Cast Out the Writing Snob!

As writers, are we too quick to make the assumption that people who are non-writers simply don’t “get us”; that somehow they have absolutely no concept of what a writer’s life is about? We blog about it, maybe even whine about it, acting like the elite group we believe we’re a part of—-the poor misunderstood writer. I’m sometimes moved to wonder, does this line of thinking make us writing snobs?

Have you, dear writer, ever pondered the question: Do non-writers see this as snobbish behaviour on our part? Do non-writers look at us and wonder if we think we’re somehow better?–And do we? Be honest. Are we secretly a bit smug over the fact that were are writers/authors?

As writers, nothing pleases us more than to have another writer to talk to about our craft. That’s only natural. I’ve experienced this myself with my “gab sessions” with a few local author friends. When we get together, we always know the purpose for our meetings. We talk about our current Work in Progress (WIP), we discuss the various publishers we’ve submitted to, and what’s happening in the publishing industry, and then we whine. Yes, we sometimes commiserate, lament, grumble, and then vow to keep on going. And while all this is happening, it’s as if the rest of the world does not exist because no one understands what we writers go through except another writer. Right?

But perhaps we writers are simply kidding ourselves. Perhaps this thinking is only true on one level—the writing level, that is. Perhaps we don’t give non-writers enough credit. Perhaps they do understand part of our plight as writers, perhaps more than even they realise.

So let’s look at a few of the myths we writers tell ourselves about non-writers.

*Non-writers do not understand rejection:

Come on—-Who are we trying to kid? If you live in the world, interact with people on a regular basis and have never experience rejection than YOU’RE quite possibly in an elite group yourself. To be human is to experience rejection at one time or another, and in one form or another. It started out on the playground when we were in elementary. Maybe someone didn’t like us or didn’t want to play with us.  BUT…but.. a writing rejection is different, we writers might argue. Someone didn’t like the story I put my heart and soul into. It’s so, so personal. Well, what’s more personal than, Get away from me I don’t like you and I don’t want to play with you?  How’s that for personal? And just think, it’s said to a kid who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word rejection, let alone can figure out the reason for the rejection. Rejection is all around us, in one form or another. It is not specific only to writers. We writers need to face up to it.

*Non-writers do not understand the long wait times we writers must endure:

Really? Do we really believe that non-writers have never had to wait an excruciating long time for anything? Wow! Aren’t they special? Life is also about waiting. We wait for appointments, wait in line, we wait for a lucky break, we wait in traffic, we wait for months to hear the results of some test, we wait for our ship to come in, we wait, and wait and then wait some more…I could go on. Everyone must wait unless you have a magical lamp or a genie to grant you your every command. If you do happen to have one of those, please send me a private message, would ya? I’d be interested in hearing all about it.

*But…. we writers have a special talent:

Hello, I see many talented people around me every day. Perhaps they don’t exhibit their talent through words, but the written word is not the only way to exhibit our talents. I have friends who are musicians, crafters, artists, scrap-bookers, card-makers, gardeners, cooks, who have just as much talent, or even more, than I. My talent is no more *special* than the next person’s; my talent just happens to be writing. Being a writer is not the epitome of talent in this world. It’s just one form.

*Non-writers do not have to constantly provide the self-motivation/self discipline to get things done.

Well, that’s just silly. We all need to be our own cheering section from time to time. If we didn’t exhibit some kind of self-motivation we’d spend our days doing absolutely nothing. We’d be zombies, mindless creatures going through the motions. Maybe we’d sit and stare out the window all day. Sure it takes motivation and discipline to be a writer, but that is true for any job we undertake, especially when it is something we have to do all on our own with help from no one. Nobody can do the studying for that English exam that’s coming up but you, and I don’t know anyone who’s going to arrive at my house with a mop and broom just to help me with my housework. What will make you finish that new scarf you’re working on, or get that Christmas baking done, if you possess no motivation or self-discipline. And if you want to change jobs because you’re under-appreciated and over-worked? You got it! Motivation and discipline, is what keeps us sending out resumes in search of that perfect job.

