You know you’re a writer when you realize that you have some form of psychic ability. Your words are telepathic messages. You can communicate with people you will never meet, in places you will never go, in eras you will never live. You can get inside their heads, make them see what you want. You can evoke emotions and plant ideas. You can change minds.
You know you’re a writer when you realize that daydreaming is the purest form of lucid dreaming. That reality is subjective, that it’s within your means to change it, to doctor the record after the fact.
You know you’re a writer when you go from dabbling with an outline, to compulsively refining a novel. You know you’re a writer when you steal away like a drug lord with a second cellphone, like a spouse concealing graphic sexts, or a politician trying to dodge a blackmail scandal.
Inspiration strikes and you have to answer the call. If you’re on the clock, duck into the bathroom, hide behind the coat racks, or crawl beneath your desk. You’ve got to jot something down before it evaporates. That clever phrase won’t last long on ice. You’ve got reach for your notepad, type on your phone, or scrawl the words across your arm.
HR might call that time theft but that’s their corporate culture. You’re the counterculture.
You’ve got a secret life to attend to.
You know you’re writer when you realize that your thoughts have value. That there ought to be a record of them. That immortality is an attainable goal to a scant few that are bold enough to go for it.
The first time I saw the #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen hashtag was in a post by @KMWeiland. She writes advice for writers working to becoming authors on her website. She deserves the credit for introducing it to me.
On Twitter #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen has been my goto hashtag. It’s a quick way to spark my creativity on a fifteen minute break. It’s a springboard for conversation. It gets me thinking about my process. Sure it’s riff on Jeff Foxworthy, but it’s come to mean something important to me. I’d like to see more writers using it.
Giving credit where credit is due, this post is the brain child of Jessica West (@Wes1Jess on Twitter). I’d been posting these for over a year. She suggested that I post a collection. This is the first part.
You know you’re a writer when…
- you write about what you think is a universal experience only to find you’re the only one that’s been through it
- you share your mental real estate with your characters and it’s starting to get really crowded in there.
- you feel like a shark swimming across a keyboard, if you stop typing you’ll die.
- laundry overflows from your basket, dishes spill from the sink & your kitchen table is buried under bills
- you see a trailer for a movie and think, “Damn it, that’s my idea, but not as good.”
- you have an inventory of rude character attributes that the real world keeps helping you add to.
- you start a quote with, “who was it that once said” until you realize the quote came from you, you genius.
- you realize that entertainment without enlightenment is a waste of time.
- you interject, “I just wrote a story about that subject,” into casual conversation.
- you feel guilty for fulfilling your basic human needs like sleeping & eating when you haven’t written yet.
- you edit your own memories for pacing. “Can’t one character represent every bully I ever encountered in high school?”
- your novel is backed up in the cloud, on an external hard drive, on your phone, and a usb keychain in your pocket
- you can successfully make a character sound more intelligent than you actually are.
- you’re afraid people will figure out when you’re telling the truth. When a line of dialogue is too specific and a little too authentic.
- you know what not to describe, what action not to include & when to cut a scene.
- you misuse a word in conversation and someone says, “Aren’t you supposed to be a writer?”
- you can convince someone that you remember your childhood, because you know how to fill in the missing details.
- you drain your bladder far more than you would ever need to.
- you’re never going to have a good alibi for where you were on the night of…
- you scrape your nails across the desk while you wait for your word processor to finish loading.
- you’re not afraid of the dark, because you know whatever lurks in the shadows calls you “Boss.”
- you saw a movie trailer and imagined a far better movie than the one you eventually saw.
- you wake up and start typing before your mental grammar, spelling, and punctuation systems have time to power on.
- you use writing as an excuse for your behavior in the real world. “No, it’s cool. I’m a writer.”
- you’ve written millions of words but every time you stare down a blank page you say, “Now how do I do this again?”
- you review your own notes and think, “That lazy son of bitch. What does he expect me to do with this?”
- someone mistakes a work of fiction for a journal entry & confronts you about it.
- you write your resumé cover letter as a narrative.
- you know what your characters are up to when they’re not on paper.
- it doesn’t occur to you that you haven’t spoken to another human being all day. A real one anyway.
- You mistake specks on your screen for punctuation marks
- You have a DVR full of shows you’ll never watch, a Netflix Queue you’ll never get to & video games installed that you’ll never play
- You start writing the description of location knowing the plot will be around eventually.
- You can adapt your fan fiction into a stand alone franchise without anyone naming your influences.
- You start to fear things that you made up.
- You are the only person you know uses the word “lexicon” in casual conversation. How I long to meet someone with the word “lexicon” in their “lexicon”
- You can pitch sequels to stories with definitive endings, without them feeling like “and then” continuations
- You can trace the research that went into that poorly written cop drama back to truecrimediary.com
- discover a fringe school of psychology & think, “How do I fictionalize this before anyone else does?”
- reread your work from the perspective of ex-lovers
- have to delete a metaphor because you’ve used it 3 times already in the same story.
- Google completes sentences for you, like, “What do you call the topmost part of a tree?” It’s the “crown” by the way.
- You pose in front of a mirror just to describe a specific micro expression
- write 3 thousand words in a session only to have the task of naming a new character completely derail you
- You can’t stand the idea of someone paging through your journals, just because of your grammar & punctuation
- You find plot holes in real life and you call people out on them.
- You fear for a character’s life because you know their death would make the story much more interesting.
- You can remember your protagonist’s scars by heart, but can’t remember if you’ve brushed your teeth yet.
- rip off quotes from your own work in casual conversation, like you just came up with them off the top of your head
- spend an hour Googling to see if someone’s already written a story about that.
- you alter a major plot point in the middle of your pitch and you don’t even skip a beat.
- you can’t listen to a song without thinking of a scene to go with it.
- there’s a couch, chair, or love seat with your groove on it.
- you write your characters as artists who work in all the other mediums you failed to master: musicians, actors, and photographers
- you run out of the shower just to jot something down.
- your characters hear the ominous voice of the narrator & get into an argument about their future.
- you plagiarize your own journal entries for dialogue.
- you finish a draft & get an email with a government extension that says, “Great read! Get cracking on the sequel”
- You write a terrorist plot and your fiction becomes a matter of national security.
- can put in 1,000 words in an evening and still claim to be blocked. I never said they were good words.