The Quirky Side-Effects of Being a Writer

Being a writer lends itself to a lot of really weird situations.

Some complications come from having a wildly over-active imagination. I romanticise places and people as fodder for stories. When I’m deep in a story I’m known to start seeing characters or settings out of the corner of my eye, which turns me into a hyperactive, jumpy mess. I generally avoid public places during those phases so I don’t look like a fan-girl with Tourettes.

And what do you mean you’re supposed to stop having imaginary friends when you grow up? I mean, he’s not technically my friend. He’s my Muse. His name is Apollo – after the Greek god of poetry – and he’s a smart ass. And when I have writer’s block, he’s the one that shouts at me and holds a gun to my head until I manage to write something again.

Like I said, over-active imagination….

A lot of the ones that get me really weird looks from people though are my experiments into testing the reality of situations. As Tom Clancy said, “The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.” Fiction is held up to much tighter scrutiny than the real world is. People are more likely to question it and pick it apart than to just brush it aside and say, “That was weird but stranger things happen.” Because of this, I – and a lot of other writers – will go to ridiculous extremes to make sure that what we’re writing can comply with reality.

The effects of this vary from reading dialogue aloud in different accents to make sure that it sounds realistic in actual conversation, to handcuffing myself to a bedpost to see how easy it is to escape. For good examples of weird things like this, try the television show “Castle” with Nathan Fillion. He is good at doing strange experiments like taping himself to chairs and acting out scenes with his daughter’s toys. I mean, to write a Glee fanfiction – yes I write fanfiction, don’t judge me – I actually slushied myself so I could properly describe the sensation.

(The sensation is that of having a porcupine made of ice thrown at your face quills-first, if anyone is curious.)

Crime and mystery novels seem to lend particularly well to things like this. The other day, while working on a detective novel, I realised that I had just spent three hours researching different kinds of fast-acting poisons. Amused by the observation, I decided to go back through my search history and see what other weird, questionable things I had searched for novels. It included, but was by no means limited to: untraceable poisons, the time it takes for a stab victim to bleed out, the effects of hypothermia, symptoms of radiation poisoning, the gestation period of horses, levels of paralysis based on area of spinal damage, cerebral hemorrhaging, and common mental disorders attributed to serial killers.

Can you tell I’ve been on a crime novel kick in the last year? Sadly, not all of that comes from those novels – the horse thing was for a fantasy, paralysis for a YA, and hypothermia for a sci-fi.

It occurred to me as I was looking back over my search history that it’s pretty clear my computer isn’t being monitored by the government. If it was, the NSA would’ve already shown up and secreted me away to Guantanamo.

So on this topic, here are a couple of my favourite “You may be a writer if…” signs.

1. You carry a pen and paper with you everywhere, including to bed. Just in case some crack-fic idea comes to you in the middle of the night. You’ll end up throwing it away in the morning, but at least you didn’t forget it. You will also use anything as a notepad in times of emergency – receipts, wrappers, envelopes, clothes, skin, etc.

2. The words “I bought a book” come out of your mouth more often than “I changed my socks.” You may own more books than you could ever possibly read, but at least you’ve got it, just in case. Hell, you’ve got more books than you’ve got friends. By a lot.

3. You want to/do own a typewriter. Doesn’t matter if you use it, you just think it’s a thing of beauty that every writer should own.

4. Your friends and family beg you to stop telling them all about your plotline de’jour. They stopped caring a long time ago.

5. The first thing you do on acquiring a book is open it and sniff the pages. Seriously, if they could bottle that smell, you’d wear it like perfume. And make your partner wear it. And the cat.

6. You feel like writer’s block should be classified as a serious illness.

7. When out in public, you keep up a running narration of the people around you, often referring to yourself in the third-person. “The man with the toupee knew it was a wasted gesture, that there was no way he could possibly succeed, but he tried anyway. He ran, his legs pumping and fake hair flapping free, but he missed the bus by mere seconds. Nicki watched with savage pleasure as he stood, dejected and puffing, and then she settled back into her hard plastic seat like it was a plush throne…”

8. A big vocabulary is the hottest turn-on.

9. The word “deadline” sends you into a panicked frenzy. Like, full-on heart attack mode. Doesn’t even matter if it’s not your deadline.

10. You use eccentric adjectives or alliterations in the most mundane of things, such as to-do lists and shopping lists.”Stalwart, sturdy spuds… Temptuous toilet tissue… Magically mellow milk…”

11. You might be a wealthy person if you stopped spending so much money on notebooks and pens. And books. And coffee. And post-its.

12. You tend to care more about fictional characters than you do about real people.   They’re real to you… *pouty face*

13. Your family/partner/roommates all know when you’re in a writing mood and know to steer clear and not disturb you.

14. Procrastination is your greatest skill.

15. People who use your computer think you’re having a baby, since you’ve favourited a half dozen baby naming sites to use for character names.

16. It’s either that or you’re a serious killer because you’ve spent a lot of time thinking of wonderful ways to kill off your characters. And anyone who ruins your concentration…

17. You are a little bit of a grammar nazi.

18. You laugh aloud at your internal monologue, usually at really inappropriate times in reality. Laughing because that guy’s hook nose and glasses remind you of your most recent antagonist is not appropriate at a funeral. Just – yeah. Try not to do that one. (Personal experience there…)

19. Your bedroom/workspace look a bit like being inside the belly of a paper-mache beast.

20. You’re addicted to a particular type of punctuation: semi-colons, ellipses, parentheses. (I’m particularly fond of dashes.)

21. You can’t resist writing better endings to films and television shows. (I’m pretty sure this is how the madness that is fanfiction started…)

22. All of the worst moments in your life serve as inspiration for your writing. And the best moments. And the totally mundane ones…

23. You are a walking dictionary/thesaurus.

24. You are prone to taking up strange hobbies – knitting sweaters for cats, building model unicycles, collecting and classifying differently shaped blades of grass – as a way to counter writer’s block, and those projects always get forgotten the moment you write something new.

25. Writing is both your dream and your nightmare. It’s what you’re best at and also that thing which terrifies you the most.

26. You’ve experienced the dreaded horror of a broken pencil lead or dead pen mid-inspiration.

27. You have a love/hate relationship with that blinking cursor at the beginning of an empty Word doc.

28. You can have one story written across five different mediums, from the computer to the back of a envelope to the margins of the newspaper, and you do it without losing the thread. Now it’s just a matter of not losing the pieces…

29. You’re never technically finished writing something.

30. You were nodding your way through this list.



12 thoughts on “The Quirky Side-Effects of Being a Writer

  1. My favorite one: “5. The first thing you do on acquiring a book is open it and sniff the pages. Seriously, if they could bottle that smell, you’d wear it like perfume. And make your partner wear it. And the cat.” And, yes, I was nodding my way through this list. Great job! I’m reblogging this. It’s too great not to share. 🙂

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