Think you are a writer? Maybe so, maybe not. But you may be a writer if . . .
. . . you go on your morning walk and discover this on someone’s lawn:
—and your second thought is, “Is he going to run over that collapsed snowman and blame it on Santa?”
—and your third thought is “What’s that brown thing? Is that a wiener dog implicated in this tableau?”
You walk on and find this:
–and your second thought is: “Did that other Santa on the right fall off the roof earlier? Is he dead or does he just have the wind knocked out of him? And if I give mouth-to-mouth, how long will it take me to inflate him?”
Being a writer is not easy. You will find yourself incredibly sensitive, even emotional, at odd moments. Simultaneously, you will have to have a very tough skin, because everyone you meet has advice for a writer, most of it negative.
You have to be curious about the world. You can’t be curious if you don’t know about the world. Which means you have to experience it, get involved, and yes, watch the news. No hiding from the magnificent, roiling combination of environmental, human, and geographical conflagration we partake in. You can’t grow an imagination on a steady diet of popular culture and celebrity. You’ll wind up writing lame fan fiction like Fifty Shades of Navy.
If you just thought, “Who cares if she can write, that lady is rolling in dough and sold her movie rights for millions!” you can’t be a writer. Writers care about content more than anything. Good content.
You might be a writer if you have a constant trickle of ideas as long as you don’t have a way to take notes. The instant you open your app or pull out paper, the great idea vanishes like steam over a subway grate.
You might be a writer if you narrate your life, and while you are at it, you constantly improve or change what’s happening, to make it “read” better.
And if you don’t want to be a writer, but keep running into them, here are five things never to say to a writer:
1. “So you write? Would you have written anything I’d read?”
For the love of sweet Mother of Pearl, how should I know what you read? Cereal boxes? Sales flyers?
2. Books are so expensive! Can you give me five for my friends? Oh, and sign them, would you? That way I won’t have to come to the book signing.
Yes. No. And no again. Buy the books, that’s how a writer earns a living.
3. So do you just sit there and wait until ideas show up?
No, you live a complicated life with many twists and turns and spend a lifetime taking notes. For every forty-four pounds of journaling, you’ll find half an ounce of good ideas. You think this is a bargain.
4. I’ve always wanted to write a book.
Great. Get busy. Books don’t write themselves.
5. Are your books just your life, but only better?
My life is like a book plot like a letter is like a sentence. It’s all raw material, but it’s not in the right order. That’s what a writer does. Put thoughts and ideas into the right order.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.