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Three (Passive-Aggressive) Things You Shouldn’t Say to Authors (And Things to Say Instead)

Let’s face it, for my author friends who’ve completed something (maybe it’s a book, a short story, a poem, or even your life’s work), you feel accomplished, excited——heck, you even feel like you can conquer the world. (Just me? Oh, okay.)

I like to call that my writer’s high. It’s a great feeling because what you have behind you is all of your hard work, long hours, research, blood, sweat, tears, and anything else you’ve put into your writing to get to this point. And, ahead of you, you have even greater possibilities——to push forth and become the author your aspire to be. It’s an unending cycle, but it’s a wonderful one.

Alright, alright, what’s the point?

I’m getting to it, don’t worry!

Now, maybe your first instinct is to show this work to (or at least talk about it with) someone you care about. Wonderful! Nothing feels better than reflecting on that long and laborious journey. But, just like how an author’s words can send others through a journey of emotion, others’ words can make or break the author’s inspiration or feeling of accomplishment.

It happens. You walk up to a friend to tell them about this story of yours, and after a bit of talking, you hear something discouraging out of them. Then, you don’t even want to talk about the subject at all. Now, let me say, for the most part, these are seemingly harmless statements on the friend’s side. They want to be supportive of you, so don't blame them for what they've said.

But, they’re statements that should be avoided, nonetheless.

Let’s get to a few that might not seem harmful coming from the friend but might be for the author. Of course, to be fair to the friend, I’ll explain what I think they mean to give them the benefit of the doubt. And, with every one of these, I’m going to provide a healthy alternative to make it worth the reader's while!

Now, let's begin.


1 - “Okay, but don’t forget to focus on (insert obligation)"

We’ve been there. Maybe you’re telling someone the progress of your writing and the plans you've laid out. Or, maybe you’re done with that particular piece (let’s just go with a novel for this example), and you’re telling someone about your future plans for more novels. Everything’s going great. You feel happy (don’t forget the writer’s high). But, they go ahead and say it.

“Okay, but don’t forget about this or that” or “You need to focus on other things, too."

My advice to the friend: While I know you’re trying to look out for someone or encourage them to upkeep other aspects of their lives, those are not the phrases you should be saying. They’re somewhat hurtful and can be delegitimizing for the person you’re trying to advise. Trust me, as the person writing this, I say this because those two phrases can be uninspiring and make you not want to open up about your work with others.

Maybe I want to look out for them and make sure they're doing all right. How can I do that without being hurtful?

Glad you asked!

Instead, you should try this:

“Wow, I’m happy you’re able to balance your life with your passion and other obligations.”

Of course, you don’t need it to sound so robotic, but you get the point. Make it a point to the person you’re saying this to that you’