*Non-writers do not really care about what we are writing:

I have several people in my life, non-writers that they are, who ask me what I’m working on. Sometimes, if they see something they think I might be interested in they bring it to my attention, because you just never know what might end up as fiction one day. When a writer is coming to the area to speak or sign books, some of my friends will mention it. While a non-writer might not be interested in the research I’m doing, or even how many times I’ve revised a story, they are usually anxious to hear what’s new on the publishing horizon for me. “Are you writing another book?” I get asked that one a lot. Non-writers do care. Why wouldn’t they? We are all human, all with the ability to empathize with one another, to hope for one another, and to share in our joys and triumphant.

As a writer, I’m attempting to stop thinking in terms that separates the non-writers from the writers in my life. Instead, I am willing to think in terms of what connects us together as people, what parts of our lives that we universally share. We have far more similarities than we do differences. I’m attempting to stop thinking like a writing snob and start thinking like an ordinary person who just happens to write. This does not mean that I will stop enjoying my “gab-sessions” with my writer friends, or the wonderful connections I’ve made with writers in the blogging community. It will simply make me more mindful of all the areas that my non-writing friends can relate.

Do you agree that we writers can sometimes exhibit a bit of an attitude when it comes to the non-writing population because we believe ourselves to be misunderstood by them? If you consider yourself a non-writer have you ever felt a bit inferior while in the company of a writer? 

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  1. Insightful. Unfortunately I am aware of large group of people in poet societies that feed each others egos, compliment each other’s trash, exchange complimentary reviews, buy each other’s publications to manufacture stats of readership and hold conventions and give each other awards. They sure make the rest of us think we are ignorant fools. Doesn’t fool me one bit. They create the precise atmosphere you lament.

    • Thanks for your comment, Carl. This is why I wrote the post: to see what other folks opinion is. Personally, I don’t know any poets, so what you mentioned is all new to me. I appreciate you giving your opinion, as it gives me something more to think about. That’s what I like!

  2. Wow! That was an interesting rant, Laura! :)
    I don’t know if I have attitude regarding writing, feelings of embarrassment – yes – because insecurity. I will have to remember this post when I do get published – just in case, you know.

    Yes, I have felt inferior in the company of writers, but also in awe. Guess that means I don’t consider myself to be one yet, or that I don’t rate with them.

    Great post!

    • Oh dear, was I ranting? Sorry if I sounded as though I was.

      Lynn, every beginning writer feels all the things you mentioned. That’s natural. But it took us all time to get where we are. Be persistent and eager to learn, and I’m sure you’ll get to where you want to be.

      If you feel inferior around writers than I would say, yes, it’s because you don’t yet consider yourself one. When you reach that point where you truly believe, then things will change for you. Anyone who has ever been published is exactly where you are at this moment. We kept going…and so will you. I’m sure of it. :)

      • Laura, I think you believe in me more than I do .. I usually very much hope I’ll get there .. wherever ‘there’ is. :)

        Thanks for the fairy dust. Magic just may happen one day.

        • Lynn, everyone needs someone to believe in them. :) It helps keep us going. There is nothing sadder in this world than someone who gave up on their dream because no one believed they could do it.

  3. An interesting post! I think as writers we all suffer from these feelings at one point or another, no matter how briefly. But I think it’s safe to say that everyone suffers from these feelings at some point in time, even if writing is not the cause for our lamentations on waiting, self-motivation, ego, rejection, or lack of understanding. Sometimes we all feel alone or special. That’s human! But I do agree that perhaps we should do our best to not wallow in it perpetually.

    In response to Carl’s comment, the three ladies I have frequently critique my stuff are the ones I have do it for a reason. They are not afraid to tell me “this makes no sense” or “great idea, but terrible writing, fix it” and that’s why I love them! Good feedback makes me feel great, of course, but I don’t want it unless it’s sincere! That being said, writers do have to stick up for one another to an extent. Just like lawyers, doctors, painters, etc. Anyone who shares a trade or way of life.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog, Laura. It’s a pleasure to meet you!

