Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For Entertainment Purposes Only

I've stopped explaining to people what I'm working on.  The fact is, unless you have attempted to write your own novel, you simply are not wired to understand what it entails.  It isn't my fault, nor is it your own. 

Sure, people still ask, but the majority are just being polite.  They don't really care about my book, nor are they interested in it's progress.  Which, to be perfectly honest, makes me not care a whole lot about them.  This must be why, with the exception of a handful, I have little desire to interact with non-writers.  I can't shake the vibe that certain people are waiting for me to fail.

Too many people try counseling me.  Paul, it's March.  Get your teaching applications ready!!  No.  Paul, it's great you are playing this little writing game, but you really need to think about how to make money.  What's money?  Paul, I have to tell you that I'm concerned.  I really think you should look into a stable career -  something with benefits.  Thank you; nobody ever pointed that out before.  Paul, what will you do if you fail?  Wait, I could fail?  Crap!  I have never failed at anything.  Teaching worked out perfectly, didn't it?!


On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have people who are genuinely supportive - but, bless their souls, don't understand at all.

Case in point: my parents.  I love my parents, but they are really in the dark on this one.  I give you the abridged version of our latest conversation.  Drum roll please....

Dad: Off to write your book?

Me: Yes.

Dad: Are your mom and I in the book?

Me: No.

Mom: Yea.  I bet.....

Me: No offense, but neither of you are that interesting.  I don't think it would appeal to a very large audience.

Mom:  Aren't you writing about yourself?

Me: No.  Even I wouldn't read that.  I'm definitely not interesting.

Dad: Is the dog in the book?

Me: Nooooo.

Dad: You said there was a dog in the book!

Me: A dog.  There is a dog in the book - not my dog.  It's fiction! 

Dad: You're writing fiction?  I thought you were writing about Louisville.

Me: Holy [cow]! It takes place in Louisville.  It is not about Louisville.

Dad: But Louisville's a real place.  That isn't fiction.

Me: Sometimes, as odd as this may sound, fiction stories take place in real locations.  Don't you watch CSI?

Dad: So when do I get to read it?

Me: When it's published, which may very well mean never.

Dad: Your mom and I could help edit.  We could give you suggestions.

Me: Dad, you don't read.

Dad: I read the paper.

Me:  Oh, okay then.  But family members should not critique your work.

Dad: Says who?

Me: Says everyone.

Mom: Isn't it almost done?  It's been two years.

Me: No.  The first draft is almost done.

Mom: It took you two years and all you have is the first draft?

Me: Yes.  And I don't have it yet.  I said almost done.  I still have a few chapters left.

Mom: How can that be?  You write every single day!

Me:  Yes.  I do.  Some days I write lots and lots of words.  Other days I write very few words.  And some days, I write zero words.

Mom:  Is that normal?

Me: No.  Not at all.  I obviously suck.  There is something wrong with me.  Maybe I should be evaluated.

Dad: I've been saying that for years.

-The End-

See what I mean?????


  1. Remember a long time ago when you and I discussed the fact that blatantly honest posts appeal to people?


  2. Writing is one of those professions, worse even than an aspiring musician or artist, I feel, that people from the outside will never, ever, truly understand, no matter how genuine their intentions or how hard they try.

    I had a similar conversation with a friend from home the other day on facebook: "what are your plans? what if that doesn't work? what was the point of spending 5 years at university if you're never going to use it? etc, etc." The worst part was they were genuinely *concerned* about me, as though I was an alcoholic or a scientologist, not just a humble writer doing what he loves, trying to make it work for himself in a world that is so obsessed with getting a stable job and making a tonne of money so that you can keep up with the Jones' and their picket fenced house next door.

    Pity them, Paul! Even as they pity you, pity them. And when you make it over the top and meet them again you can smile and shake their hand and laugh about it over a beer or a coffee somewhere. They mean well, but they can't understand. It's what makes our art so romantic and unique!

  3. Jordan - Yes, I remember well. And I'm rather excited you classify this as one of those posts. I kinda dig brutal honesty. (Oh, and thanks for reminding me I need to proofread BEFORE hitting 'publish'. I should have known someone would get to it before I looked it over...)

