Writers are weird. Sure we’re human and put on our pants one leg at a time, but let’s face it, some of the things we do may seem a bit odd to the casual observer. Voluntarily chaining ourselves to our desks every day for the sake of telling a story we’ve taken months, or even years to piece together is in itself kind of odd. I mean, it’s not like any of us are in it for fame and dames. And the big bucks, or any bucks at all, may never come. Still, we keep toiling away with our manuscripts, immersed in our creations, not willing to give in to the alternative.
On top of this, many of us have a slew of idiosyncrasies tied up with our craft. You know, things that are a little offbeat or bizarre. I sure as heck do. In fact, I have at least a dozen but here are the ones I’m willing to admit to.
Waking up before the crack of dawn to write
It’s 5:30 in the morning as I string together these sentences. But in fact, I’ve already been at it for the last hour or so. And it’s not the first time. In all honesty this early a.m. ritual has become something of a habit, even though most people think it’s kinda strange. But as it turns out, this is the best time of day for me to write. Since seemingly forever, the wee hours of the morning are when my mind is the sharpest and my resistance is the lowest. And lately, it’s also the only time I can consistently carve out to practice my craft. Between working full time and momming a pre-schooler, it’s the one precious uninterrupted moment in my day where I can create. Getting up early is not a sacrifice: it’s a godsend.
Strong opinions about punctuation
Ever have a visceral reaction to a misplaced comma? Or a kind of queasy feeling when an apostrophe is missing? Or maybe the overuse of exclamation marks drives you dilly? If so, know two things: you’re not alone and this is not what most people would consider normal.
For instance, if you polled a random sampling of the population and asked them where they stood on the Oxford comma, I’m pretty sure most would check the box marked “don’t give a flying fuck.” Us writers on the other hand have powerful reactions to such questions and will joyfully debate with the full force of our intellect where and when those lines, dashes and dots should go. Weird, no?
Write every day or feel like a failure
You know that feeling when you suddenly realize you forgot to call your grandmother on her birthday? That it was two days ago and you just outright forgot? Everything just kind of shrivels up inside you. You’re now the world’s most heartless creep, overcome with shame and regret that drowns out any good feelings you once had about yourself. If you can at all relate to this experience, then you should be able to understand how it feels for me when I don’t write. Though I plunk myself down at my desk for seven hours every Monday to Friday at my day job, I still feel like an abject failure if I don’t take the time to toil over my own creations. It’s more than a little weird and maybe just a little unhealthy that my sense of self-worth is so tied into whether or not I write. But I don’t think I’m the only writer that gets caught up like this. Am I?
Never enough books
Though I’ve never counted, the number of volumes I have in my library must tally up to somewhere in the hundreds. My bookshelves are pretty much bursting at the seams. And because I tend to give away novels after reading them, the majority of fiction titles I own are as yet unread. Still, I can’t walk into a bookstore without acquiring one or more new editions. Even though it will likely take me years to read all the ones waiting for me at home. Some might categorize this kind of behaviour as nonsensical. Or maybe compulsive. Possibly eccentric.
Keeping you’re work in progress top secret until its done
Writing is magic. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. We get the opportunity to inhabit our inner worlds and dance with our creations. But as with any magic, there’s a price to be paid for using it. We must sacrifice our time. We must “bleed through our finger tips.” In doing so, the magical forces build up around us like a whirlwind. A thing of nature that ultimately catapults our creations into living, breathing works. But the tempest that we stir with the act of writing needs our care to keep it alive and moving. It requires something vital. Of our essence, of our deepest selves. And to name it too soon could undo it.
I know from experience that the energy pulling me towards writing something can mysteriously dissipate. That the magnetism of the story can vanish if I speak it before I type or pen the words first. So, I keep the details of anything I’m working on under wraps. At least until the first draft is complete. Lovers, children, parents and editors are all politely told to pry elsewhere, and to kindly be patient in awaiting the first draft.
What to do about our quirkiness?
Embrace it. Our oddities are beautiful and interesting and sometimes inspiring. Besides, it’s not like we’re the only tribe with our idiosyncrasies. Ours just happen to be more, well, writerly.