    • Hi Lissa. Thanks for dropping in and checking out my blog. You are so fortunate to have people in your life to tell you exactly what they think in regards to your writing. I have often thought that I wouldn’t want someone to simple LOVE everything I’d written or think it was all perfect. That perfection that I might wish for is rarely there. Improvements can always be made.

      As to your comment that writers have to stick up for one another to some extent. I do agree.We need to cheer each other on which is exactly what I try to do with the writers I know. We are a great bunch of people. :)

  4. I’m not a writing snob, but I am proud of being a writer, and secretly, I do believe I have the most special job in the world. And on days like yesterday — with the snow piling up along with the traffic jams and accidents — I feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth to be able to glance out the window while working on my column at home and not have to face the weather woes.

    I agree that many people face the same challenges we do just in different ways. However, motivation is a little different. When what you do is your livelihood, the motivation to complete a task is more important than mopping the floor or finishing that scarf. But writers aren’t alone. All entrepreneurs must have more motivation than the average human if they wish to succeed.

    Am I better than my non-writing friends? Nope. Just different.

    • No, I don’t for a moment believe that you are a writing snob, Diane, nor do I believe myself to be one. However, who am I to know how others view me? But that’s one place I’m not even going to go.

      As for motivation. writing is definitely not my lively hood. If it was I would have starved to death many years ago. I wrote for four years until I received any payment and that was $20 from a literary magazine. I was on cloud nine! Money has never been my motivation because it’s just not there. But this is me, and I can not categorize all writers the same way. I’m happy for those who garner a regular income from writing. You all rock as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Honestly, I find more snobbery exists between groups of writers than non-writers and us. Take, for instance, those that consider what they write to be “literary” and ask them what they think of commercial fiction. Listen to your average group of Canadian poets (assuming the ‘holier than thou’ attitude I see in my city and others is typical). Read what Stephen King and Anne Rice have to say about Stephenie Meyer. Look at what “chick lit” writers have struggled with in order to gain some level of respect and recognition, no matter how valuable and well-written their books may be.

    We’re so busy putting each other down that we barely realize anyone else exists! :)

    • I do think it’s unfortunate that, as writers, we do not support each other. Does it really matter if we like a certain genre? or if we’re particularly in love with someone else’s writing? Shouldn’t we support one another simply because we do understand what a writer’s life is all about, and realise just how challenging it is to be published in the first place? I don’t love every book I read, but I admire the person behind the book. It takes courage to become a published writer. I, for one, admire courage.

  6. syr ruus

     /  November 24, 2011

    Ah, but there are such wonderful advantages to being a writer:
    (I use the kingly “we”) —
    1. We can work at our craft all the time, even when we seem to be stupidly staring off into space, sleeping, walking on the beach, or pretending to watch TV.
    2. We can live in a world of our own creation — even if no one else knows about it.
    3. There is always a bit of anticipation in our lives, for along with the inevitable rejections, there is always the possibility of acceptance.
    4. The work itself is totally absorbing and at times altogether joyful. With the new technology, revising isn’t the chore it used to be in the olden days of typewriters and carbon paper, or — for the ancient masters — pen and ink. Tolstoy made his wife copy over War and Peace by hand three times!
    5. To converse with other writers is like taking flight with birds of a feather.
    6. To read other writers is to share much more than stories or viewpoints. It’s an exploration of how they use words to encompass life.
    I apologize for this lengthy reply. I am a writer. I get carried away by words and neglect my other chores. Such as preparing supper.

    • My dearest Syr. I am so very happy and pleased to be a writer. :) If I was not , we never would have met. That is where the real magic is. I love all the things you have listed and they are so true. You are always supportive of the works of other writers, you delight in their words. In some ways I think you will always be more of a “writer” than I am in that you fit into that role so much easier than I. Can hardly wait for our next “gab session.”