    Luke - Very well said. You get it. I've had my share of conversations like that as well, but what gets me is that nobody seems to recognize there is NO SUCH THING as a 'stable' job right now, especially for those of us in our twenties. To be perfectly honest, right now, in 2011, I think I have a better chance of getting a book published then ever finding my dream job. God knows I spent years trying to find it!

  4. Well, although I am not a writer, I do try to understand. And I can relate in some ways (although I cannot possibly imagine having the patience to do what you do. I would give up after about a day lol). I thrive under conditions when people expect little from me and I set out to prove them wrong. On the other hand, I tend to crack under pressure when I feel that people are expecting a lot from me. So, if you're anything like me-- take the "advice" of naysayers as a challenge.

    And, for the record, I went to school for longer than I care to remember and am, in fact, not utilizing that degree even though I am "working" at a "real" job. ;-) Follow your passion, wherever it may lead you. And remember what you said-- everyone means well, even if we don't know how to express it. After all, not all of us can put our thoughts into words so well!!

  5. This explains both why writers like to hang out with writers, and why we drink. :)

  6. Well said, Melissa!

    Let's all follow our passions; that's one thing both writers and non-writers can sometimes agree on ;)

  7. They thought Tramp was in the book? Hahaha.

    By the way, I try to be as supportive as I can, but I think you know I have something else on my mind right now that should be arriving any time. :)

  8. Ahh parents. I get the same way, but my friends who make the effort seem actually genuinely concerned with my writing, which is nice.

    Breakfast Every Hour

  9. I never talk about the fact that I write with people I actually know. It always leads to awkward situations. Even those who are truly genuinely interested won't get it.

    Coworker: "So you finished that draft, huh?"

    Me: "Um, what? Oh, yeah. I guess."

    Coworker: "Can I read it?"

    Me: "It's not finished."

    Coworker: "But, you just said-


    Maybe once I'm published I'll tell people. Not now.

  10. This is a prime example of why no one in my personal life knows that I write. I don't think my fragile ego could handle their rejections! Seriously, though, I'm right there with you on not wanting to discuss writing with non-writers...they just don't get it.

    Keep persevering, I say. In the words of Rob Schneider..."You can do it!"

  11. Love the conversation with the parents. I used to get that a lot; I still do when I have to patiently explain to people what being published in ebook format means. Like, "Oh, not a real book then." Sure...nothing I spent hours, days, weeks pouring my heart and soul into.

    Hang in there, bro - there's this whole community of people out there (here) that support you.

  12. Hey, since your parents can help with the editing, maybe they can help with the therapy, too...

  13. This made me laugh several times, mainly because it's so dead on true.

    I don't like to discuss my writing with family (at all) and my friends are not interested in it (and I don't press the issue).

    But the thing about success is - ok, you can go get "a real job" as people say - but what is that - Anyone who has looked at where most 20 some year olds are - would know they are doing absolute crap. The people from my hometown (Iowa) are all in lousy retail jobs, or pregnant, or still in school. All my friends from Chicago (who went to college) haven't been able to find good jobs or if they have - have been laid off. Even the ones that got a Masters degree can't find a real job... So even with the economy *getting better* it's still sucks to be a 20 or even early 30 something person trying to start a career... (and it wasn't always like that... it really wasn't)... so why not just do what you love (and ignore all the supposed rational advice)... those people might still be working at Walgreens when they're 40 or 50... you have to ask yourself what you want... and if that is to be a writer, then I think that's the smartest decision you can make.

  14. One wise prince once said "Parent's just don't understand..." Funny post. And I'm not a writer, but I got your back. I think everyone should go after their dreams. I mean mine may be a little far fetched, say, backup dancer for Janet Jackson. Buuuut, at least I'm getting back into choreographing. That's a start. And who knows, you may just see me on the VMA's at the ripe ol age of 33. ;)


  15. "What's money?" Amen. I must say, I can support Tramp being in the book. I loveith him. This post was hilarious. It's true, no job is safe. Might as well go for one you enjoy. I may not understand the stress you are going through, but here are things I do understand: procrastination, brain blockage, coffee, alcoholic beverages, ice cream, tv marathons, the need to scream. Just shoot me a call when you want to double up on any of them! - Michelle

  16. I have sooo much to say about this-all good- but I will only mention, of course, how right you are about everything. We've seen this many, many times.

