20 signs you are a writer

Maybe it’s Neil Gaiman’s statement that particularly resonates with you–“As far as I’m concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.”

Or maybe you feel more in line with Dorothy Parker’s take–“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

In any case, shedding light on your desire to become a writer and what you’re actually doing to become one, can give you invaluable information. That’s what the following checking list should help you with.

You are a writer if

1) You write. You write a lot. And then some more. Just one note: writing is one thing; having your writing published is another.

2) When you write you strive to go beyond your limits. You put in hours and hours of deliberate practice. You know, if you always stay in your comfort zone you’ll never get better at what you do. Actually, you’ll end up doing marginally worse.

3) When you don’t write you think about writing. Well, maybe thinking about writing all the time is a bit too much. But most of the time it is not. Even if you’re about to leave for a terrific trip or who knows what else.

4) You’re always storing details, facts, people, manners of speaking and so on. They could come in handy for one of your stories. Bars, airport, schools. It doesn’t matter where you are. Your eyes and ears are always ready to catch mental snapshots and soundbites.

5) You note down most of the ideas that pop into your head. Because memory is fickle and relying on it is a big no no for any writer.

6) You (almost) regularly assess the potential usefulness of such ideas. Ideas must be tended, sifted, and poured on regularly. To grow to their full potential.

7) You (almost) never throw away something related to your writing. In particular you abhor the idea of throwing away even a single badly scrawled note. Because you can never know. That note could help you grow a new idea.

8) You read a lot. Banal. But essential. Like it is air to breathing.

9) You read a lot more than a lot. And in various genres.

10) On those rare occasions you review a book, it’s to praise it. Because it’s useless ranting about bad books when you can read and appreciate so many great ones.

11) You never write a scathing review just because the story didn’t unfold the way you wanted. You know that writing and plot are very different things.

12) You wrote your first story when you were ten years old, or younger.

13) When you listen to a song you tend to pay special attention to the lyrics.

14) You know a lot of words people never use.

15) You’re proud of it! Just bear in mind that knowing a lot of words is important. But knowing when to use them is even more so.

16) Having to choose between a party and a book you would go for the latter. It’s not that you dislike parties. In fact you go to a lot of them, and meet many different people when you read.

17) Altered states of mind intrigues you. The desire to see reality from ever new angles is so strong it can be difficult to keep at bay some harmful temptations. Luckily, however, altered states of mind can be reached also through healthy activities, like meditation, or listening to music. This is a win win choice. Because you get to explore a new reality while preserving your health.

18) Even though you will never experience Stendhal syndrome, you’re highly sensitive to beauty. Be it natural beauty or human beauty.

19) You firsthand know that inspiration rhymes with perspiration. That the Creative Muse is generous only with those who glue their assess to the chair and keep going until they have something to show. Even if at first it’s just a page full of crap.

20) You know that perfection is unattainable. So you consider each book you write like a step of an ideal staircase leading up, after infinite reiterations, to perfection. After all, evolution is still at work after a billion years…

Final score…

Do you need a Grand Slam to be a real writer? Not at all. I would say, if you can answer with a resounding yes to questions 1, 2, 3, 8, 19 and 20, you are definitively on the right path. Keep going!

And if you think about adding some other important features real writers possess, tell me in the comments. =)

Pictures: jpleniopeter_pyw

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