Writers are interesting characters. Often depicted as staring off in the distance and absent-minded, unaware of their surroundings, actually writers are some of the sharpest knives in the drawer. But make no mistake we have our peculiarities. We do things that others might not readily understand. But there is a method to our madness – after all, we’re in the business of creating whole new universes, living breathing people, plotting crimes and pondering how to get away with murder. That takes a certain set of skills.
So, if you have a friend who’s a writer or a writer in the family, the following list may interest you.
1. A writer is always writing. No matter what you see a writer doing, she is writing. She could be playing computer games, appearing to goof off. Shopping for groceries. Dropping her kids off at school. Doesn’t matter, she’s writing. Often the best writing occurs away from the computer, the notepad, or laptop. And performing mindless or routine acts often help her to find solutions she needs for a story magically come to life.
2. A writer is taking notes. You could be sitting across from her in Starbucks and engaged in a great conversation about the latest gossip, gardening techniques or God forbid politics, but she’s taking notes. She’s remembering the smell of the place, the sounds of coffee cups, espresso machines, and hum of voices; she’s noticing the color of the walls and what people are wearing. She’s making a mental note that the guy in the pink running suit would be a perfect model for her over-cautious banker in the story she’s writing. She’s listening to how you speak, your word choices, even your voice inflection and noting it down.
3. It’s a big deal to her when a writer finishes something. A story, a chapter, an outline, a whole book. She comes out of her writing space and announces that she’s just finished the first draft of her novel. A pat on the head doesn’t cut it. A high five or ‘You go girl!’ is much better. Though she works in silence and often behind closed doors, she needs praise for reaching her goals. Just like you need praise when you tell the story about slam-dunking your presentation at the office.
4. Everything is a story or a potential story to a writer. You may go to the grocery store and come home and think nothing about it. A writer goes to the grocery store and sees the subtle politics between the cashiers and bag boys. She notices what other people have in their carts and imagines possible menus from what she see. She listens in on the retired couple arguing about fat content and cholesterol. A smell, a sight, a sound can all become stories from a writer’s point of view.
5. A writer talks to her characters. Not like people talk to the little voices in their heads. Well, maybe a little bit like that. But a writer creates a character with the goal of creating a living, breathing person. Sometimes she needs to consult with the characters, read their dialogue out loud – heck even argue about how it’s the wrong point in the story for them to jump off the bridge. It’s not a mental affliction, just the process. She’s okay, really. No need to knock on the office door. She may also talk to herself but it’s pretty much the same, leave her be.
6. A writer always has more than one idea. A writer has a head jam-packed full of ideas and everywhere she turns, more ideas come to her. It’s how her mind works. This is good to know if you ask a writer for an idea about something. Be prepared, she won’t give you one idea, she’ll give you thirty.
7. If a writer is doing something weird it’s for her story. A writer deals in words, she envisions her character doing something but she can’t quite figure out how to describe it. Or perhaps she hasn’t experienced this thing – so she’ll act it out. The other night I was trying to figure out if my character could manage to get to her feet from a sitting position, if her legs were wrapped in duct tape from ankles to knees. There was only one way to figure it out. Turns out she couldn’t.
8. A writer likes being alone and likes her own company. This is not an anti-social thing. Some writers are gregarious, some are shy. But all writers are comfortable in their own skin and rarely bemoan time alone. In fact, it’s often the best time to write. To think. To create. If she wants to be alone she isn’t rejecting you, she just wants to write, or plot or do research. She’ll come find you when she’s done.
9. Writers write for you. Yes, that’s correct. Writers write to please you, to entertain you, to make you laugh, make you cry, inspire you, help you, provide an adventure. She is nothing without you except a somewhat anal individual with too much love for words.
This list of course, is by no means complete but the above may give you some insight into your writer friends. As always, feel free to add to the list in the comments below.