Secondhand writing

by Pari Noskin Taichert

For many of us, the news last week was grim. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine documented the sad fact that obesity is contagious.

Ice cream eaters shuddered. Pizza purveyors quaked. Donut dunkers’ hands trembled, sloshing the coffee in their awaiting cups.

The implications are mind-boggling. Secondhand obesity threatens to change the elastic band of our society. Will we have to start avoiding overweight friends and family? Will weight loss be legislated? Will overeating become a prosecutable offense?

These questions fried my tortured mind until another shoved its way into the very core of my thoughts. What about secondhand writing? Why haven’t the researchers at Harvard and UC San Diego tackled this frightening phenomenon?

I believe, fellow Americans, that this is a true plague. Writers are everywhere now and their numbers increase daily. Don’t tell me this is just an uptick in creativity. I don’t buy it. I bet the stats are worse than obesity. One in three? Hah! Try one in two . . . or less.

My hypothesis: Like obesity, writing is contagious. Almost everyone I meet becomes "inspired" after hearing I’m a writer. It’s horrifying. Pretty soon there won’t be any readers at all, just an ever-expanding mass of people hogging cliches, using up valuable paper, taking up bandwidth on the internet to see their names in print — their bylines.

Oh, woe is me! Where will it end?

Forget global warming. At the rate this is going, there won’t be any trees left. Words will be horded and sold on the Black Market. Dictionaries will become as valuable as real diamonds. Legislation banning stories will clog our democracy and writing will become a prime target for Mob control. We’ll become victims of La Cosa Literata.

The mind freezes at the horrors awaiting our society, our culture, our world.

Have YOU noticed this health risk?

What steps are you taking to inoculate yourself against its ill effects?

13 thoughts on “Secondhand writing

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Actually, now that I’m spending a lot of time out of Los Angeles I am relieved to find that everyone breathing does NOT want to be a writer, after all. I meet lots of aspring writers at the cons, of course, but those people are actually doing something about their desire, which is commendable.

    In LA people seem to think screenplays get written by talking about them.

  2. pari

    Maybe the bug is a Western thing? It’s pervasive in NM, spreading like some kind of mild flu.

    Alex, have you read BE COOL by Elmore Leonard? Of course, it might be too spot-on, too close to what you’ve experienced about screenwriting.

    Part of meeting so many writers, and new writers, and dreamers and talkers about becoming writers, is just becoming so much more aware of this as a goal for people.

    My blog was meant to be humorous, but there’s a grain of truth.

    Since I’ve become published, I meet more and more people who use me as an example/inspiration for their own goals. Almost like, “Well, if she can do it, then so can I!”

    In reality, I encourage every single one and share whatever I’ve learned to help him or her.

  3. Mike MacLean

    Funny stuff Pari.

    But, there is a yawning chasm between those who SAY they want to be writers and those who actually get their butts in the chair and hammer the keyboard. Sometimes, when Iā€™m not so productive, I feel like the former.

    Few have any concept of how hard it is to write a decent novel, much less a concept of how hard it is to get that novel published.

    So Iā€™m not worried about dwindling paper.

  4. pari

    You’re right, of course, Mike.

    I wonder, are there really more writers or am I just noticing more and more of them because of a growing awareness?

    Which came first the writer or the . . . ?

    I think I’ll go hug a tree now.

  5. billie

    Hey, Pari,

    This post reminded me of my first writing conference. I was a bit overwhelmed at the huge attendance and taken aback by the idea that so many people were writing books.

    Then when I got to the (of course) most popular workshop on how to get an agent, it was PACKED. I sat there and felt myself merging into a sea of writers and books. Then the agent leading the workshop asked for a show of hands – how many of you have a completed ms?

    I was the ONLY ONE to raise my hand.

    There are a lot of folks talking about writing books. There are significantly less actually doing it.

    That might be a good thing – or it might just mean we’re crazy… šŸ™‚

    But happy, right??

    Monday’s tangent: Writing is on the side burner this week as our temps here in NC rise and I have horses to keep cool. And a cell phone bill with $600. worth of text messages I did not make. 12 customer svc. reps later, I called the corporate office and now have an “executive customer relations officer” handling my complaint and am thus far being treated like a queen. If YOU have cell phone issues or computer issues and need to get to the top, go to – they have all the info you need on their “turboing” page.

  6. pari

    Oh, Billie,I’m sorry about the cell phone. Of coures, I’m the person who still doesn’t have a clue how to retrieve messages.

    Re: the conference and the agent workshop

    It seems to me that so many people put the cart before the horse. Marketing seems to be their main concern rather than the day-to-day act of writing.

    BTW: I’m off the computer for three days again, beginning this morn. Will check in on Monday.


  7. Louise Ure

    Almost like, “Well, if she can do it, then so can I!”

    ALMOST like? Those are the exact words used by a former co-worker of mine.

    But no worries about the trees and dictionaries, Pari. Greasy food didn’t disappear with our secondhand obesity crisis either.

  8. Keith Raffel

    Is this 100% bad? Didn’t we all get inspired by someone who had written? What if our favorite writers had never been inspired and started writing? Lots of hours of enjoyment down the toilet. And then maybe we wouldn’t have started writing either. A world without Sasha? Unimaginable.

  9. Naomi

    Oooooo, I’m tired. Spent more than ten hours with close to 1,000 published and unpublished children’s book writers and illustrators at their national conference this past Saturday in L.A. Is writing contagious? You bet it is.

  10. B.G. Ritts

    My sole shot was to take ‘Crime 101’ from the Orange County Chapter of the Romance Writers of America so I could be ready to write back at anyone who gets too close…


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