Every occupation has its tribulations. When a physician is introduced by his title, he or she sometimes gets the response, “Doctor? You’re a doctor? I hate to bother you, but

I’ve got this little tickle in my throat and. . .” The physician has probably encountered this before and may swiftly reply,“Please do not open your mouth and say ‘Ah’. I am a doctor of philosophy.” That usually ends that conversation.

However, when one is introduced as a writer, one has no such recourse. “A writer? You’re a writer? What kind?”

Before one can answer, the other person goes on in either one of two ways. One: “Oh my gosh, that’s wonderful. I’m a writer, too. Not a published one, actually, but I’ve got this manuscript. Actually, I’ve got it with me. Wait here.” And before Real Writer knows what is happening, Would-be Writer is back with a package as heavy as a tombstone. “My mother (or employee or best friend or next-door neighbor or wife or somebody, it doesn’t matter who) just loves this. I’d like to get your opinion.”

Would-be Writer thrusts the package into Real Writer’s hands. Real Writer staggers under the weight. “Maybe you could let me know by tomorrow. And could you be careful? It’s the only copy.” Writers deal with words. But she does not know the words to extricate herself from this situation.

Fortunately, she has figured out a way to deal with the other kind of person who is also overjoyed at meeting Real Writer for the first time. “You’re a writer?”

Then, very shyly, “I’ve had this great idea for a story.” Then Great Idea Person goes on to tell about the time he or she got stuck in the bathtub. Or bought a ghost town in the desert. Or almost got an audition to be an understudy to the understudy for Julie Andrews. Or, when Great Idea Person dreams of fiction instead of autobiography, the product is remarkably like a lot of something else out there.

She knows these Great Idea People all too well. They think they will whisper something into her ear. They expect this sentence fragment will travel to her brain, then down her arms into her fingertips. Her fingertips will fly over the computer keys and in a week (or two, if she is sluggish), she will produce a best seller. And when Great Idea People make their million dollars, they will be happy to share some unspecified amount with her.

As she said, she knows how to deal with them. “Your idea is really interesting,” she coos. “Why don’t you send me a detailed outline and I can start on it from there.”

“But I can’t write. I can’t spell.”

“Do your best. I’ll be waiting.” It never fails. Her wait goes on forever. Sometimes she doesn’t feel like having a conversation. When someone asks, “What do you do?” she will reply, “I’m a housewife.” The person who asks looks at her for a long time, then says, “Oh, you poor thing,” and walks away.

Silence is golden.

It’s almost worth writing about.



  1. Funny and true. I have one relative in particular who wants me to write “his” story. I usually say, “when I run out of ideas I’ll call you.” Hasn’t happened yet!


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