Nine Things You Never Knew About Writers


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.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2014

Where do writers get their ideas?

Ask any writer where they get their ideas and you’re likely to get a variety of answers. Each writer has their own process, likely evolved over many years of writing and practice.

However, there are a several approaches to story idea that may help you get kick started, including:

  • What if. What if is the process of asking yourself questions geared toward fleshing out a story idea. For example; What if the perfect man arrived into our heroine’s life? He was handsome, strong, successful, funny, caring, intelligent and crazy about her but…. What if he was obsessed with numbers and had devised formulas that had to be followed in order for him to go forward with anything. He could only make business deals on the 13th or the 17th. He never went out on dates on odd-numbered days. He could only drive seven miles above or below the speed limit. This particular what if exercise might not result in a viable story idea but using what if has produced countless great story ideas for writers since writers have been writing.
  • Headlines. Reading the news, whether in newspapers, your favorite online news source or on television can give a writer many ideas. Particularly crime and mystery writers. News stories about mysterious disappearances, crimes and murders can easily inspire a mystery writer to get a story going.
  • Starting with a character. Starting with a character is my favorite way to flesh out a story. I start to think about something quirky I notice in someone then I start thinking about a character with that quirk, what kind of person is this? What is in their history that gave birth to that quirk. Who are their friends? What kind of work does this character do? Developing character almost always lends itself to an interesting story. Once you have created this character’s world it is often easy to see what type of conflict, trouble and victories he or she may experience.
  • Writing prompts. Writing prompts are popular as a means to get creative juices flowing. There are hundreds of websites that provide writing prompts including Writer’s Digest. Writing prompts can be challenging too, particularly if they are one or two word prompts.
  • Other people’s stories. As the saying goes, if I had a nickel for every time a person offered me a story idea, I’d be rich. It’s actually amazing to me how often a new acquaintance offers me a story idea when they discover I am a writer. I have to say my usual response is that since the person is so invested in the idea that they should write the story themselves – and I’ve never been offered an idea I’ve acted upon. However, even anecdotes told by friends can be inspiring, an interesting story from their childhood, or a harrying experience they’ve had or someone in their family had. Listen when friends tell stories from their lives, there may be gold in them thar hills.
  • Memories. Speaking of anecdotes – most people have dozens of their own stories, whether amusing, sad, happy and frightening. Think about your own life. Things that have happened to you and your loved ones. Is there a story to be told there? Chances are there is.

Inspiration is everywhere and if you’re a writer you should have your ears and eyes open at all times. You never know when inspiration might tap you on the shoulder and hand you a story that only you can write.

In the meantime, try the above methods to see if you can get your mind going and your keyboard smoking.

What about  you? Do you have a special method for fleshing out a story or coming up with story ideas? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2011

Why I Like Being a Writer

Writers come in all shapes and sizes and of every persuasion one can imagine. We, each of us, have our own reasons for writing too. Some absolutely must. Some are drive by little voices in their heads. Others do it for pleasure or to enable themselves to examine their thoughts objectively. Still others do it because they somehow discovered they were good at it and just decided it might be fun.

Beyond mastering format and developing skill with whatever natural skill or talent a writer has – I believe a writer’s biggest challenge is how to best handle that ‘deer in the headlights’ look that they get from others when they say, “I’m a writer,” in response to the question – “What do you do?” Apparently, the average person can’t quite compute this answer if they do not recognize your name, or haven’t seen a title of yours on Oprah’s bookclub list. The look too, begs further explanation because well, you just don’t want that person wandering off in confusion and possibly into traffic. There seems no good and simple way to answer the question though and you are often forced to stand there for several minutes trying to explain to the person (who is often a stranger) that being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean that you are James Patterson or Dr. Phil and at the same time that you are not, does not lessen your status as “Writer” by not being so.

Typically, this is an exercise in futility as truly unless they are a writer, perhaps the average person is not destined to understand. It may just be easier to say that you are a consultant or life coach because Oprah has had plenty of them on her show and they can quickly find an appropriate image based on their rapt veiwership.

Don’t even bother trying to explain it to your friends or family because in the back of their mind, they are simply hoping it’s a phase you are going through and that you will soon realize you need to get ‘serious’ and find a ‘real job’ or career and give up on all this silly making up stuff.

However, I must say I really like being a writer. I honestly can’t imagine being anything else – partly because I don’t want to imagine it and partly because I have been other things and frankly, they just aren’t that much fun. Though if I were to specify why I like being a writer I’d have to say the following gives a good idea:

1. Being a writer enables me to justify my inner child. A child that is often stubborn, tunnel-visioned and readily throws temper tantrums.

2. Being a writer doesn’t not prevent me from waiting tables or selling encyclopedias or any other activity in which I can actually make some money.

3. It’s nice to pass the time while waiting in line at Starbuck’s, listening to a strangers great idea for a book which they are happily offering to you for free.

4. It instantly explains my weird and bizarre behavior.

5. I can have children without ever having to change a diaper, have a husband without having to do his laundry and have a career in any field I can imagine that I would never be offered in the real world.

6. My compulsion to make things up is looked upon as a talent, rather than just lying.

7. Ideally, I would never have to leave my computer and conquer the outside world if I didn’t want to – nor would I ever have to wear anything other than pajamas (unless of course, Oprah booked me on her show, in which case, I’d buy a dress or something).

8. All the witty reparte and searing sarcasm I never uttered in real life are not wasted.

9. I can use a secret identity or even several, as pen names are encouraged – so that I don’t particularly don’t like my real name, I can make up a fake one that sounds really cool.

10. It’s looks really bitchin’ on business cards to just have your name (large and in flourishing font) with just your phone number and “Writer”

So…why do you like being a writer?