  7. Madison Woods

     /  November 24, 2011

    Great post. I agree with much of what you said, except in the waiting there is a small difference. All those other forms of waiting are objective. But waiting for judgment on something we’ve created is quite subjective from the author’s end and the editor’s end. And we do it over and over to ourselves because there’s no other way to get to the gratification end of the delay ;)

    Aside from that, from personal experience, it has taken a couple years for at least my children to understand what it means to me to be a writer, but it has nothing to do with writer snubbery, at least I don’t think. It has to do with labor=money perception that most people have. Very few professions will have the laborer work for days, maybe years, without seeing a monetary payoff for their labor. Most people cannot understand, unless they are also creators of an artistic sort.

    • Why yes, Madison. You make a great point. Our waiting might not even garnish us the results we’re looking for. Sounds SO unfair.

      I’m shaking my head as I read your reply. I think other artistic folks would be more inclined to understand why we put so much effort into writing with little payback. That said, there are many people who pursue artistic endeavors even though many of them do so as a hobbyist.

  8. Definitely. Writers can be snobs, and I know this because I’ve met a few. I even had a couple ask me what I write. When I said suspense thrillers, both of them smiled at me like they’d just learned I had leprosy. Then the space turned ice-cold. Lucky for me someone else changed the subject.

    • Wow, Joylene. What a horrible experience for you. I’m sure there are some who also feel that way about YA that I write, but I’ve never personally felt any stings of snobbery. Maybe I’m simply oblivious to it. Several people have mentioned that they’ve had bad experience with poets. That’s too bad because it tarnished our whole perception about an entire group of people. Although I don’t like to generalize lie that, it’s difficult not to.

  9. Oh, forgot to say “they” were poetics.

  10. I think there are snobs in every walk of life. I know I ran into them when I worked in the professional dog show world. Doesn’t it originate in a feeling of superiority? So far I haven’t encountered fellow writers like that, (and I sure hope I’m not one because I do say at every conference, “Wow, a weekend with hundreds of like-minded people who ‘get it'”), but I’m sure they’re out there.

    You give me lots to think about, Laura.

    • Yes Carol, a snob is a snob regardless of what their profession is. While it would appear that snobbery originates by a feeling of superiority, I tend to think quite the opposite, that people act snobbish to help prop up their hidden feelings of inferiority. I say this because I feel that if we are happy and comfortable where we are there is no need to think of oneself as better. Also there is room in the world for all of us no matter where i life we are.

      No, Carol, there is nothing snobbish about wanting to be around like minded people and share ideas. It’s totally natural. It helps feed our spirit.

      Glad to have given you lots to think about. That was the purpose of the post.

  11. Some great finds on Black Friday are not in retail stores. I just found you over at Christi Corbett, a dear and wonderful writer/blogger/mom and a gentle, loving soul. Since this “writer” trusts her judgement, I came here to find you Laura, and I am grateful that I did.

    I grew up with artists of different bents, in music, graphic art and fine art and photography. As the baby and the late-comer (not to mention late bloomer) I felt I had been left out of the gene pool. What I did not understand as a kid, I learned later … creativity is all around us … in the photography we become one with the image a third eye has captured, in music the sounds of cords and the magnificent variations they bring, comfort and soothe us. So no, I don’t think I am a snob about the fact that I finally discovered my “bent” and my reaction to your question is simple. My brother told me once that everyone can’t sing or perform because someone has to be in the audience … I think of all those wonderful non-writers as the readers who will one day enjoy what I have created … they will be my audience. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Laura. As always Christi’s love of other writers has brought me to another happy place :)

    • I am thrilled to meet another writer. Welcome to my blog. I love your answer to my question. There does need to be audience members, absolutely. I would also hope that all writers would keep this in mind. We can not all be writers, musicians, artists, etc. As people, we are all different. As I mentioned in some of my earlier comments, I have not come across any snobbery personally although I’m sure it does exist just as it exists in any area. Thank you for having the courage to answer this challenging question on Black Friday.. :)