    This is, perhaps, the main reason why many artist'a(writer's, singer's, dreamer's) FAIL.

    The ones that, unlike Jamie and Austin J(right on, btw) try to share their dreams with loved ones, family and friends, only to be met with TOTAL misunderstanding and the "have you found a job yet?" conversations-are the ones that have the most difficult obstacles in front of them. So when they finally hit that mark...oh, how sweet.

    Now, not ALL of us have all the negativity in the world against us, but I hope you get the gist.

    To those that mentioned that you are NOT writers: THANK YOU!!!

    "When all else fails, keep writing." Me

    "Write until you've written all you can...then write some more." Also...umm, me.

  17. That is so true! And your mini-screen-play is hillarious...so "shit my dad says" esque. It seems the only people who understand writers are other writers. The closest kin we have are avid readers. They get us because we are so interesting to them. Still, I think they have a hard time truly getting what it takes to be a writer, the hoops we have to go through, and how stressful it is to actually get through the hoops, like tweet, blog, edit, facebook, work and still find time to actually produce a product.

    Great post, Paul. Looking forward to guest blogging in May!

    Jeff Bennington
    Author of REUNION and blogger of The Writing Bomb

  18. From that exchange, yeah, you could write a book about them.
    At that point, I'd start making stuff up and mess with their heads.

  19. and they're mostly the reason we're writers in the first place.

  20. Oh, my brother, I hear you times ten! I also struggle around the non-writing crowd. I don't want them to ask about my book, because I WILL talk about it, and I know they are instantly bored. I will ALWAYS be here for you, totally understanding where you're coming from and ready with a shoulder to lean on, crit, pep talk...whatever you need:)

  21. Holy calzone, people!!! All I can say is, if you ever second guess publishing a post - POST the sucker! I wasn't sure about this one, and my average hit count nearly doubled today.

    Melissa - I KNOW you understand. You come from a family of creative risk takers, and you get it. You have been a huge part of this journey and I'm thankful for your efforts....and your eye. And I agree; naysayers can provide motivation for excellence.

    Michael - One day, I hope we can do both together. One day....

    Alex - I think we all know the feeling in some shape or form. It's good you have a support network. They are good for that extra boost.

    Matt - Good policy; wait for publication for all the writing chatter. Of course, your little scenario makes perfect sense to me....

    Jamie - I feel you, sir. At times, I wish I kept this 'little project to myself. It is so frustrating when people try to guide you, yet they so clearly have no idea what they are saying.

    Steve - You are one of the hardest working writers I know. You wear like a zillion hats, and anyone who questions what you have accomplished can be sent directly to me for a punch in the nose. It will feel more like a scratch, but you get the point. And I'm honored to be part of this community and have the support of such talented people. It's rather humbling, actually.

    Bryan - I seriously think you are onto something, my friend.

    Austin - Glad to make you laugh. And, you have an excellent point - what the heck IS a 'real job' these days? You are dead on; our age bracket is the first to be laid off in this economy. I have a Master's that has done nothing for me professionally. I even have credits beyond my Master's. It is not a good time to be 20 something and looking for work. I agree - this is the best time for us to take a chance. At least we know we are not missing some incredible opportunity, because they don't exist right now. I can go work in retail another time.

    Courtney - I KNOW you have my back. You were always all about this book since the day we met. Don't think for one second I don't remember that - or all the times you pushed me to sit down and focus. I'll be watching for you at the VMA's.

    Michelle - Yes, please. To ALL of the above. And Tramp wants me to tell you that he loves you, too. He will love you more if you bring him a bag of carrots.

    Mr. Longoria - Right on. Failure should only be defined by things we control. And, we can control one thing: whether or not we give up. The rest is in the hands of others; we shall persevere!

    Jeff - I'm not going to lie; that is a sweet compliment that has be grinning, even though I'm not worthy of being compared to such brilliance. I think in order to 'get something' you have to do it, and that goes for every profession. As you said, writing is so much more than simply writing the book.

    Alex - I like your thinking, sir. I'm brainstorming in a second...

    David - Agreed! THEY made me this way; THEY are to blame!

