15 Facts About Writers-What We Wish You Knew About Us

We all know that stereotype that comes to mind when you think of a writer. It’s that mysterious individual that stays shut up in their home with a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate, in my case, since I don’t drink coffee). We don’t change out of our pajamas until noon or later, and we always have the disheveled hair, and perhaps a pencil tucked behind our ear so we can scribble sudden inspirations on napkins or whatever comes in handy. The only reason we ever go out voluntarily is when we need fresh fodder for our stories, so we make our way to the local cafe to do some people watching, hoping to get a good idea for a character or two.
Well, stereotypes are there for a reason. Usually, there is at least a little truth in such things, but most of the time, it takes a very small part and exaggerates it tremendously while leaving out vast amounts of other important things. The truth is, while some writers may live like that, the majority of us don’t. Maybe some of us would like to, but it usually doesn’t happen that way. Writing isn’t easy. Ernest Hemingway sarcastically puts it this way. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Being a writer myself, and having quite a few friends who are writers as well, I have a pretty good idea of what it is like. Although not everything on this list will apply to every writer, here is a fairly decent list of some of the things writers might wish you knew about them.

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1-We are terrified our work isn’t good enough. This is very real, and it is something that almost every writer I’ve talked with or listened to has to deal with at some point. We are constantly second guessing ourselves, wondering if our plot is too cliche, wondering if our characters are too static, and thinking our sentences have got to be too awkward to even make sense. We deal with this in different ways. Some share every bit of their work with anybody who will read it hoping for validation before they really take a big leap and try to publish. Others hide their work from all eyes forever. Many of us write and rewrite the same thing over and over, striving for the perfection we never find. There’s a joke that says, “What’s the difference between an artist and a monkey? The monkey knows when to quit.” You could easily replace Artist with Writer. If we aren’t careful, we get stuck in a cycle of never-ending rewrites. Sending our work out into the world is terrifying. What if people hate it? What if we get terrible reviews? We have put our heart and soul into this writing. If the world hates it, it feels like they are hating us. Yes, it’s scary.

2-We live in two (sometimes more) worlds. We have this normal world we were born into, but we also have our story worlds. Sometimes they are a very close reflection of the real world—sometimes they are entirely different. Either way they are still separate enough from where our bodies are forced to stay that we can’t usually combine them. We visit our other world every time we sit down to write. In fact, we do our best writing when we are able to fully immerse ourselves in that other world and escape this one. Sometimes, we even visit our other world when we aren’t writing. If you see us with a blank look or we don’t react to what you are saying, chances are we are only present in body. Our mind is somewhere else entirely.

3-We can get addicted to writing. It’s real. The yearning. The twitching in your fingers. The withdrawal symptoms when we don’t get to spend enough time on our work in progress. Some call it commitment. Other’s might call it insanity. I’ve just come to accept the fact it’s an addiction, and it’s not usually one we want to break.

4-We don’t all have perfect grammar. All writers are supposed to have flawless sentence structure and punctuation, topped off with a superb vocabulary and the ability to sculpt a perfect sensory experience with our every scene, right? Nope. There are a few, perhaps, that are so lucky, but most of us struggle with these things. That’s why you hear about editors. So if you notice an error in something you are reading, remember, writers, and even editors, are human too.

5-We can’t show you everything that’s in our heads in the book. There are so many things we know about the people and places in our stories that we can’t include without the story becoming so long and cumbersome that nobody would ever get through it. We want to share these things, but sometimes we have to do what’s best for the story and cut out some of or favorite little details that don’t add to the plot. It kills us, but we do it. That’s why I write this blog in the first place. It is a place I have the ability to share some of those things with those who might be interested.

6-We have invisible friends. Yes, our characters become our friends. Some of them even start feeling a bit like family. We love our characters. They are a part of us. If you bad-talk our characters, we take it personally. The one exception might be if you are saying how wicked the villain is. If we have to kill a character off in our books, it kills a piece of us too. We don’t usually enjoy it. Sometimes we just know it has to happen, but we mourn the loss, perhaps even more than the reader.

7-We do feel the need to talk to others—especially about our work. Writing can be very lonely. As awesome as they are, our characters can only do so much for us. We need friends. Especially friends that understand us. This is probably why we crave interaction with other writers. We also love potential readers. Or sometimes, we just need somebody to drag us out of our insane commitment and help us reconnect with the real world. We need other writers, and we need people who aren’t writers. Whether we realize it or not, we do need other people.

