Why Writers Are Cranky

I enjoyed this recent post, 14 Ways to Tick off a Writer, because many of these things have happened to me.

My deepest thought however is that writers are a cranky bunch anyway. We’re arrogant enough to think the world needs our thoughts, despite all of the things about writing that make clear how far the supply of writers exceeds the demand. Even before a writer finishes a poem or a book they’re already cranky, or if not cranky, so loaded up with a cocktail of ego, exhaustion and expectation that they can’t possibly be described as sane.

I wrote How To Write A Book in 2007 out of desperation for hearing the same questions again and again, despite my at best modest amount of writely fame. And the kicker is if you read the 1000+ comments on that post you find that many of those people didn’t bother to read the post itself, setting off the loudest and most desperate irony alarms our species has yet to invent.

I am completely aware these are luxurious frustrations. No one told me or any other writer to quit more lucrative and less frustrating professions to write. In fact most writers are surrounded by people, animals, forces of nature, signs from the gods and omens of all shapes and sizes expressing in every language known to our species that we should not be writing. When people open a word processor it should say, Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here, or, perhaps more optimistically, Enter At Your Own Risk. But sometime tells me, like warning labels on cigarettes, we all know what we’re getting into before we start. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Here’s some of my favorites from the article:

1) Go on Amazon and give the book one star because “the plastic wrapping was slightly ripped when it arrived from the seller.”

2) Ask what the new book’s about. After the writer answers, say, “Oh, that sounds exactly like that T. C. Boyle book that came out last year. Have you read that? You have to read it! Yours sounds exactly like it!”

4) Email saying you want to be a writer too, and you notice the writer lives in the same city, and you wonder if he could spare two hours sometime soon to have coffee and fill you in on how this whole writing thing works. Do not give any indication that you have ever read the writer’s work or care about it in any way. Do not address the author by name. Just cut and paste.

7) Read ten pages of the author’s book. Realize that it’s absolutely not for you: you thought it was a zombie story, and it’s actually historical fiction about Alexander Graham Bell. Go on Goodreads anyway, and give it one star for not being a zombie story.

And you should read the entire article for more.

Alternatively, you can take the same ideas and convert them for good use. It’s surprisingly easy to help authors and here’s a list of what you can do.

4 Responses to “Why Writers Are Cranky”

  1. Phil Simon

    Agreed, Scott. The fleas come with the dog. At the same time, though, writing is very cathartic. I’ve had the book bug since the first came out. There’s something innately satisfying about seeing your electronic toils become a physical object, irrespective of what others think, reviews, etc.

  2. Bill Freedman

    Thanks Scott (and Rebecca). I can’t remember the last time I truly laughed out loud while reading a blog post. With yours, I did it twice…the ego cocktail and the 1 star review for plastic wrap…both priceless.

    I’ll even give you a better compliment: I forwarded your post to my teenage daughter!

  3. Mike Nitabach

    “Be sure your pupils are dilated” was my favorite!

  4. Scott Koon

    I really liked number 10. Especially the part about making sure your friend makes sure you know they spent money to see the *sequel* to “Snakes on a Plane”.

    I mentioned to several of my friends that I was close to self-publishing my book, and have since experienced several of the 14. However, I’ve also received very interested and supportive comments too. It has been very interesting.

    Thank you for your posts. I have to say the post about designing covers was very helpful and thought provoking. My new book cover owes a lot to your post!


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