Miranda Rights for Writers: the Importance of Thick Skin

I am a writer. I am also an English Major. I’ve got a shiny new degree and I can analyze literature until you’re blue in the face (I’m pretty much immune by now). Although I love both roles, my loyalties lie with you brave, possibly misguided souls who (like me) find the courage and the tenacity to be writers.

So, as a classically liminal character, I am offering you this warning. I’ll offer it only once, and will refuse to take mercy on you if you fail to heed it. Because, after all, English Literature is my day job. I gotta do what I gotta do.

You have the right to stop writing. Anything you type on that page can and will–in the event of your publication–be used against you in an English classroom.

Go ahead. Laugh. You should find this funny while you can. But if you’re ever published, you may one day face a situation like this one:

*Insert nostalgic, bell-ringy music* Your book has been published. It’s also a best seller and an award-winning literary wonder. English professors across the globe are assigning it as required reading for their students.

Awesome, right? But wait–there’s more…

Your novel is about a brown mouse who meets a rare green mouse. The mice get married. They live happily ever after… until the green mouse decides to poison the brown mouse. Then a white mouse comes and puts the green mouse in prison. Of course, the brown mouse is dead.

It’s simple. Interesting. Possibly a classic noir text. That’s all there is to it, right?

WRONG.

Get ready to grow some thick skin, because what I’m about to say is not for the squeamish.

Remember that part where I said English professors were assigning your book across the globe? Well guess what, that means thousands of students must find something to say about it. The involved ones will even try to same something new and not-entirely-obvious. Somebody somewhere is going to interpret your work in ways you never imagined or desired. It’s mathematically inevitable (trust me, I have an English degree and therefore know EVERYTHING about math. How hard can that be? Numbers! Hah! I can count).

Be prepared, writers, be prepared. It’s not such a bad thing–remember, this scenario requires you to be published and excellent.

(For more tongue-in-cheek fun, view Writer’s Digest’s “Miranda Rights for Writers” [which may have been more appropriately named “Miranda Rights for Writers’ Families and Friends”]).

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