Anesa Miller

Writers’ Social Etiquette

Guilty as charged! Yes, gentle reader, I’ve committed several of these sins over the years but pledge to avoid them in future! Many thanks to multilingual author and mentor Lee Kofman for helping us all clean up our act. This fine and entertaining list was created by Lee and appeared on her  blog The Writing Life on January 21, 2015 and previously on Writers Victoria from the land down under. Enjoy —

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Even a writer is not an island. Most of us mix with other writers, either out of want or necessity. However, unsupervised encounters between writers may result in unintended injuries – external and internal. So here are some suggested rules for harm minimisation when associating with fellow scribes.

1. Don’t tell a writer suffering from writer’s block that you have never understood this concept, because for you writing is so effortless that you often feel like a medium through whom your characters speak.

2. Don’t give your work to someone to read and say “enjoy”, even if personally you find your story highly entertaining.

3. Don’t give your published (or unpublished) book as a birthday gift – even if you’re certain that mankind will be infinitely enriched by reading it.

4. Don’t ask other writers when the book they’re writing will be published, unless you are prepared for an untimely death.

5. Don’t email, tweet or facebook other writers (or anyone, for that matter) asking them to buy your book. And if you really must do so, don’t use CAPITAL LETTERS in your requests.

6. Don’t ask writers more successful than you to refer you to their agent, at least not during the first decade of your acquaintance.

7. While staying in a shared writers’ retreat, don’t suggest a night of readings, then go first, read half your novel, yawn, say you’ve had too much wine and go to bed.

8. On that last point, when going to a writers’ retreat, don’t show up with bottles of wine and finish them all by yourself.

9. Still at a retreat – don’t dominate the dinner conversation by discussing your dilemma of which publisher to choose out of the twelve fighting over your book.

10. Don’t answer questions about your book by saying “You’ll have to read the book to find out”.

11. Don’t tell memoirists that you find memoir writing self-indulgent.

12. Don’t tell novelists that contemporary novels suck.

13. Don’t tell poets anything. Of all creative species, poets live the shortest and most troubled lives – there is research to prove this. I must reinforce this point: tell poets nothing. Just listen. They need you.


Check out Lee’s new book, The Dangerous Bride, and connect with her  at her lovely website here.  Also, of course, on Twitter .


“Writers’ Social Etiquette” reposted with much gratitude.

10 thoughts on “Writers’ Social Etiquette”

  1. Courtesy counts for writers as well as other social settings. Learn to “accentuate the positive” for our fellow man and the blessings will come back to you. Thank you for these worthwhile and amusing points of etiquette.

  2. I had no idea that wine was such an essential ingredient in writerly interactions! Shouldn’t that be whisky? Or aren’t you counting poets among the writers here (item #13 notwithstanding)??
    Seriously, though, a bit of attitude-checking and ego-restraint are definitely in order among the creative set. We need to believe in our work so we fantasize about unrecognized greatness. Beware if those fantasies start to color our way of treating others!
    How do I know so much of this pitfall? “Guilty as charged,” as Anesa says.
    A fun and thought-provoking post. Good job, guys!

  3. A writing community is something I have yearned for and, once upon a time, despaired of finding. Competition, oneupmanship, and a defensive mindset often seem to swallow up our sense of common interests. I hate it when that happens! Thank you, Lee, for sharing these guidelines to help us overcome those tendencies in ourselves. “Even a writer is not an island”–so good to keep in mind!

  4. Don’t hit me.

    I do and don’t understand writer’s block. I get mine when my skill isn’t adequate for the task. There is always an underlying reason. What I don’t understand is someone who claims writer’s block as a stand alone problem and doesn’t look for the cause to fix it. Writer’s Block in and of itself doesn’t exist. It does exist as a symptom of a major problem somewhere.

    And I love #4. Best laugh of the day so far and so true.

    1. Thanks so much, Phil. Very glad you enjoyed the list! I agree that so-called writer’s block is a thorny issue and usually reflects other types of deeper blocks. Deliver us from all such problems!

  5. This. What more can I say. It’s pretty spot on and well-delivered to boot.
    As a lover of the writing community (and among them myself) I have to second the above statement about whiskey. Whiskey helps, so long as you’re sharing.
    I haven’t been to a retreat without wine yet, though. Coincidence? I think not.

    1. Very well put, Jackie. Glad you enjoyed. Thanks for stopping by and for your support of the writing community. Especially the sharing! Hope to meet you again in these pages.

  6. Thank you everyone, particularly Anesa, for your lovely comments! I’m so glad some of this stuff spoke to you and I must confess that some of these points stem from my own unfortunate experience… I used to be particularly guilty of number 12 (even though I, too, published 2 novels).

    1. But it’s so true, Lee, many of those novels do suck! Darn–there I go again!
      So glad you stopped by the blog. We clearly need much of your advice because the post continues to get nice traffic )))) Hope we can re-post another in future.

  7. Anesa, thanks a lot and I’m so pleased the post is of interest! I’ll be delighted to re-post another one, of course. Lee

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