‘spend more time with ME rather than torturing that keyboard’ or ‘if you’re going to waste time, at least do it while thinking about ME’. Someone’s feeling lonely. And jealous enough to ‘accidently’ delete all your documents.
“I didn’t like the ending.” – They probably wanted a happy conclusion, but they can’t understand that you’re too avant-garde for that kind of nonsense. Bet they hate foreign films too; American cinema almost always has a happy ending. Ugh.
“Why do you write such dark stuff?” – First of all, my stories are not ‘stuff’. So they fucked up right there. Stuff is the junk under a teenager’s bed or the flimflam in your dad’s garage. Second, ‘dark’ material is needed, because it often sheds light on aspects of the human condition that aren’t discussed by television’s talking heads, your mother, or those little shits that kicked sand in your face on the playground. Plus it’s an excuse to feature all the blood, nudity, sex, necrophilia, clowns, and ape pornography in your fiction without looking like a complete a weirdo. Just a cool weirdo.
“If you’re a writer, why do you still have a day job?” – This is the most insulting, and also the most difficult to explain to people. If you’re a writer, then you already know, so I won’t go into detail. Eventually, I start replying that I am a masochist for a dull, banal, mundane job, or that I work there for ‘story ideas’. Sometimes I even tell them I’m in a witness protection program because I wrote something more controversial than even Salman Rushdie. Because trust me, they will never believe the truth that not every writer gets to be King, Rowling, Meyer, or Patterson. Hell, sometimes not even a Gingrich (I still see ‘1945’ clogging up used book stores).
There you have it. And remember what Momma, from ‘Throw Momma From the Train’, said: “All I hear is type, type, type, type! You sit there typing all day like a fat little pigeon.”
Yes, breath deep, and enjoy that moral support!