The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes
If you haven't heard that expression, I'm sure you've heard something similar.
Think about it.
The Cobbler's children have no shoes. The Plumber's pipes are always leaking.
All he does is work, work, work for a meager wage, only to come home and have people asking "Please, sir, may I have some more?" (did'ya hear my pitiful little English accent, there?)
I've come to believe it's not that the Cobbler is indifferent. It's that he has nothing left to give at the end of the day. He's been nitpicked throughout his entire way home and is spent from the journey of getting there.
When someone asks, "So what is it that you do?" I'm always careful to size them up before I answer, "I'm a writer."
Mostly, now, I just tell them, "I own my own company."
But that invariably begs their prompting, "Oh, wow! So what kind of company is it?"
Gulp. Here we go.
"I offer writing, editing, and publishing services."
"Really?" They say, and instantly their eyes roll to the side as they recall every creative idea they've ever had, every family story they've ever heard, and every push to reach their own personal goals.
And then they change. From an acquaintance/business associate/banker/grocery store clerk to looking up at me with big eyes and outstretched hands as they gulp... "Can I ask you a question?"
And invariably, they want my knowledge. My input. My business.
But they're not willing to pay for it.
I can't tell you how often I'm asked to draft letters, write prompts, help other people with their writing in any fashion... but they're not willing to pay for it.
So now when people start throwing their ideas to the open air around me, I cut them off. I tell them, for liability and copyright reasons, they really shouldn't discuss their story ideas in public. With me, or any professional writer, unless they're under contract. Or unless they know them. And trust them.
And that little bit of information seems to make them trust me more. Which makes them feel more comfortable asking for my advice. But they're not willing to pay for it.
I wouldn't dare ask the bank to put their money in my account. Or the grocer to hand over eggs and a gallon of milk.
But when you're professionally creative, that's exactly what people expect. Not enough people take into consideration that creativity comes in many forms, and a lot is through observation. I'm always watching people, listening to sounds, paying attention to body language and attitudes. For someone to blatantly throw a story idea my way is like giving a kid the keys to a candy store... and then having her arrested. It just doesn't make sense!
So here is my blanket advice to anyone seeking advice from a writer: Anyone can write. Even if you have a hard time putting words on paper. Record yourself talking. Tell yourself the story. Then write it out. If your story excites you, it's a story. Period. Share it, don't share it. But write it out. And be proud of your attempts.
If you want to be a writer, be a writer. Period.
I can't guarantee you'll earn a living at it. I can't guarantee anyone else will like it. But
if you want to be a writer, be a writer.
If you ask for anything more than that, well, that's when this Cobbler throws up a hand and says, "Sorry. I have to go take care of my children."
And Frankly, My Dear... that's all she wrote!