Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Could Have, Would Have

“I could write a novel if I had the time. I might not be very good at the language but I could put together a good story. I dream novels.” --Actual quote.

Perhaps I am over sensitive but these kinds of comments make my tongue bleed trying to hold back a retort. I can't help but feel like I've been letting the tannins of a good pinot roll around on the back of my tongue when someone comes along and tries to chug down the whole bottle in one go.

First, who actually has time to write? Writing is what you do instead of sleeping/eating/shopping/watching tv/doing the dishes because you can't help yourself.

Second, writing is all about the language. True, the grammar doesn't have to be perfect and the prose doesn't have to be poetry for the story to be compelling (though it does help) but you have to choose your words carefully and piece them together in a way that will make your reader not only understand what is going on, but care.

Third, dreams aren't novels. Dreams can inspire novels, they can be as vivid and complex as novels, but when you wake up and try to write them down they are full of holes. Wait, why was I so afraid to sound the strange gong? What were we doing at the monastery anyways? Why did the floating boat community we lived on have to close after dark and what did that have to do with the gong in the first place? (questions from actual dream) These holes can be filled but it takes a lot of careful thought.

I am sure that people who make such comments really could write a novel if they were willing to put the time and effort into it. It might turn out to be harder than they expected but they could do it. Still, there is one important factor that prevents them.

They haven't started one yet.

I hope I don't sound overly bitter and defensive. Do these kind of throwaway comments frustrate you at all?


  1. "Do these kinds of throwaway comments frustrate you at all?"

    Yes. And I get them from family. Sigh.

  2. Oh yes. I can't count all the times someone says, "You wrote a book? I've thought about writing a book too."

    I want to say "Yes, you THOUGHT about it. I DID it. A few times." But instead I smile and say, "Then you should do it."

  3. L.G. --It usually is family isn't it?

    Karen --Well they should. But they should also recognize that its going to be a lot more work than it sounds haha.

  4. I usually encourage these kinds of people to try it, because I figure if they're meant to do it, once they start they'll figure it out. If not, they'll either never start, or stop pretty quickly.

    Some people I genuinely do think have a good novel-- or several-- in them, like Keri. I would have encouraged her til my face was blue if she hadn't started finally writing this year.

    Most everyone else, though? Yeah. Try it. I dare you. :)

  5. Mmm, the 'if I had the time' remark gets under my skin, and I do hear it. I work a very demanding full time job, and I'm also helping family with health problems, renovating a house, maintaining a marraige and many friendships and doing all kinds of things! Nobody has the time, we're not lying around in our PJs writing! We MAKE the time!

  6. Most people are impressed when I say I'm writing a book, but I have a feeling they don't really get how much time it takes. I still don't fully understand it but at least I'm trying. I wouldn't write it if I didn't love the story I want to tell. Even if it never sees the light of day. Just sharing it with my awesome crit partners makes it worth it :).

    Aww, thanks L.T.! It's definitely HARD but I'm so glad I'm writing. Thanks for encouraging me!