Are You A Dilettante?

After reading this post about what it means to be a professional writer and answering most of the questions no*, I got to thinking.  If I’m going to be a dilettante, then it seems to me I should take some pride in it.  And how can you take pride in something without rules that exclude other people?  Therefore, here is my quiz.  Ideally, you should answer “yes” to all ten questions, but I’ll cut you some slack if you plan to answer them when you’re inspired.  If you fail, then please don’t consider yourself a true dilettante.


*John Scalzi also answered most of them no.  His more serious take on the subject can be found here.  Neil Gaiman claims to have answered all of them no, but I think he’s just bragging.


1.  Do you regularly look at the next blank page of your manuscript and decide to take a nap?

2.  Do you have the strength of character to face the sober truth that, while Art is eternal, the demand for attention by your dog or cat is immediate?

3.  Do you often stare at the phone, desperately hoping for the news that some not-too-close-but-not-too-distant relative has become gravely ill and is now interestingly pale so you have an excuse to go to the hospital instead of working?

4. Does the idea of missing the next episode of “Burn Notice” or “Downton Abbey” fill you with such existential despair that the very idea of writing becomes absurd?

5. When you hear the term, “The solitary vice” do you immediately think of all the computer solitaire games you play instead of writing?

6.  Do you feel a burst of pleasure when a friend sends you a link to an amusing cat video that will occupy at least the next ten minutes of your writing day?

7.  Are your evenings spent playing poker and 4000 mile road trips to Alaska utterly unrelated to any sort of research having to do with your current project?

8. Do you consider your friends who also write or edit to be friends rather than “networking opportunities” and do you go to conventions because you enjoy going to conventions?

9. Do you spend more time figuring out how to explain what a professional writer is than writing?




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I play the drum.

35 thoughts on “Are You A Dilettante?”

  1. Yes, I’m certain that none of your future writing will ever involve long trips taken across treacherous yet hauntingly beautiful terrain for idiosyncratic reasons.

  2. 11. Did you decide to go sit in a hot tub with the lovely Jen instead of hammering out what should fill the void of #10?

  3. I can see where this concept can be applied to lots of things. Let’s see, do I want to re-coat the driveway? Change the oil in the car? Paint the ceiling? Maybe life in general?

  4. Steve: Beware. I know marching cadences where that word is used in its…ahem…proper form.

  5. @Jeff Lowrey @chaosPrime: A writer writes. An author is published. A professional author receives money for what is published (the implication being a significant portion of their income, for variable values of ‘significant’). Therefore, I am a writer. I am not an author (until spring 2013). Nor am I professional author (yet).

    Now I know some would disagree with what I have said. To those I reply:
    I’m a writer, I can’t hear you (nyah, nyah, nyah).

    This message has been brought to you by the letter Null-A and the numbers +infinity and -infinity

  6. @Paul: Well, crap! All this time I have said that I am *not* a writer, and here, by your standards, I’m an author! That just messed up my ENTIRE self image! I may never recover from the trauma now!

    @Steve: Paul said I’m an author! Should I call myself an author now, or just stick with “Backwoods Goat Farmer”?

  7. As for #5, I don’t think of computer solitaire games, but I’m not thinking of writing, either. :D

  8. I got five. Woohoo! Somewhere between 5/9 and 1/2 of the way to being a real dilettante! I feel halfway validated and everything.

  9. I can’t answer #1. I have no idea what it means. How many blank pages should my manuscript have? What happens if it has twelve and I look at the last blank page instead of the next one, and decide to take a nap? The seventh? I must know! How can I write until I know? NOW I AM STUCK ON MY NOVEL AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT.


  10. Repeating the exercise I did over at Whatever of applying these wonderful quizzes to game development, I get:

    1) Considering an empty text file to be a blank page, I’m definitely gonna say yeah.
    2) Grim hasn’t starved yet, so apparently.
    3) Awfully topical today, but not generally, no.
    4) Nah, I’m strictly into homemade, artisanal existential despair, not the mass market stuff.
    5) I never play Solitaire, so I’m going to pretend all that Skyrim time isn’t the same thing.
    6) Sadly, no. I’ll read articles right away, but it often takes me days to get around to watching a video.
    7) If only!
    8) Yup!
    9) Afraid not.
    10) YES.

    So that’s 4/10 dilettante points! I feel like I’m really getting somewhere.

  11. @CalinnG: Backgoat Woods Farmer?

    Steve, can I ask for clarification for some of these questions?
    1. What is this ‘nap’ of which you speak? Do I have to wake up to do it?
    2. Where can I sell my manuscript written by my cat walking on the keyboard?
    4a. What is “burn notice”? is that when you destroy your eviction notice in an incendiary fashion?
    4b. ditto “downtown abbey?” I don’t live downtown, do I have to travel there?
    5. I didn’t know vice could be performed in a solitary fashion. Could you explain? with pictures and/or video?
    7. I don’t know how to play poker, do I have to learn? I’ve been to Alaska on a writing trip, can I substitute another destination or must I mark that as a miss?
    8. what is this “friends” of which you speak? do I have to buy some?
    10. shouldn’t this read: “10 goto 10” ?

  12. Does it have to be Burn Notice? Is Franklin and Bash a suitable replacement?

  13. Miramon: If authors (at least historically) get paid by the word, do procrastinators get paid by the minute?

  14. “All true writers know the secret handshake.”

    Is it the same as the True Scotsman handshake or a different one?

  15. I wish there was a button where I could “like” your essay and every comment to it so far. As for the original “Are You a Writer?” I haven’t seen such self-indulgent bullshit since … well, since last night’s episode of “Longmire,” actually, but that’s another subject.

  16. cakmpls, I have noticed a severe lack of “Like” buttons on blogs and comment sections. Which is sad, really, as it provides the ability to express the feeling of “This is cool!” without adding to what, in most forums, comments sections, etc., would be another inane post of “Yeah, me too! This is cool!”

  17. I use comic sans font in all my books and my cover art makes yakuza weep. I can turn any HEA into a WTF. My love triangles make Romeo and Juliet seem like You’ve Got Mail. I edit with my eyes closed. So, yes, it’s rather obvious that I am a dildo taint.

  18. Pffft. Authors. All they do is write for money.

    I make things shiny for a living.

    . . . Seriously, though, it turns out industrial-scale cleaning is very demanding labor. I hurt -everywhere-. But at least I get to talk about my job and make Firefly references at the same time. Can’t wait for a weekend to get to write to apply these questions to my process. You know, when I get to the part in my process where I procrastinate and do such things. Oh, wait. I feel a disturbance in the force. I think I just answered ‘yes’ to something in a 10 question internet quiz.

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