Most of the people in my local friend group and expat community know I’m a writer. I haven’t been shy on social media. I’ve reached out to the local writing group. I talk about my passion and my work online.
But I don’t usually bring it up in casual conversation unless I’m making excuses for not attending. Sorry, I need to write today, but have fun! It’s such a convenient way to reject invites without outright saying no. Though I’ve always wanted to be that bad ass bitch who says, I would, but I don’t want to.
Anywho. I was out and about with some liquid lubrication to celebrate my beautiful lady friend’s birthday when not one, not two, but three separate people at three separate times pulled me aside to have a hushed conversation cloaked in the guise of asking about my writing.
Each started the same: How’s your book going?
Once I lied and just said “good” or “fine” because at the time I was struggling (and still am) real hard with querying and the subsequent soul-crushing rejection.
Once I spoke honestly and dished the shallow summary of my feelings.
Once I just smiled and shrugged.
No matter what, each of these conversations creeped around, like a haunted doll’s head spinning 180° on its axis, to focus on the speaker’s writing.
Without fail, I was the unwilling confidante to these closeted writers. They whispered in my ear, mansplained the writing process to me, shoved their poems in my face, and used me as an outlet to either remember the good ol’ days or to “share” the writing journey with me.
I felt trapped and dirty, like I was a limp sock these people had jacked off into behind closed doors.
I wonder if this is how agents feel at cons.
I know that used feeling wasn’t what these people intended. I know they just wanted someone to understand. And I know they meant well.
But I can’t shake the flat taste in my mouth. I’m annoyed and a bit violated. What makes people lose sight of what is socially acceptable? Like did you ask if it was okay to shove your writing in my face? Did you think, hey my experience writing short stories in college 30 years ago may not apply here? Or did you wonder if maybe belittling my feelings about rejection would make me feel better?
I assume not because y’all kept doing those things all-fucking-night.
I don’t exist in this world to be your peanut gallery to relive your glory days. I don’t come out for a drink and some uninvited advice on how to go about writing my book or getting it published from someone who’s never done either. I don’t spend my nights crafting meaningless compliments to shower over unsolicited work dropped in my hands.
Believe it or not, I spend my nights writing. I do what I love and improve my craft. I might post a picture on social media, or make a status update when I reach a milestone, but I don’t demand people read or listen or like it.
Take a cue, boys (of course, they were all guys). Ask for consent before you use someone, whether friend or stranger, as a metaphorical masturbatory sock.