    Michele - I know you get it. These people have some nerve, don't they. They ask about our writing, and then they get annoyed if we answer the question with any degree of passion. But, that is they key - we HAVE the passion, and that drives us to do what we love. And I also know you are around when I need support. Thanks for being a great pal!

  22. It's really great to have other writers to talk to about writing. A few words can go a long way.

  23. Hilarious!! And oh so true!
    I was just discussing something similar last night...with my writer friends...about how we writers "get" each other. We know what it's like. We understand it...I'm happiest when I'm with other writers. And yeah, I don't like it when people ask if I'm almost finsihed with my book, either. Wow..talk about pressure! Great post, Paul Joseph!

  24. Paul - it's funny how you said that about, 'If you ever question whether you should post a post...'

    When I read this post eight minutes after it was posted yesterday, I almost posted a tweet saying, "Read this great post by Paul Joseph before he decides to delete it." Glad you kept it up, brother - the honesty of one becomes the inspiration of another.

  25. Ha, love the honesty and humor of this post. It's amusing because it's so TRUE. (Tho I feel bad for you that your parents don't "get" it.) I really hate describing my writing or my book(s) to non-reading or non-writing friends or relatives. That's why I like the writing blogosphere, as well as going to conferences where I can talk about writing all day with people who likewise want to talk about writing all day. Ah, bliss!

  26. What a laugh!

    But…only because…oh, can I relate to it.

    Reading your blogs is very encouraging because family, friends, and even other writers can be very intimidating and discouraging at times. Even their best intended advice can send us reeling into doubt, frustrations of no one really understanding what it is like, and screaming to the walls when we are alone, “No one understands!”

    Sometimes, even the successful writers can be intimidating and can make us not want them to know we are writing at all. Writing is a lonely road, unlike some of the other arts. We must take our thoughts, our daydreams along with our failures, and mold them with words in an artful manner to draw the reader into our minds, our worlds of make-believe, to a point that they forget they are reading.

    Thanks for sharing yourself…and I shared a little this morning in my own blog if you want to take a peek at it.


    Love Lucy


    word ver: wifice (I like this one)

  27. Get your parents to write a novel in a month for Nanowrimo. It will give them a whole new perspective on the novel process.

    Paul: How's your novel coming, Mom?

    Mom: Okay. I'm writing about you.

    Paul: It's supposed to be fiction, Mom.

    Dad: It is fiction.

    Paul: But Mom said it's about me.

    Dad: It is, but in the story, you have a job.

  28. It could be worse. You could be like my kids, for which I am the mom and the writer.

    Kids: When do we eat?

    Mom: Never. I have to finish this chapter.


  29. hahah so funny...it's funny because I can relate. I've had similar conversations with my dad. He STILL asks me why I don't just pursue a career in journalism... sigh

  30. Ehh. That's sounds pretty awful. I'm glad you can vent here with us because non-writer folk just don't get it.

    Also, my grandma was convinced I wrote about her in my book about a female knight. Hah, oh Grandma.

  31. oh...and I love NaNoWriMo, Beth! I wrote my latest completed novel this last November. However, I was an accidental NaNoWriMo because I went there to check it out, register to participate in the FORUMS...NOT the contest. Well, I got this, "congrats" email that I was now a participant. Talk about panic three days before the official start date.

    I had no time to even come up with an idea!

    But. I did it. It was awesome.

    And...my children are in for a surprise...because the characters are fiction, but some of the things they did were taken directly from this mom's twisted memory of when they were growing up.

    so...muuuuuwwwwwaaaah. I liked it so well, I think I will write another.

    Has anyone here been told to just think of their writing as a hobby...and not be so serious about it? I mean, really. If we say we don't care if we get published or not, just so long as we can write, who are we really fooling?

    I read somewhere (some famous author, I'm sure) that a writer writes to be read and if we don't want to be published, then we are not really writers.

    It makes my heart warm and fuzzy when I see someone reading a book in a doc's office, the dentist, or any other place. I chain myself to the chair to avoid attacking them to get them to read my books. (rolling eyes here)


    word ver: bionterc - some sort of bionic turkey?

