civilians vs. writers


Civilians. Ahhhhhh!

Okay, there is a real problem with speaking with civilians. I forget this sometimes because I am so cocooned in this insular little world in which I only talk, mostly, to other industry people.

But. Recently. I foraged again into the real world.

Holy fuck.

Okay. I will not get upset. I will just brazenly carry on like I have not just been assaulted by the intrepid civilian spear of Zeus. I will instead do something useful. I will… print a faq. Yeah. That will be helpful. A guideline to civilians in the future speaking to writers.

These are some questions you should not ask writers, and the invariable response if you ask them, and the thought response when you ask them. This will give civilians a little depth of understanding maybe of how this all goes down.


Question One :

Civilian: Where do you get your ideas?

Writer [first thought]: 1-800-IDEA
Writer [second thought]: You were the inspiration, even though I had never met you, really, I was thinking of you — while I banged your wife.
Writer [third thought]: Should I actually try to come up with a response to this?

Writer [final statement]: Gosh, I do not know.


Question Two :

Civilian: What have you written? Anything I would know?

Writer [first thought]: Gosh, being so fucking familiar with every piece of literature, film, non-fiction, short-fiction, documentary, and well bathroom stall you have ever read or watched, let me just guess.
Writer [second thought]: Absolutely, now you guess and no points if you use the Magic Eight Ball.
Writer [third thought]: Oh fuck no, that is when I was working for Hitler and you know all that got buried — say are you Jewish?

Writer [final statement]: Gosh, I do not know.


Question Three :

Civilian: Are you produced?

*Note, this means a civilian is actually informed enough to know a lot of working Hollywood writers have worked for years in obscurity on projects not produced or released [or is a wannabe screenwriter who wants to compare almost-but-no-cigar credits but wants to know who they are jostling before going that route] but also is ill informed enough to think this is a polite opening question since really as an opening gambit it is about as subtle as asking your bank balance or what kind of car you drive.

Writer [first thought]: What the fuck?
Writer [second thought]: God no but I am hoping after I blow up Denny’s someone will pick up my personal saga.
Writer [third thought]: Are you hiring? I do not have to trot out my resume unless you are hiring you know.

Writer [final statement]: Do you know where the bathrooms are?


[okay really the funnest response to that last one is just “yes” followed by polite silence but that always evokes a little hostility and also i have been chastised for goading the civilians]


where the art work comes from :
that is from what milk

0 Responses to civilians vs. writers

  1. Dan

    So, Max…I’ve always been curious: where do you get your ideas?

  2. max

    I steal them all from this guy named Dan Faust. Wait, what was your last name again?

  3. Dan

    I have no idea who that is. But, he sounds unbelievably awesome and talented, so you probably should be stealing his ideas.

  4. All I can add to this is:

    ” So Anita, I’ll bet you got ALL of your ideas from the time when you used to embalm dead people, ha ha ha. ”

    ” No, I got the REALLY GOOD ones when I embalmed the living ones…ha ha ha ha. “

  5. I would love for you to come to DC. You would put so many shallow career focused assholes in their place.

  6. Heh, so true, Max. Going back to my brother’s wedding in Ohio last month, I was sure I was going to get all of these. Luckily I did not.

    Don’t forget the one that’s not actually a question but this *great* idea that they had for a movie once and let me tell you all about it . . .

  7. Um, since I was a journalist, doe that make me a writer, a civilian, a faux writing national guardsperson, or scum of the earth?

  8. does, not doe, a deer, a female deer . . .

  9. Hilarious. Just hilarious.

  10. max

    These days most journalists are writing fiction but you are an old school journalist and that makes you okay Frontier.

  11. For that, you can dig your Simpson heels in my back anytime . . .

  12. When are you going to tackle the “I’ve always thought I’d write a book someday” people?

    I would probably snap “well boy howdy were you wrong! What’s it like being a CGA?”

  13. max

    Small steps, Rain, small steps. [wink]

  14. It gets even better when you are a romance novelist and have sex in your novels. Sometimes the question is the same, “Where do you get your ideas?” but the leers… Sigh. The leers.

    Even best is when someone you dated once in high school corners you at a reunion and says, “You know, when you write the sex stuff, you’re thinking of me, right?”

    Not only no, but god fuck shit no.


    Which is why I am doing my best to make my new novel (which has sexy romantic bits) be something that can in no way be classified as a romance novel.

  15. max

    “Actually I was thinking about your brother.”

  16. brut

    you forgot… “When I retire, I’m going to be a writer.”

  17. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but even inane questions spawned by genuine interest are appreciated. I don’t see it as artisty class conflict, so much as the general impenetrability of other people professions: it’s hard to bridge that experiential gap, so some rudimentary fumbling is to be expected when you’re trying to build a frame of reference.

  18. max

    You are not a professional writer. To you, any interest spells genuine interest and that spells belief so is welcome. To me, I have been doing this professionally for fourteen years and these questions are not “genuine interest.” They are just mindless, thoughtless, brainless questions repeated over and over again.

  19. I guess I just can’t appreciate the terrible burden of tepid conversation. If only us civilians could understand the cruel psychic wounds our thoughtless inquiry leave…you were right to teach us our place.*

    *And that should read as gentle sarcasm. I understand the spirit of the piece, but it’s a tad patronizing.

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