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Posted by on Sep 26, 2018 in Blog, Book Reviews, Essays, Personal | 2 comments

Lost in Translation: What We Writers Really Mean



Writing is truthtelling, but the creative and business side of writing is mostly telling lies.


I consider writing to be a noble pursuit.  It’s both selfish and selfless.

I write this for two reasons.  First, I’m fortunate to be a writer.  Second, I’m as fortunate to know many writers.

Among this creative fraternity, we may cover disparate topics and have widely different ideas about how to express a thought.  Many of us can’t even agree on the proper use of the Oxford Comma (I’m pro-).  Nonetheless, there’s a common bond which exists between all those who bravely, some might say insanely, put thoughts to paper, or type ideas into a Word Document, and then share for posterity.

All writers are bound by an unwritten code of mutual envy, curiosity, frugality, exuberance, kinkiness, and frustration.  Read those six nouns again because I spent the last 7 minutes coming up with just the right word-salad combination and could have done it in 5, except that the fucking phone rang.  That pretty much covers it.  Those of you who are writers or those who have attempted writing should be chuckling right now; the rest of you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

What this means is, writers have our own language.  We’ve all been there –wherever there is.  We’ve all done that — whatever that means.  Or, at least we wanted to be there and try that but most of the time we didn’t have enough time or money to be there and try that.

Alas, writing is truthtelling, but the creative and business side of writing is mostly telling lies.  It’s the necessary dirty lubrication needed to salve real-world machinery of money, distraction, and indifference (see how I used the Oxford Comma?).  Allow me this moment of honest grandiosity.  Here’s a tribute to my fellow writers in all your magnificent forms with a translation guide as to what we mean when we say….


Can you please try and keep it down?

Translation:  Shut the fuck up!  I just lost the perfect sentence I’ve been working on for 45 minutes!


When’s the deadline?

Translation:  Do you want it fast or do you want it good?


I’m almost done with the piece.

Translation:  I haven’t started it yet.


I need one more day.

Translation:  I need three more days.


I need one more week.

Translation:  You might have it by end of the year.


I’ve got some other things going on right now but will get to it as soon as I can.

Translation:  I’m broke.


Can I get an advance?

Translation:  I’m broke.


I applied for a job.

Translation:  I’m REALLY broke.


I’m having some trouble with the editing.

Translation:  This subject is the most boring shit I’ve ever written about.


I had a software issue. / My laptop got stolen.  / My aunt died.

Translation:  I need three more days.


My previous book almost landed on the Best-Seller list.

Translation:  My previous book almost cracked the top 100,000 on Amazon.


I need to conduct more interviews.

Translation:  No one wants to talk to me, or officially go on the record.


I need to do more research.

Translation:  I can’t find any sources to corroborate my thesis.


Another writing assignment came up.  I’ll get back to this as soon as I can.

Translation:  This assignment is so intolerable that I’ll take anything else I can get my hands on.


That’s not what I meant.

Translation:  Blame the editor.


We need more photos.

Translation:  The writing sucks.


I’m a newspaper reporter.

Translation:  I work 70 hours a week and make $29,500 a year.


I’m a novelist.

Translation:  I’m starving.


I’ve got writer’s block

Translation:  I’m not a real writer.


My dog ate the first draft.

Translation:  My dog ate the first draft.  No writer would use such a lame cliche as an excuse — so it must be true.


Finally, here’s a little gift to my fellow writers.  Feel free to use any pearls from the above.  They usually work for me.





  1. Go team Oxford comma! Now tell me that you’re a “data are” rather than “data is” writer and we’re golden.


      LOL. Well, since I’ve likely never typed either “data is” or “data are” in 1,800 columns, I’m afraid I must plead non-partisanship. Honestly, I might not have ever typed either phrase. Perhaps I should use more data so I can then get myself into trouble.


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