Jury comments on “Want to write a book? Stop talking about it.”

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Want to write a book? Stop talking about it. Entirely. That’s what author Euny Hong says.

I instantly knew what she meant — Yes! I’ve met dozens, hundreds of all-talk-no-action non-writers. When I hear “I’m going to write a book,” I don’t leap with joy. I say, “Uh huh” in a mildly interested tone.

In reverse, I feel uneasy when people ask me, “What are you working on now?” Over the years I have learned to make my fob-offs more gracious than “Butt out!” But still I squirm. It doesn’t feel right to talk about a book that is simmering in my brain. It doesn’t feel healthy. It doesn’t even feel possible.

But wait, talking about a book is not all bad

But then I thought, hang on a minute … not every writer is the same as me. (I’m enlightened that way.) And how about discussions with writer friends? How about writers’ groups? Euny Hong exempts the first and damns the writers’ group out of hand.

The article had already prompted 98 comments when I read it. Let me summarise the arguments for and against declaring your intention to write a book.

Why you mustn’t talk about your unfinished or unstarted book

  1. depletes your finite fund of creative energy
  2. tricks your brain into thinking you have done the writing
  3. demotivating
  4. hooks you on talking about writing
  5. when intentions go public, likelihood of completion drops
  6. you get bored with your own ideas
  7. you get a reputation for being someone who doesn’t follow through
  8. you should under-promise and over-deliver
  9. wasting time
  10. quitting is shameful after you have announced your goal
  11. talking turns into work: fun at the start, then it becomes a drag
  12. bragging is a jinx
  13. inspiration and motivation should come from within
  14. unnecessary
  15. exhausting, planning too much
  16. a way to procrastinate
  17. “If I get feedback, I struggle to get back to work on the piece.”
  18. “I feel pressured and lose interest if people start asking about my project.”
  19. self-sabotage
  20. the element of surprise never fails

Why it’s OK to talk about your unfinished or unstarted book after all

  1. depends who you tell: pick honest supportive people / colleagues / published writers / good critics / people who won’t suck the energy and life out of you
  2. declaring your intentions in public keeps you accountable
  3. people are not all the same
  4. it’s healthy peer pressure, and it works
  5. you create a support group who are looking for you to complete the book
  6. close family and friends need to know
  7. talking or not talking has no impact on whether you follow through
  8. be highly selective
  9. share small projects not long term ones
  10. ask yourself why you are sharing and choose what works for you
  11. share short tangible goals, e.g. finish editing this week
  12. quitting is shameful when you have announced your goal
  13. “I talk about my books all the time, and I’m a published writer”
  14. can break writer’s block, give you ideas
  15. it’s hard when you have lots of people close to you
  16. humans have a need to share especially things we are excited about
  17. you need to at first
  18. sometimes talking about it makes you picture it

Lessons for myself

  • Some people (extraverts?) like to talk about their books. Others (intraverts?) don’t.
  • Not a black-and-white choice. Do whatever works for you.
  • If deep down you don’t really want to write a book but you love to think and talk about it — that’s nice, carry on.
  • But you already write books. You do not need any advice in this department.

Want to write a book? Stop talking about it. Read the article by author Euny Hong


11 thoughts on “Jury comments on “Want to write a book? Stop talking about it.”

  1. Robyn Haynes says:

    So much information out there on this subject. I like the way you present the arguments, Rachel, but your own summation resonates with truth for me – ‘do whatever works for you’.

    1. Thanks Robyn! We all think and work in our own eccentric ways — not much point in telling a writer what to do!

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        How to be a writer 101. Firstly, do not attempt to define what a writer is apart from one who produces words that others read. But then, I have read words that don’t even make sense to me from people who are called ‘writers’. Is that me or is it them? I’m indulging in the contemplation of my navel here.

      2. Go for it! Navels are a well known source of inspiration, and not just for writers. And thanks for the tip 🙂

  2. bone&silver says:

    Yup, very interesting post, thanks.

    1. Thank you!

  3. lifecameos says:

    Very interesting post. i won’t be writing any books. It took me a while to just get started posting on a blog. In the end I decided that it was no use agonising over it,. I would just have to get started. Write and post. just do it.

    1. That’s the joy of blogging: just one post at a time, no need to structur

  4. Woops! No need to structure, plot or finish! As you say, just do it. It’s still a craft.

  5. joared says:

    I don’t think of myself as a writer since I simply blog. Hadn’t thought much about it before, but perhaps there are levels of writers. One way to look at it could be those who are paid for their words and those, like me, who aren’t, and haven’t even given much thought that anyone would pay for our words. I guess I’ve thought a person is a writer if they”ve published in the older traditional manner — but, “publishing” term now includes the internet. Is someone a writer if they say they’re a writer and are distributing their words to others who accept them?

    be levels of writing

    1. I guess Euny Hong is addressing those who think a writer is someone published in the traditional literary way. As you say, that’s not every writer’s dream. Sure you are a writer, and (I am guessing) very comfortable with your chosen path. I like that.

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