Why writing is like sex

In a way, writing is like sex; there are a lot more people talking about it than actually doing it.

I once had a job where I dealt with various architects on building projects. One of the architects was known to have a lively interest in Meso-American archeology. (Stick with me here: it gets better) Anyway, everyone knew about this passion of his, and several people told me, in a reverential tone. “He’s writing a book.”

Of course, I thought this was very cool and kept looking for this book. That was years ago and I’m still looking. Apparently, he either never finished the book, or never started. I have since learned that, where writing is concerned, there is often a big gap between saying and doing.

Writing is a prestigious activity to most people, a possible throwback to the dark ages when literacy was a sign of enlightenment denied to ordinary people. As a result, there are a lot more people talking about writing than actually doing it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If everyone who talks about writing were to actually be writing, the market would be even more crowded than it already is.


Still, knowing who is and who isn’t writing can be tricky. As a guide, here is a handy translator for some of the statements people make about their own literary endeavors.

“I could write a book.”

Translation: “I have a lot of experience in what I’m talking about.”

( This person will never actually write a book.)

“I’m going to write a book.”

Translation: Same as above, only with a little more emphasis.

(The chances of this person actually starting to write a book: about 1%. The chances of this person actually finishing a book: 10%)

“I’m writing/working on a book.”

Translation: This person may actually be writing a book, or may be just trying to come off as an authority on whatever he was just talking about.

(The chances of this person actually writing/working on a book: 60%. The chances of this person actually finishing a book: 20%.)

“I wrote a book.”

Translation: “I have written a book. It may or may not have been published.”

(Unless the person is a brazen liar, they have actually completed a book. Congratulations. Although one person who made this claim actually showed me the book. It was about 40 handwritten pages on notebook paper.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go; I’m writing/working on a book.

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