Ten things not to say to a writer in possession of a bus pass

busTell someone you’re a writer and the first question you’ll probably encounter, once the bemused stare is out of the way, is, ‘Have I heard of you?’  Unless you’re a household name, the answer that springs to mind – and stays there – is ‘I don’t know. Have you?’  What you actually say is, ‘Probably not’, which may or may not be accompanied by an inspection of the ground, depending on your state of mind at the time. Writers are fair game, it seems, for the quaint remark and the dubious comment – the recent Twitter trend, ‘Ten things not to say to a writer’, is proof of that.  But once you reach, shall we say, a certain stage in life, there’s a whole new dimension to this phenomenon.  Believe me, I know…

The young woman with a survey on a clipboard:



She looks me up and down. ‘Put retired, then, shall we?’

The new acquaintance, on hearing you have self-published one book, got publishing contracts for two, and another about to leave the stable:

‘It is only a hobby, though, isn’t it?’

The ex-colleague, female:

‘You must miss work, but how nice you’ve found something to occupy you.  My mother knits woolly hats for sailors.’

The ex-colleague, male:

‘Ah yes, I’m going to write a book when I retire, once I’ve finished all those little jobs around the house.’

The slightly younger person:

‘That’s right,’ – smiles brightly – ‘Do these things while you’ve still got all your faculties.’

The quite-a-bit-younger person:

‘At your age you must have plenty to write about.’

The friend-who-should-know-better:

‘Did you see how much that cracked vase went for on Bargain Hunt yesterday?’

(Actually, I did, but I’m not going to tell you that.)

The window cleaner:

‘My wife spends all day on the internet, too.’

The helpful-and-encouraging person:

‘Mary Wesley didn’t get published until she was 70, you know.’ Pats me on the arm.

(Well, I beat her then, didn’t I?)

… and The Husband (dangerous territory, this):

‘Has the cat been home?’

‘No idea.’

‘But why don’t you know?  You’re not doing anything else.’

Deirdre 😉



25 thoughts on “Ten things not to say to a writer in possession of a bus pass

    • I know… the one about it being only a hobby was said to me at a wedding I went to recently and with several glasses inside me I nearly told him where to go!

  1. Oh, Deirdre! You always make me laugh and today was no exception. What a great post, and it’s all so true! I’m not quite at the bus pass stage yet (though some days I feel it) but I can well relate to these. I have been told many times, “But it’s just a hobby, isn’t it?” I spend more time on my writing career than I do on the day job! And if I hear one more time, “Oh, well, that’s how J K Rowling started out and look how she ended up!” or (with a sneer) “Going to be the next J K Rowling, are you?” I had a sarcastic comment last Christmas when I bumped into someone I know at a shopping centre. “Out spending the royalties, are we?” Grrrr! Maybe I should take up knitting woolly hats for sailors, too…;)

  2. Hahaha speaking as THAT WRITER the response I encounter the most is *peers* you don’t LOOK like a writer ….now, how do you answer that?

  3. Lots of great comments – thanks all! When I persisted with the survey girl, she ended up by saying ‘A writer? that’s unusual.’ What she meant was, unusual for somebody like me! (apparently)

  4. Deirdre, this is an utterly fabulous post! It has made me smile so much today 🙂 And how true is it?!? I had a family member say to me: ‘So come on, when are you going to get a real job?’, another mum in the school playground say ‘you’ve got 5 free days, love’ and another friend say ‘just write a dirty book, you’ll sell millions’.
    My favourite has to be your quote from the window cleaner!
    Helen J Rolfe.

  5. Cheers Helen. My mum-in-law, bless her soul, told me when I’d written the first book to put it away in the loft and the boys could publish after I was dead!

  6. Just catching up on the last week of posts and this has made me giggle, Deirdre. What a fab post. I’m several years away from a bus pass but I still found myself nodding along to those. I have had several people saying to me: “I’d like to write a book … if only I had time” and then they turn the conversation to being all about them without asking me anything about what I write, what it’s called, when it’s out and so on. I want to scream: “Time? TIME? You MAKE time! I work full time, have a family, run a Brownie pack and do a bootcamp 3 times a week. Yet I somehow find time because I couldn’t not write. Is that how you feel?” Yet I smile politely and empathise about the challenge that they’re (not really) facing xx

  7. Thanks for making me laugh. I never say I am a writer as I have never had anything published and having said it once or twice in the past I learned the hard way. I write a lot, because I have to, my characters demand it. Writing is part of me.
    I also pen Christmas poems to put into my husband’s Christmas cards for customers. I don’t rate those but people tell me they enjoy them and that is all I need. I am not a poet.
    Yes, I have a bus pass and have had one for quite a while but I am not old, I am me.
    My pet hate is…’I am going to write a book when I have the time.’
    I dislike those who put others down and as the years pass I have less patience with them!

    • Hello Ellie, if you write, you’re a writer, publication notwithstanding! I felt exactly the same though… I take people as I find them, you have to, don’t you. Good luck with your writing.

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