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.

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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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