Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

In my writing life spanning more than 70 published books, I’ve tried to act as though writing were a career like any other. In countless media interviews I’ve  made my work sound like your average 9 to 5 job. Until now. Today I’m coming out of the closet so to speak, and declaring what all writers secretly know – we are different. And that it’s OK.

Here are some of the ways writers are different.

1. We’re scary to our families

Not because we’re eccentric, talk to ourselves and sometimes answer, poke and pry into other lives, although we do all this. But because we pull the bandaids off old wounds, drag skeletons out of closets, and expose family secrets. They’re disguised, of course, and often our families don’t recognise themselves. But we know. And they suspect.

2. Fleeting images brand us

No, I won’t watch the latest horror flick with you. The millisecond image on the promo is already seared on my brain forever. Yes, I know it’s a comedy. My mind treats it differently and the images haunt me. The autopsy scenes from NCIS, Mr Bean bursting his airline sick bag, the face of a friend as she lay dying. These images and countless others like them will haunt me forever. I need to protect myself from some images getting in because they never get out.

Oh yes, we also have multiple personalities

Oh yes, we also have multiple personalities

3. I should write but I can’t

The stories are mapped out, the research is done, the deadline looms. And still I can’t write. Imagine I forced you to stand on the crumbling edge of the Grand Canyon. You’d feel what a writer feels when faced with a blank screen. It’s not laziness stopping us from writing. Mostly it’s fear. Of the words not measuring up to those in our minds. Of disappointing readers. Of disappointing us.

4. We exist in our own timeline

We’re not in jammies at 4pm because we’re slobs, although we may be. We’re gestating a story, poem or book. We may have been awake till 2am making notes. Society and our families would rather we were 9-5 people, but the words have their own agenda and they come when they’re ready.

5. We move the world

We record the tiny details of a sunset, a cat’s fur, a child’s laugh, a moment of such agony that we make you cry along with us. We make you love people who never lived, and hate us when we kill them off. We make our pretend worlds so real that you want to live there, and talk about them with your friends on and offline. Sometimes you live in them with us through fan fiction, costume play and conventions. All of that is OK and a great compliment.

Taking you into our worlds is what we live for. We are writers, we’re different and it’s OK.



on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews of Birthright at


Comments on: "5 ways that writers are different, and why it’s OK" (27)

  1. Yes. This. Brilliant.

  2. fitzroylou said:

    All so true, especially the scary to our families bit. We will use ANYTHING, good and bad. Great blog, Valerie.

  3. These are so true! I can’t watch horror movies and I stumble into the kitchen at 10am wanting dinner because that’s the scene I’ve been writing. Thanks, Val 🙂 Now I know I’m crazy in company!

  4. This is absolutely right. Especially the part about getting images in our heads. They stay there and then haunt us in the middle of the night and sometimes the only way to dull the edges of them is to write them out of our heads and onto the page so they will go bother somebody else!

  5. We can all be ‘different’ together, LOL.

  6. I want to move the world. Love your work Valerie, always!

  7. Wow, Valerie, this really struck a chord with me – especially point # 2 and there are times when I can’t make even my nearest and dearest understand what I’m talking about when a film or an image stresses me in ways that don’t occur to them. Thank you for expressing these differences so well.

    • You’re welcome Jennifer. I’ve had this discussion too often to count. Now I explain if I can, or simply stand my ground. Images from stupid TV shows decades ago are still in there. Modern horror? No way!

  8. Fantastic piece, Valerie!

  9. Yes! You’ve described us perfectly. 🙂

  10. Oh…so this is what is happening to me!!!

  11. At last a reason for being eccentric. I feel better already. 🙂 I can relate to talking to myself. My hubby thinks I’m strange. Writers are the only people who truly understand. We are tied by the same manuscript. (brush) 🙂

  12. Janne Hardy said:

    Now I know why I can’t watch those movies….I just can’t but now I know and now my husband will understand at last when I explain it…thank you for a great blog Valerie….and about not being able to get started. Yep, been there and now I just sit with my fingers on the key board and empty my mind and they start of their own accord. After that it is easier to swing my head into gear and connect it with my moving fingers….my husband says I am strange and now I know its ok…lol

  13. Fantastic, Valerie. And so very, very true about the haunting images – anything more violent than a Jane Austen adaptation is pretty much beyond me. We’re not strange, we’re “special” 😉

    • Thanks Wendy, this aspect seems to resonate with most writers. I can cope with action, adventure and science fiction – my latest book is a romantic suspense with “aliens and evil astronauts”, but you won’t find any aliens bursting out of chests, or eating my characters.

  14. Love this Valerie! Especially #1 – they should be very scared! 🙂

  15. Holy crap, I related to that one about sensitivity to images completely, down to the Mr Bean airline sick bag. I always turned away and shut my eyes at the moment when he popped it. Golly-gosh, is sensitivity a trait of writers then?

    • I think it has to be, enabling us to get inside our characters, see and feel what they feel, and share that with readers. Thanks for stopping by.

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