  12. I was recently chatting with my violin teacher, and we began discussing writing. She was shocked to see how many similarities there are between being a professionsal musician and a writer. She had no idea how dedicated one had to be, or how determined, or that it could take years and years to produce something workable. The thing she said that stuck with me most, is that she works mainly on her own, except for rehearsals, and that although she’s not doing something outward, she loves what she does, and exudes a cofidence and calm and security that others feel and are attracted to. It’s a great thought!

  13. I’m sure there are many people who would be surprised to know just how much work goes into being a writer. Your violin teacher’s experience is much the same as yours. It goes to show that we are more alike than we realise. Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer. :)

  14. On the occasions when I’ve thought a writer has behaved snobbishly, it’s been because they’ve turned up their nose at other writers rather than at non-writers. I think when people behave in this way it’s because they are afraid: afraid of the competition and afraid that they’ve made the wrong choices in their writing career. They have to make themselves feel better about their writing and their choices by putting other writers down. The happiest, most creative people I have met are the ones that don’t waste energy putting people down but just get on with doing what they love, writing!

    • As I mentioned earlier in my comments, I have not yet come across a snobbish writer, but from what I’ve been reading it certainly does exist. I agree with you, Helen, that fear is what spurs most of us on. It is why, in any given situation, people behave in a snobbish fashion.

      “The happiest, most creative people I have met are the ones that don’t waste energy putting people down but just get on with doing what they love, writing!”—Love that line.

  15. Rarely do I discuss writing with anyone. I’m not part of a writing group, haven’t attended any conferences or workshops & don’t do book signings anymore. Boy, that sounds snobby, but I’d rather invest my (spare?) time writing (or hangin’ at the beach) than chatting with “experts” – or worse – pretending to be an expert. Am I a writer? Well, maybe not. A storyteller? Probably a more fitting description. Good post, Laura.

    • Hey Dave, so do you like the little icon there by your name? I mean is that attitude or what? I LOVE it!

      As to your comment. For many, many years I never discussed my writing with anyone except my mum who would ask me what I was working on from time to time. I think it was more from pity than anything else, or perhaps like all mums, she wanted me to know that someone was interested. Up until the time my book came out, there were many in our little community who didn’t know I was a writer. Many times, I do not feel like a real writer. When I look at those authors out there who have multiple books on the go and are off doing other writerly things, I really don’t see that as being me one day. You know what I mean? I sometimes wonder how they manage to write with all the other things they have on the go. Maybe I;m just really slow at writing.

      Yes Dave, you are certainly a writer, but if you prefer the word storyteller (a much more creative word in my book) than so be it. I hope things have slowed down for you a little and you are finding a little more time to be a “storyteller.”

      PS. We got about a foot of the white stuff here last Wednesday. It’s melting quite quickly though. How about I send you some down?

  16. Hmmmm . . . I never thought about any sort of dividing line. Everybody writes in one way or another. Some people write novels and others text. Some take writing to be an art form while others enjoy it as readers. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I don’t understand writers who get a little snobby towards “non-writers.” To each his own and may we all find our passions.

    • Thanks for dropping in C.B. I for one would like to see a world where snobbish behaviour is vanquished, never to be thought of again. I was surprised by some of the comments from those who said they had been the brunt of snobbish behaviour. Honestly, I think we should all be supportive of one another. It just makes the world a better place to be. :)

  17. I enjoyed reading your post and the following comments. I think you summed it up very well in that we should all be supportive of one another. Period. It doesn’t matter what each person is striving to do, all anyone needs is someone to come alongside and be supportive. Sounds like a perfect world to me.

    • Personally, Patti, I believe that supporting one another is one of the greatest things that we can do. No matter who we are or what we do it is always nice to have someone standing behind us. :)

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