If my previous post about writer traits didn’t convince you that writers were something else entirely then this one definitely will.
I’ve long since stopped considering writers as normal human beings.
Oh sure, high school biology teachers would have us believe that every one of us are Homo sapiens. But sometimes, it seems obvious to me that writers are part of a different specie entirely, only closely related with the rest of the world. How does Homo Writercus or Homo Bibliocus sound?
For one thing, normal rules of social interaction do not apply to writers. By nature, a writer in the middle of a work in progress is probably the rudest, most awkward, forgetful person ever. But we are forgiven because everyone understands that these are just some ‘side effects’ to being a writer.
Side effects. Hazards of the trade. And many of these eccentric qualities are necessary in honing our skill, gathering ideas and smiting them into entertaining prose. However, in the real world (you know, the one that doesn’t run on coffee and deadlines), many of these necessary habits are truly hazards. Some of them are just annoying. Others are just plain rude.
I thought it would be fun to chronicle some of these side effects.
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I know. Talking to oneself is crucial to the creative process. When creating characters, we draft profiles and interview our characters. We talk to them, have full on conversations with them all in a bid to understand them. When drafting, sometimes we have to read a sentence aloud a couple of times to figure out what comes next.
Other times, we truly do talk to ourselves. I think it’s a privilege to be able to debate issues with one’s self, to laugh at one’s own jokes and thoughts, to shape up whatever jargon our minds have sprung up by speaking them out loud.
Talking to yourself is not only normal for writers but highly recommended.
However, we have to admit that it would seem odd to others (normos) if a grown man/woman sat in the middle of the park talking to no one.
There’s this myth that writers basically run on coffee. I won’t lie to you. Most writers do.
Truth is that most writers write early in the morning or late at night and both of these are times when the brain needs a little extra push to function.
Even for those that write in the middle of the afternoon, it’s hard maintaining a single focus for so long without something boosting our brains.
I won’t necessarily narrow it down to coffee because impossible as it seems, there are a few writers who do not like coffee. Me, included. I know, I’m practically a criminal. But try as I might, I just can’t seem to stand the taste for long. So I don’t run on coffee but I most certainly run on something. I think every writer does. Whether it’s coke, energy drinks, gum or whatever, something has to keep us glued to our chairs for hours. We need fuel. And so we binge snack and take lots of coffee/coke/ -insert your fuel here-.
However it can get annoying when your home smells perpetually like a Starbucks or when there are constantly half empty bottles of coke lying about (I think I’ve had a roommate complain of this).
Thank God people cannot be arrested based on internet search history. Because I can’t count how many writers would be in jail right now. I imagine Stephen King would have a cell all to himself.
The fact is that even if we all strictly followed the advice to write what we know, research would still need to be done, if only to fill in details. Now, depending on the nature of our work in progress, our search history can be anywhere from embarrassing to weird to downright scary.
Now imagine if you shared a laptop with someone else.
I remember how scandalized my little sister was when she picked up my phone to browse something for school. At the time, I was trying my hand at a partly horror story about a mental asylum. I spent hours convincing her I hadn’t gone mad myself.
Writing involves an incredible amount of focus and concentration and because writers are also some of the most easily distracted people, we usually go to extreme measures to create a serene private environment.
And so it is not unusual to have writers hole themselves up in their workspace for days, sometimes weeks. No cellphones. No emails. No communication with the outside world. We are very fond of the ‘Do not disturb’ function on our phones or just a plain ‘Do not disturb’ sign outside our workspace.
We forget chores, family outings, and other non-writing related meetings especially with a deadline tailing after us.
I can’t imagine how rude this must seem to the disgruntled spouse or friends.
It is true that writers are solitary people for the most part. We become hermits when we want to get a lot of work done fast.
However after a while of hermit-ing, our scenes begin to take the same sequence, our characters start to sound alike and we start using phrases like ‘Clear as glass’ on every page.
That’s when we grab our notepads and head to the nearest Starbucks or bus station or park. We head to wherever people are concentrated. We don’t talk to anyone. We just listen for any snippet of conversation that the wind carries towards us.
Yes it’s unforgivably rude but this accidentally-on-purpose eavesdropping is necessary.
You’ve heard it said that we should write what we know…well there’s no way we can escape writing dialogue in our stories so how can we write about human interaction or the way people converse when we don’t know anything about it. And how else can we find out but to observe first hand?
We do however acknowledge the concerns of others and thus sometimes we put earphones in our ears just to make them feel more comfortable.
Oh, and for the love of God, don’t get caught. For some reason, ‘I’m a writer’ doesn’t cut it with most normal people.
Because we spend so much time in our heads, it’s easy for us to fix our gaze on a single spot and be gone.
Unfortunately, this can naturally make people uncomfortable especially when they have the misfortune of being the centre of our gaze.
And while the cashier unwittingly caught in our gaze wonders whether to call mall security, we’re probably in some fictional world wondering what our hero would do if ever held at gun point.
And sometimes, it’s not so much staring as people-watching. To make our characters realistic, we need to give them realistic tells and nervous tics and all those details we get by observing other people.
However, despite the tremendous amount of creative fodder it gives us, it tends to make people nervous and suspicious. They probably think we’re about to mug them.
The trick is to be discrete.
These are just 6 of the reasons why writers can be annoying. I’m sure you guys can think of more. Share in the comment section.
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Alright, it’s the end of the post which means: