Every career has specific traits that only others in the same profession can relate to, like my husband, who is a service technician in the Tel-com industry. When he’s around other techs, they speak in code, T-1, PRI, and VoIP. When we’re in public he tells me the phone system each business uses, “That’s a (Mitel 5000, NorStar, Intertel, Onyx 3).” At home he troubleshoots, telling me the errors in programming, like I’m really going to remember that the x comes before the three nines, or is it vice versa? Writers are no exception. We have inherent quirks that we, just like other professionals, can’t turn off on a whim.
While we may not always grasp the idiosyncrasies of people in different careers, we are not immune. As writers, we too do things others don’t quite understand.
1) No One Can Be Late. Ever.
It’s not that we’re slave to the clock-masters, we’re just programmed to think the worst. When family and friends are late, we try to behave normally. The first five minutes we are sure they’re just running late. Then, things get dicey. Our brains are used to asking, “How can this situation be worse for my protagonist?” So between minutes six and eight minutes, the reason for lateness starts to change. They’ve wrecked. Not on a main road, but a desolate road that no one knows they’re on. And, the police are hunting a serial killer in the area. Oh, and a hive of angry bees are swirling to life (because our loved one is at this moment deathly allergic to bees even though they’ve never been before). Within 15 minutes we’ve killed off our beloved family or friend and are cycling through the grief process. Just as we come to the acceptance phase, in walks the “supposedly dead” person. They never understand why we wrap them in a breath-crushing hug sobbing, “You’re alive!”
2) Brainstorm Sessions Can Be Awkward
Writers brainstorm best when hopped up on caffeine and surrounded by other writers. It’s not unusual for coffee shop patrons to glance over worriedly and scooch further away after hearing snippets of conversation like: “I’m trying to kill this character off. What else can I do to not make it obvious it was murder?” Then the morbid ruminations begin. Usually the conversation is interrupted and ends with, “Oh hi Officer. It’s okay, we’re writers. Hey, I don’t suppose you have a good idea for killing off this character?” Just for the record, no officer has ever given up an idea. Although, they do take note of your name.
3) We “Zone Out” At Inopportune Times
A person might assume when we stare intently at him, not hearing what he’s saying that we’re on drugs. We’re not and we’re not bored either. We’ve zoned out because something he said or did triggered an idea. Usually, we’ve decided he would make a great character and we’re trying to figure out how to describe the look on his face: sneer, snarl, smirk? Or he has a quirk that would work great for our protagonist’s sister. The tongue flick over the left front tooth. While he talks, we stare waiting for him to do it again so we can better describe the quirk.
4) We are on every Homeland Security Watch list
Our Google searches have made our names known to some of our country’s finest officers. Our searches have also scared our family and friends. Our spouses fear eating dinner after seeing our latest search, “Tasteless poisons that leave no trace and kill instantly.” On the plus side, that search usually has family ordering takeout so we don’t have to cook.
5) There Is Such a Thing as Pen, Paper, and Reading Material Withdrawal
It doesn’t happen often. Most of us have been this way since we were toddlers. When leaving home we load up with pens, paper and reading material lest our transportation breaks down and we have nothing to pass the time with. It happens and it’s horrifying. We’re talking Psycho death music horrifying. Sweat beads form on the brow, hands shake, the heart flutters, the gut flips and flops. There is absolutely no relief until writing or reading material is placed in our hands.
These are habits most non-writers don’t understand, but that make us unique and bind us together. Can you think of any other traits unique to writers?
Diane DeMasi lives in the state of Washington where the overcast skies and her over-active imagination fuel dark stories. To this day she still believes the only reason her father-in-law admits to using the motorized carts in Lowes is because they are super powerful and he and the other men joust with dowels over the last piece of teak wood. She shares creepy pictures, creepy stories, heartfelt stories, and funny moments on her Facebook page (and she’s always interested in hearing more, so swing b