  32. Paul - well said! If nothing else, it's simply nice to talk to someone who either is or has been in the same place.

    Becky - thank you for the kind words. I'm glad you could relate.

    Jordan - I'm rather impressed. I'd say that proves you know me rather well.

    Carol - thanks! I agree; it makes no sense yapping writing with people who don't write. They still think in HS mode - you know, when we sat down 10 PM the night before the paper was due and considered that the craft of writing. Not at this level, folks. Not even close.

    Lucinda - thanks for the kind words. If anything I post encourages someone else, I take that as a win. The good thing is, we all understand each other. That counts for something.

    Beth - I LOVED your addition. It made me laugh. Thank you! And since I started this book, I have skipped far too many meals. I don't even do it on purpose, but I know the feeling. Food comes AFTER writing.

    Lynda - Oh yes, the journalism conversation. I know it all too well. (Some people around here actually consider it to be 'creative'.)

    Anne - If I include a 'mom' character in anything, my mom will think it's her. It doesn't matter how I design the character, she will INSIST it is her. I'll never win with that one.

  33. Hahahaha! You don't suck, first of all. Second, your parents are a hoot. This is a hoot. A character who is a failed writer, dealing with parents like this, trying to evaluate his life after a failed teaching career... Wow, I could see a book starting like this and getting brownie points just because of all the struggle and blood in the writing. Paul, you have something here.

    Second, we get it. I genuinely care when you are finished because I want to read the damn thing. Get it done brother. You know how to get your butt moving on the words. Just do it, buddy. Writing is only as hard as you make it.

    They sell you 'hard,' so you have an excuse to fail. Failing makes you stay out of the market. It keeps the ones on top, on top. Get out. Who cares about the cash. Leave something behind. Get better.


    And all those naysayers and people who say 'how are you?' but really mean 'talk to the hand.' can kiss your butt. Keep kicking it man. You will get there.

    Still love the dialogue. Write just a little description, and you have a great start to a character I want to care about.

    And I do.

  34. I think you and I are in the same boat of frustration.

    Non-writers, sometimes parents, just don't understand. ;)

  35. Hey Paul...I just had to stop again and say I loved everything Draven Ames said! I think I'll come back every day and read it, as if it was said to me! I need to keep kickin' some butt, and get my book finished, too! Thanks Paul...and thanks Draven!

  36. I'm here from Becky Povich's blog and so glad to visit. Based on this post, you are truly a very good writer. I love the way you describe the frustrations we feel when we encounter people who just don't get it. The dialogue between you and your parents is precious because we can all relate to parents who care but in their misunderstanding, practical way.

    Good luck Paul. I know you'll do well.

  37. I found your blog through JM Tohline's blog, and I'm I glad I took the time to click! Very well said, and oh how true.

    It also reminds me of the other end of the spectrum. Non-writers have asked how much money I might expect to get if I EVER sell one of my books.

    I give a guestimate, that if I'm really, really lucky, MAYBE I might see $15,000.00 from a first book.

    They say, "That's a lot of money!"

    Ummm...let's see, it takes two years to write it, two years to sell it, and another year to edit it again. And then the time spent promoting it. Uggh.

    So, no, maybe $15,000.00 is not so much!! You should definitely not quit your day job if you yearn to be a published writer. LOL!

  38. One more thing: I do find that chocolate chips are easy to ingest while writing. They don't get in the way at all. I'm also beginning to wonder how many chocolate chips I eat in one year. If only I could finish that first draft.

  39. Draven - I have no words. You rock, brother. And you know I appreciate your support. I'll leave it at that.

    Christine - At least we can share our frustrations with each other. :)

    Becky - Draven is a wise, wise man. I'm lucky to have his support. And he's really good at motivating me when I start to linger (aka hang out on Twitter when there is writing to be done).

    Myrna - thanks for stopping in, and for your kind words. I appreciate the compliment!

    Donna - so true! If money motivates you, even in the slightest amount, you need to reconsider your agenda. Not to mention, you are in this for all the wrong reasons. You can't put a price on art.

    Beth - I'm more of a salt craver; the sweets are perfectly acceptable if they are placed in front of me, though I'd rather inhale a bag of chips. Now, if you were to pour the chocolate chips over a container of mint chocolate chip, that would be an entirely different story...


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