Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Happy first Monday in May, the day when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. No question is stupid except, as the saying goes, the one you didn’t ask. So ask away using the comment box below. You can also share your experiences as a writer with others.

I’m sorry that comments need to be moderated before they appear.
I’m often tempted to turn that off, but friends who’ve done so report an avalanche of spam and rudeness we can all do without.

To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked while attending Conflux National Science Fiction Convention in Canberra. The event was wonderful, attended by writers, editors, publishers and fans of fantasy and SF. During a coffee session, I was asked, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” A good question.Time is precious.No-one wants to slave away on stories that are going nowhere. Here are some clues that might help.

1. You look at stories differently
You read a book, watch a movie or TV show and mentally write a better ending. You get impatient because you know who the villain is before anyone around you. A pen on a desk is never just a pen. It’s a potential weapon and you’ve already thought of a dozen ways it could be used. You’re either a psychopath or a writer, possibly both.

2. You feel things more acutely
You lose someone and while grieving, store away the feelings in case a character can use them later. You attribute motives to actions, even if the person doing them was merely acting on impulse. As a writer, you know that actions must be motivated, even if not in real life.

To a writer, everyone & everything is a story

To a writer, everyone & everything is a story

3. You observe everything
Yes, even your own suffering. As writer, Anne Lamott says in her wonderful Bird by Bird, if you’re held up, you don’t actually think, “So this is what it’s like staring down the barrel of a gun” but you come close.

4. You turn everything into a story
You wonder if you’re heartless because you channel your tragedies and suffering into story ideas. Judy Nunn calls this meta-observing “the third eye.” All writers have it, and we can’t turn it off.

5. You set the bar high
I’m convinced we write to prove to ourselves that we can do it…again and again. After quitting my day job, I wrote the same number of words full-time as part-time, because I expected more of myself. Make the New York Times bestseller list? Next time aim for #1 spot. Sell half a million copies? Next time it better be a million.

Far from being a cruisy, wrist-to-forehead profession, writing is one of the toughest gigs I know. How did you find out you were a writer? What’s good and bad about it for you? Love to share your comments.



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Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring for May – 5 ways to know you’re a writer" (6)

  1. Angie the Hippo said:

    I’ve never “found out” I was a writer, I’ve just always written, or created stories in my mind.
    Writing makes me happy. Even if the story will never exist anywhere but in my own mind, and on my computer, the creative process gives me energy and fills me with joy. I fall in love with my hero as I write about him. I suffer with my heroine when things don’t go as planned in her life. The only bad thing is that I simply can’t create more time for the writing, because the reality of life takes up most of my time awake, (and part of the time I should be asleep). I dream about being able to write full time, but there is this little issue about having food, house, clothes and such things that all cost money. And Internet, to connect with other writers, of course.

    • You sum up the writing life beautifully, Angie. I also wrote before I knew what a writer was. I thought everybody made up stories in their heads. Shame that real life gets in the way.

  2. When did I feel like a writer? The first time I typed ‘The End’, last August. I’d made a few half-hearted attempts over the years, but never got more than a few thousand words down. A finished MS. That felt real.

    • Yay Victoria, so many people have an unfinished MSS in their desk drawer. Finishing is a real milestone and I’m glad you felt like a writer – because you are. Writing a book isn’t something you’re going to do “someday”, you’ve done it. Tomorrow, the world.

  3. I wrote poetry as a child and would write what is now called fan fiction, putting my own slant on sci-fi worlds I read like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders or Georgette Heyer historicals. I started so many stories I had notebooks full of ideas & first chapters. I stopped actually writing when I married but still read prolifically and ‘fixed’ stories in my head. It’s now almost three years since a life crisis made me think about what I wanted to do and began properly writing again and completing stories.
    The good thing is that my imaginary world is a very comfortable place to be and I’ve made so many good friends who ‘get’ my weirdness. The bad thing is that if I think about publication I am depressed because my stories aren’t ‘fashionable’. I write what I love and I love vintage romance full of old fashioned tropes plus a little of the smexy. My DH wants to see a financial outcome which is fair enough as we aren’t in a good place in that respect but writing isn’t really the solution so there are pressures that way. I just want to write and hopefully write well.

    • You never know, there could be a return to “old fashioned romance” around the corner. It;’s happened in other fields. Unfortunately, making money from writing is far harder now than it’s ever been (tell your dh I said so). The markets are very fragmented and so much is being published that getting a readership is a real challenge. Your comment about your imaginary world reminds me of fantasy writer, Kylie Griffin, whose motto is, “I’m in my own little world but it’s okay, they know me here.”

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