Identifying the specific traits that make a writer is a difficult assignment. By contrast, defining a non-writer is easy. The non-writer talks (and talks and talks) but never actually puts his fingers on the keyboard.
I’ve stopped discussing my projects with these non-writers. Why? Because the response is nearly always the same: “You know, I should write a book.” And of course, that profound statement is consistently followed by: “It’ll be a best seller.”
In a prior life (last year), I tried to help these wayward souls reconnect with the mother-ship. Below is a compilation of my attempts.
ME: What will your book be about?
Clueless in Seattle: It’s about a wizard. He goes to Rome to save Catholicism by killing the Pope—who’s turned into a vampire.
Cole Kreme: I don’t know but it’ll have lots of sex so it won’t be boring.
Ima Borin: It’ll be my life story, starting with my advanced mastery of potty training and will continue on through my fourth marriage.
Nita Klue: It’s about this mermaid. Except she doesn’t have fins and she doesn’t live in the ocean.
Olive Miya Poopa: I plan to write about how toilet paper is made. It’ll be a kid’s book.
Future Bestsellers (Multiple People/Personality): It’s about my mother (father/child/ex-husband/drill sergeant/psychiatrist). My therapist says it’ll be good to get it down on paper.
ME: What genre do you plan to write?
Morrel, Marge R.T.: Oh, I don’t write that racy stuff. I want something the entire family can read.
Drew A. Blanque: There are no Johns in my book.
Clueless in Seattle: My book will be written in English.
Ima Borin: I thought I’d just use regular paper.
ME: Have you taken any writing classes? Attended any workshops?
Paige Turner: I took four years of high school English. Since my poem won first-place in the third period “Beauty of Spring” contest, I don’t need any more classes.
Otter Noah: I don’t need any classes. My book will write itself.
Clueless in Seattle: You have to take a class to write a book? That’s just not fair.
O. Mai: Workshops? Is that for binding the book once it’s written?
ME: Do you know anything about manuscript formatting?
Clueless in Seattle: I’m not writing a manuscript, I’ll write the whole book.
Nita Klue: My editor will take care of all that stuff.
Doug A. Hole: I’ll just do a hardcover book. I’m not too fond of those computer novels.
ME: You know writing is hard work, right?
Chase N. Mattel: Nah. I’ll just use the tape-recorder on my way to Myrtle Beach. My wife can type my novel when we get home.
Heir, Hedda: How hard can it be? You think, you type, you staple the pages together.
Clueless in Seattle: Whaddya mean? Like it’ll take more than a month?
Otter Noah: Maybe for you, but my book will write itself.
ME: Do you have a publisher in mind?
Doug A. Hole: Once I finish with my book, I figure I’ll just look at the NYT Bestseller list and contact the company that has the most books on it. They’ll jump at the chance to publish me.
Missy N. Link: Well, once I go on the Today Show, that’ll take care of my publicity.
ME: So have you actually started your novel?
Heir, Hedda: No, but the entire book is in my head.
Chase N. Mattel: I plan to write it over the holidays.
Noah Deia: I haven’t started the book, but I’ve finished the forty-eight page prologue.
Liam Malone: No, but I plan to start as soon as my kid (spouse/lover/mother) starts first-grade (high school/college/drinking (okay, so no one said drinking, but they should have)).
Otter Noah: I’m in no hurry, my book will write itself.
Identifying the specific traits that make a non-writer is obviously easy. Can we back into the making of a writer by applying the opposite? If so, a writer is committed, craft-savvy, and disciplined.
In conclusion, do we try to educate the non-committed masses who think writing a book is easy? Or should we just cop out with a grin, a nod, and a "yeah, you really should write that book?"
NOTE: Actual responses have varied, but are only slightly exaggerated; names have been changed to protect the ignorant, eh . . . I mean innocent.