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How to Discuss Your Writing with Non-Writers

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As writers, we’re often reticent about telling non-writers what we do. Maybe it’s because we’re not like most working adults. We don’t leave our homes in the morning to head to the office. We don’t put on suits or skirts or “business casual” attire. We work odd hours with no set schedule. We don’t have regular paychecks, and we can’t refer to our co-workers because, generally speaking, we don’t have them. So what’s there to tell?

On the other hand, by not telling people what we do, we risk getting them to come to their own conclusions. Some non-writers think we write just for fun, like it’s an activity similar to gardening or pottery. Others wonder how we can spend so much time punching away at our keyboards, alone, with no formal structure. Still others don’t think anything about our writing at all, like it doesn’t really exist.

Of course, there are some non-writers who take a great interest in what we do. They want to know what we’re writing about, how they can get a copy of it, and whether we have a future project in the works. It’s nice to have those select few to discuss our writing with. But maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it’s time to spread the news to other non-writers. It might be awkward at first, but there’s a good chance we’d gain some important benefits—like new contacts, meaningful conversation, and additional supporters. Besides, there really isn’t anything to lose, other than a misperception of what we do.

So how do you go about discussing your writing with people who don’t know or wonder or ask about it? Here are five ways to start the conversation:

  1. Share a piece of writing. Are you especially proud of something you’ve recently written? Share it with non-writers. Ask if they’d like to read it and give you feedback, or describe the piece and let them know why it's special to you. Sharing your writing doesn’t just get others to notice your work; it’s also a great way to fine-tune and strengthen your writing—free of charge!

  2. Find a connection. While visiting with a non-writer, try to connect your writing to the topic at hand. If you’re discussing music, for example, tell about the piece you wrote on a famous musician or how you’d like to try your hand at composing lyrics. A conversation about difficult co-workers might be an opportunity to describe a disagreement you had with an editor.

  3. Conduct an interview. Think of a good writing idea that involves interviewing non-writer friends, family, or acquaintances. Get them involved in your project by making them a part of it. Explain what your objective is in writing the piece and why their expert opinion is important. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they’ll take an interest in your writing.

  4. Announce your successes. Don’t be shy about telling non-writers when you’ve sold an article, won a writing contest, or finished a book manuscript. These are all major feats, worth announcing and celebrating. Other people don’t hesitate expressing their recent promotion, pay raise, or kudos for a job well done; neither should you.

  5. Just say it. Sometimes, you just have to be bold and start a conversation about your writing without being provoked. Explain what you do with your time and how your writing, like any job, helps define you. Let others witness your passion and devotion toward your work.

Give the above conversation starters a try. Discussing your writing with non-writers is easier done than said—and may benefit you more than you think.

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