8-We don’t think the idea of running into a burning building to save a laptop with all our work sounds that crazy. That work has been a huge investment. It is part of us. If we are smart, we back up our work, but if we have made the foolish error of storing it all in one easily destroyable place, we would probably go to extreme measures to save it. If one of your writer friends ever tells you their computer crashed and they lost half of their novel, don’t brush it off. That is a serious tragedy, and they are going through a mourning process. It’s kind of a big deal.

9-We have to become partial experts in all sorts of random things. If you see a writer’s on-line search history, it can be entertaining, and, depending on the genre, rather alarming. I’ve had to research everything from different ways to leaven bread, to setting bones, to what happens when lightning strikes a tree. If you happen to see that your friend who writes murder mysteries has been researching difficult to trace poisons, or how hot a fire has to be to consume a body completely, don’t be totally alarmed. It will likely make sense once you read their book.

10-We have lives and interests besides writing. There are a few exceptions. There are a few lucky people who get to write as their full-time job, but a majority of us have to squish in writing between things like jobs, schooling, family, and other commitments. It’s not always easy to find the time. Sometimes we have to make really hard decisions, like choosing between writing and sleep.

11-We don’t always have perfect control of our characters. Our characters are like real people. Sometimes they surprise us. We will be writing along, and all of a sudden our character will say or do something completely unexpected. It’s hard to explain to anybody who isn’t a writer, but it does happen. I don’t remember ever thinking one of my characters was afraid of deep water before he was invited to go swimming. Then, all of a sudden, he was refusing, and I was shocked because I didn’t think he was really afraid of anything. As a result of having a sort of life of their own, sometimes our characters make decisions we don’t agree with. Just because we write a character doing something, doesn’t mean we think it’s a good idea. Just like real people, characters have to make bad choices at times too. Besides, it makes them more believable. Just, please, don’t judge me by my character’s actions.

12-We do something not just anybody can do. Sure, anybody can write words. With practice, I think most people can even make those words into something good. However, writing isn’t for everybody. It kind of has to be something you really want, because it isn’t easy. Oh, sure, it comes easier for some than others. There is such a thing as talent, but even more than that, it is a way of thinking and a way of life. Some people just aren’t made to do that, and that’s okay. I was definitely not made to be a rocket scientist or a basketball player. Like everything else, writing isn’t something everybody can do.

13-We appreciate feedback more than just about anything. Sometimes we value the feedback we get from our writing more than we would even value money. We especially love the good feedback, but we can even find the not-so-positive feedback valuable. It at least means you read and thought about our stuff, and we can use it to make future works better. However, if you do have a criticism, we still appreciate it if you give it to us nicely. Even though we know it’s necessary to grow, and we still have learned to value it, criticism isn’t always easy to swallow. Just because it isn’t complimentary doesn’t mean it has to be mean.

14-We get unlimited entertainment with our ability to come up with stories. If we get stuck in a waiting room, or held up in traffic, or simply run into a spot where we have nothing to do, we can usually entertain ourselves with a story or two. Sometimes we may sit and plot what is going to happen next in whatever we are writing, or perhaps we’ll come up with an entirely different idea. Whatever it is, we never have to be bored. If you hang out with us, perhaps you don’t have to be either, because if we are in a very nice mood, we might just share.

15-We have our quirky habits that help us write better. We may all be writers, but we are all unique, and we all have our little things that seem to help us write better. Some writers outline and plot, while some just write it as it comes without any forethought. Some writers write best by hand, while others must have a screen to type on. Some listen to music, while others must have complete silence. Some like to write in isolation, while others find the most inspiration in a more public place. Some find different keyboards, like the Dvorak keyboard, more helpful than our dear old QWERTY(I didn’t even know that existed until recently). I’ve even talked to a writer who likes to write without pants on. We’ll do what it takes to get into our writing groove.

We may be a slightly eccentric lot, but in reality, writers aren’t all that different than everybody else. We love, we laugh, we cry. We may spend our time in imaginary places, with imaginary friends, but we also care about the people and places that are real and tangible. We need relationships, and we need support. There might be some things about us that can drive others crazy if they don’t understand what it’s like, however, we don’t really mean to. Perhaps some of these things can help you understand the writer in your life a little better.

Did you learn anything about writers from reading this? What are some things you have always assumed about writers? And for all you writers out there, are there any things I have missed?

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