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Signs You’re a Real Writer by Rochelle Melander

My writing companions, Muffin and Sophie, asleep on the job.

My writing companions, Muffin and Sophie, asleep on the job.

How do you know you’re a real writer?

Some writers have real writing jobs, where they go to work and write stuff and collect paychecks. Others work the freelance route, sending off queries and hoping for the “yeses” that mean a writing gig. Book writers spend years writing and revising novels or memoirs and then more years selling them before they have a product to tweet about. In the in-between years, it’s sometimes hard to know if one’s a real writer.

On the show Castle, we know Rick Castle is a real writer because he wears a bullet-proof vest that says, ‘writer.’”

So how do we know if we’re a real writer? Do we measure “realness” by the number of articles, books, or poems we produce? Or do we count up the amount of hours we put in at the keyboard? Perhaps in the days of social media, real might be defined by the number of writerly friends we have (or writing followers on Twitter)? What makes writers real?

For me, being a real writer is about one thing: writing. Writers write. But if you’re looking for further proof of your writer status, I’ve put together a list of signs to watch for. Those of you experiencing one or more of these signs for longer than a week at a time should proudly call yourself a writer (whether or not you have a bullet-proof vest that says so):

1. You think of caffeine and chocolate as essential food groups.

2. You frequently eavesdrop and call it research.

3. You spend so much time in the bookstore and the library that people think you work there and ask you to help them find books. You do. And sometimes you shelve the books in proper alphabetical order. (Admit, you’ve done it, right?)

4. You have explained to your spouse, children, parents, or housemates that you are hard at work when you are doodling, staring out the window, folding towels, napping, and walking the dogs—and they should not interrupt you.

5. It may look like you’re texting all the time—at the gym, in the grocery store, at the theater—but you’re really jotting down ideas for your current work in progress.

6. You hoard books.

7. Changing your wardrobe from winter to spring means switching from slippers to sandals.

8. Your best assistants are your pets. You talk to them about your plot problems. They listen well. Sometimes they provide good ideas.

9. You have close friends and colleagues who you’ve never met or see only once or twice a year but you connect frequently on social media.

10. You frequently forget that you started a load of wash or a pot of soup or were in the middle of cleaning the bathroom, because when an idea hits, you have to write it down.

Your turn: I could go on . . . but I’d rather hear what you think. Leave your comment below: what signs reveal that you’re a REAL writer?


19 Responses

  1. How true! Loved this post. I’d like to add that “you know you’re a real writer” when you realize that you’re never really on “vacation”–because every city or situation serves as fodder for the next poem, interview, or article. It’s hard to truly “disengage” for extended periods of time from the creative process. It’s a work related hazard. 🙂

  2. Nom J

    Love your list Rochelle!
    You penchant for cutting to the chase, keeping things square (as they really are, and not as our over-burdened ‘celebrity society’ constantly manipulates us into thinking they must be) and being wonderfully humorous in the midst of these both, never ceases to give me a deep chuckle and a great sigh of relief.

  3. Nom J

    PS — The sign that I’m a Real Writer must be that I
    1.) resonate with many of your points and
    2.) have too often had the kind of house that my writing piles have taken over first my office, then the dining table, and finally… the bathroom sink and tub ledges.
    (When that happened, I KNEW it was time to start focusing all that scribble-scratched content and creative energy into some finally useful ends; something I’m still learning about. Your monthly coaching is a significant help. What a relief!! )

  4. Jorge Serbia

    I’m know I’m a writer…
    1. I say I’m overeating because I’m feeding the story characters in me.
    2. I also blame my temper tantrums on those same characters.

  5. Oh my gosh, these were so true and so funny! #7 had me rolling though. That is so me! I only feel comfortable in slippers or sandals. I never knew that was because I was a writer. 🙂

  6. Amy O.

    Signs I am a Real Writer:

    1. I get annoyed when I can’t find my pens with green ink.
    2. I can’t write right when I can’t find my pens with green ink.
    3. Currently, I have 8 documents open on my word processing and flip back and forth between them, tweaking words and sentences.
    4. I go through the day making sentences in my head and laughing at them. (I am very funny).
    5. I write down the sentences I make in my head and think “it sounded better in my head.”
    6. I look at people I see and think “that would make a great description for a character.”
    7. I hear things people say and think, “That would make a great line for that character to say.”

  7. You know you are a real writer when:
    …the best trips you have ever taken were on paper!
    …when you cancel a date with “the one” to rewrite that last chapter!
    …and the first ting you think of in the morning is WRITING!!

  8. How about laying awake at bedtime, stressing out, because you can’t remember the greatest idea you ever had from earlier in the day and you didn’t write it down because it was “so good” how would you ever forget something like that and yet, here you are, wide awake, and all you can remember is Mary in accounting doesn’t like salami on her pizza. Nooooooooook!

    1. writenowcoach

      Oh yes. And you worry that your idea also landed on the writer down the street, who probably had the sense to write it down!

    2. oh my, yes!! The laying in bed, or on the couch, or driving and realizing you really should have written down that great idea or bit of dialogue or character and now you literally wish your leg bent in a way you could kick yourself in the butt for not writing it down!

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