Whatever You Say is Wrong

When you tell someone you’re a writer, the reactions generally range from a falsely bright “Oh, really? What do you write?” to open condescension. It’s one of those career paths people can’t seem to take seriously if you’re not already a household name. I often feel like the other person is waiting for the punch line — or for me to tell them what I really do.

Then, when you explain that you write poetry…”But nobody reads poetry!”…or that you blog…”Yeah, you and everyone else — let me tell you about my sister-in-law’s blog about her cat Schmoopy”…(Schmoopy probably has a larger readership than I do, heh.)

The thing is, when you’re a writer, whatever you say is wrong. Always.

Whatever you say is wrong?? WTF, Mel?

Yeah, I said that. And I meant it.

It’s the wrong when. It’s all been said before; you’re just reinventing the wheel. Or (sometimes and), the world isn’t ready for what you have to say. Did you have to say it right then? (Or, you know, at all?)

It’s the wrong how. The way you say things matters as much as when or what you say. Write too passively, too gently, and nobody will hear you. Your critics will call you weak and say you lack substance. Write stridently, passionately, undauntedly, and there will always be those quick to take offense. Did you have to say it that way? Your tone…

It’s the wrong why. Whatever your motivations for writing whatever it is that you write, you will be called to the carpet regularly to deal with other people’s ideas of why a writer should tackle any given topic (even if you’re writing of your own life!) vs. why you actually wrote it. Your reasons are invalid to everyone else at times, and there are always those who are only too glad to point that out. Did you really have to say it?

It’s the wrong who. Who are you to say whatever it is that you’re writing? Your topic is heartbreak? Someone else has had their heart broken a million times worse than you. How dare you consider yourself knowledgeable enough to say anything of substance about it?? Did you have to say it?

And, of course, it’s the wrong what. It absolutely does not matter what your writing style or subject is here. You will discover that there are those who would happily break your metaphorical pencil so you couldn’t write about whatever-it-is ever again. Did you have to say that?

Whatever you say is wrong.

The thing about writers is, we know that whatever we say is wrong — in a thousand ways to a million people at any given time. We are acutely aware of this. (Do you wonder why writers are such a neurotic group?)

Yeah, we know all of this. And we write anyway — because we also know that whatever we say is right.