How to Know If You’re a Writer
There is no excuse for me lately. I have been writing and writing, and that means that a lot of other things have fallen away: cooking, coherent conversations, laundry, just to name a few of the really obvious ones. Eating and showering are going to be the next things to go; I can just feel it.
But I don’t care. I’m living with some imaginary people who have shown up in my head and demanded that I write about them. Trust me, they will not take no for an answer. (As the author Anne Lamott says, it’s probably because they know they can’t do their own typing, and so they need me.)
As characters go, these are pretty insistent. They are fond of waking me up in the middle of the night to announce their decisions to marry or to have children, or to finally have that serious talk with another character. One of them is particularly talkative lately, and twice this week I’ve had to pull over while driving just to jot down on a torn Stop & Shop receipt what she had to say about her grandmother.
My family is always teasing me about the little scraps of paper that seem to follow me around, with phrases like this upon them::
WOODSTOCK WITCHINESS IN THE PICKUP TRUCK
and the ever mysterious:
STORY TELL YOGA PREGNANCY–NOT YOGA, BUT WEDDING AT THE CAPE?
“Does this really mean anything to you?” my husband wants to know.
And—to be honest, no. It means nothing. What it means is that I should stop everything when these characters start chatting and agree to write the whole scene (or book!) right then. One time I was driving on the highway, and the book started talking to me, and I yelled at it. I AM DRIVING, IF YOU PLEASE. EITHER COME BACK WHEN I CAN TYPE, OR GO FIND SOMEBODY ELSE TO WRITE YOUR BOOK FOR YOU.
It didn’t help.
A few years ago, I included a post in which other people wrote to Connecticut Muse and told how they know they are writers. And here are a bunch of their comments. Feel free to add your own to the mix. It’s a wonderful subject for discussion.
You know you’re a writer if looking out the window is part of the job.
You know you’re a writer if:
you make notes right after sex
you stutter when asked what you do
you edit others conversations in your head while listening to them
you always carry a note book
you go to bed too late and get up too early
you are constantly saying…I should write that down
You know you’re a writer if you get cranky when you don’t have time to write.
You know you’re a writer if you check your email twelve times an hour when you’re supposed to be working on your computer. No, actually it could be more than that.
You know you’re a writer if you’ve done everything you possibly can in life to avoid writing but still find yourself needing to.
You know you’re a writer if you have constant bags under your eyes, your purse is stuffed with at least five pens and random pieces of paper napkins on which you’ve made notes for the next chapter of your novel, you are constantly on a caffeine high, you never back up your material, you wake up nightly with cold sweats from a free-floating anxiety wondering if anyone is going to buy your book. The only thought that keeps you relatively sane is: if all else fails, you can always run away, never to be heard from again.
You know you’re a writer if your friend tells you a heartbreaking story and your first reaction is – wow, that would make an incredible plot for a novel. You know you’re a smart writer if you manage to keep that reaction to yourself.
You know you’re a writer when you are not writing with pen to paper or with fingers to keys, you are writing twenty-four /seven in your brain because everything around you becomes a story.
Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
You know you’re a writer if you are still in your jammies at five o’clock, the dog hasn’t gone out since the sun rose and your kids are wondering if someone has paid you a hundred thousand dollar advance that they don’t know about.
You know you’re a writer if the poetry book on your kitchen table was a pile of napkins last week.
You know you’re a writer if (like me at this very moment) you are wakened at 2:37 am, a character whispering (shouting perhaps?) in your ear, urging you, no, commanding you, to fire up your laptop, cup of tea in hand, and write the next chapter, in which she insists on taking you places you never intended to go!
You know you’re a writer if your work clothes are mostly sweat pants and pajamas.
You know you’re a writer if:
…you burn through more ink cartridges than Kleenex in the winter
…you see the next story line while arguing with your lover and leave to “get it down” before forgetting it
…on good days there’s a lingering smell of burnt plastic coming from your keyboard
…the dogs would rather float away, whimpering, than interrupt you at the key board to take them outside
…there are oxygen lines, intravenous feeding tubes, and large Starbucks syringes attached to your desk, and nobody in the family notices any of this anymore.
You know you are a writer if everyone has told you that you’ll never get published and you keep writing.
You know you’re a writer if you can’t remember some of the plot details of the book you just released because you’re so engrossed in writing the next one.
You know you are a writer if every overheard remark becomes a beginning of a story, if what you glimpse from the corner of your eye triggers a vignette, if you awake in the morning wondering what the characters in your novel are going to do today, if something you read evokes a memory you can use in your writing, if all of life is about making connections that help you understand who you are, well then, indeed you are a writer! Claire Vreeland
You know you’re a writer when you walk around in the zone, open to believing that every person is a potential character, and every object suggests a metaphor.
Pegi Deitz Shea
You know you’re a writer if everyone around you is totally engrossed in watching James Bond extricate himself from his latest cliff hanger escapade and you are sitting with pencil in hand making notes about the couple in front of you.
You know you’re a writer if you’re still in your pajamas at 5 pm and yet you’ve been working all day!
You know you’re a writer when every moment of every day you turn whatever you are facing at the moment into a short spurt of prose or poetry in your head, including your dreams, and it has become so commonplace that you have stopped writing things down and bemoan the loss of them later as the story or poem idea that would have wowed your readership, as if you had a readership because you are, after all, a writer.
I just finished Matchmaking for Beginners which took over my life yesterday afternoon, kept me up very late last night, and held me so enthralled that I changed my afternoon plans today and made my girlfriend drive me home out of her way so I could finish this book. My first thought after this was to look you up and I was very delighted to find out there is another book about Marnie and Patrick. Even though I know you’re going to make them struggle and me suffer before you give us that happy ending. Anyhow — very cool way to end 2020 and get ready to start 2021.
I read your blog and know I’m not a writer, but I love people who are and all the wonderful adventures they bring me. Who knew at 72 after thinking I was completely done with sex and romance that your book and the Amazing Blix would make me wonder if I might be wrong . . .
Happy New Year Maddie and Thank You!!!
I most sincerely hope that Marnie is one of the characters who is following you around, making surprising, spontaneous announcements of intention! She and I would be friends if we lived closer together. ; ))
Oh my goodness! Marnie is the WORST when it comes to following me around talking. She talks to me all the time! But she’s being replaced these days by a woman named Billie who has even MORE to say, it seems. My head is filled with these characters and their opinions. Does the same thing happen to you?