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Ten Things You Should Never Say to an Author

Ten Things You Should Never Say to an Author

by Phil Callaway

My son is an accountant. When people ask what he does, he says, “I solve problems you didn’t know you had in ways you don’t understand.” But when people ask what I do, I wince a little, because they usually follow my answer with at least three questions or a statement I’d rather not hear.

“I’m a writer,” I say, as if apologizing for beating someone to a parking spot.

“What do you write?”


“Do you have one with you? May I have it for free?”

Here are ten other responses I’ve heard. I’m not making these up.

  1. “I have a great idea for a book. You write it, we’ll split the profits.”
  2. “Cool! But what do you do for a living?”
  3. “I should, like totally, like, write a book myself.”
  4. “I write books too. I wrote one in a week.”
  5. “That must be so much fun. I wish could just sit around and write all day.”
    I think it appropriate that I drop anchor midstream and defend myself. Writing books is the closest I will ever come to giving birth. Ask my wife. I am moody. Cranky. I snack at odd hours. I am irrational at times. Writing is slow and agonizing, like a deer moving through an anaconda. But back to our list:
  6. “I found your book in a yard sale for a quarter. You autographed it to the guy who sold it to me.”
  7. “How much money do you make a year?”
  8. “You’re an author? I have a blog.”
    Once again, let me interrupt. Blogs are great. But writing books for publishers requires that authors appear before a fastidious tribunal for approval of each semi-colon; trust me, there’s nothing bloggish about it.
  9. “There’s no way I’m telling you anything. It’ll just end up in one of your books.”
    Writing is lonely work. Mention people’s names and you’re lonelier than a porcupine with halitosis. So, you learn to seek permission of friends, to get it in writing. And if they won’t give it to you, you write novels and change their names.
  10. “Are you still a writer, or do you work now?”

Today I was discouraged thinking of these things. So, I came up with a list of ten things I love about being a writer:

  1. I can live anyplace I like. The writer has the freedom to starve almost anywhere.
  2. I can stare out windows without my spouse asking what I’m up to.
  3. A friend who’s a professional athlete retired at thirty. I haven’t developed knee problems yet—just a sore rear end.
  4. My overhead is cheap. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was written on the back of an old envelope.
  5. I can get my picture in the paper without being charged for a criminal act.
  6. I can work in my bathrobe without being charged with indecency.
  7. No heavy lifting. Except when 5,000 books arrive.
  8. I can still speak my mind long after I’m dead.
  9. I can receive notes like this one: “My toddler chewed most of your book. I need another one.” Or this one: “I’m a mother of five. I lock myself in the bathroom and read your book. When I come out, I feel like I can face the world again.”
  10. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to write almost thirty books one word at a time. My children have traveled the world with me and seen lives changed. It doesn’t get better than that.

Still, the next time someone asks what I do, I think I’ll take a cue from my son and say, “I’m an electrician. I wire for money.”

Phil is a keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. He will also be presenting a workshop The Writer’s Life: If I Can Write, You Can Write.

Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life. He’s the best-selling author of twenty-five books, including Laughing Matters, I Used to Have Answers…Now I Have Kids, Making Life Rich Without Any Money, and Family Squeeze. He hosts the daily radio program Laugh Again, which is broadcast across North America, the UK, and English-speaking Africa. Phil’s writings have been translated into Polish, Chinese, Spanish, German, Dutch, Indonesian, and English (one of which he speaks fluently). Phil’s humorous stories on family life have been featured in hundreds of magazines worldwide. But he insists that his greatest achievement was convincing his wife to marry him.

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