A Writer’s PSA…


“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”
~James Michener

I was all set to blog today about finishing the first draft of my manuscript earlier this month (!!) and diving into edits this week, but then something happened. The neighbors across the street decided it’d be a great time to have their house bulldozed. Okay, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, that’s what the clanking of the ginormous construction vehicles sounded like at 7:23AM this morning. It turns out they were having their driveway replaced, and it also turns out that the process requires an exorbitant, incessant amount of noise that can drive a writer crazy if she listens to it for too long. I lasted about ten minutes before wanting to throw something across the room, so I relocated in the interest of preserving my sanity. Six hours and eighty pages later, I finally took a break, and was greeted with the wondrous, magical, beautiful sound of silence. Here’s hoping that means the driveway-crashers are finished. There will be other distractions, though. There always are. So, I present to you (all in good fun!) some guidelines to help better communicate with the writer in your life:

-If we’re working with our faces three inches away from the computer screen and our hands are flying furiously across the keys, chances are it’s not the best moment to interrupt.

-If it sounds like we’re talking to ourselves, we’re not. We’re probably just talking to our characters. Or thinking out loud. Or muttering about the lawn mower/hammering/bouncing basketball/blaring radio that’s trying oh-so-hard to break our train of thought.

-That whole writing notebook idea? It’s not just a cliche or something you see in movies. We treasure our journals and treat them like golden nuggets of inspiration. Maybe because they are.

-Don’t be surprised if we suddenly – and seemingly randomly – jump up from what we’re doing and run to scribble, scrawl, or blast out a sentence, paragraph, or scene. It’s a Writer’s version of Murphy’s Law that starbursts of insight ALWAYS occur at the most inopportune times. Like when driving. Or showering. Or trying to fall asleep.

-Speaking of sleep, don’t be surprised if the writer in your life doesn’t get much of it. Characters don’t just keep us on our toes during the day. They stick around even after the sun’s gone down, and sometimes it’s in those quiet times that we realize most what their journeys are all about.

-Don’t laugh at us when we back up our books, queries, synopses, and agent databases on an external hard drive, flash drive, and by emailing it to ourselves on two different email accounts. You may call it paranoid, but we call it protective.

-All the time we spend on Facebook, Twitter, and reading blogs? It’s not fruitless or a waste of time. The writing community is A-MA-ZING, and we are all enriched for being part of it.

-Whether it’s to celebrate an incredible writing day or to console ourselves after a tough pass from an agent, milkshakes are always appropriate. Especially if they’re chocolate.

-We are all different. Some of us write best in the morning and some at night. Some of us write chronologically and some of us skip around. Some of us outline first, some dive right in, some let the characters lead the way, and some use a combination. What we have in common? We are all driven by a pure passion for the craft, the worlds it opens up, and the stories it gives us the joy of telling.

-We don’t enjoy being woken up by birds before the first sunbeams have begun to bounce down from the sky. Oh wait, that’s just me. (Anyone else? Please?)

-Our characters become like our friends and our manuscripts like our babies. They mean more to us than words can describe (ironic, right?) and it brings us immeasurable joy to share them with you. So … thank you, thank you, thank you for the unwavering support. We say it often, but it’s worth repeating: it’s deeply, deeply appreciated.

There you have it, a friendly PSA to help understand writers better. There’s so much more I could have included here, so authors and fellow writers, please chime in. What would you include on this list? And who wants to tell me what the best kind of noise-canceling headphones are for the next time someone on my street decides to make a racket?

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9 thoughts on “A Writer’s PSA…

    • Oh yes … in fact, I think somewhere down the line I need to write about a character who gets woken up by the birds on a daily basis. I imagine writing his/her frustration would be quite easy ;-)

  1. Love. This. Post. I agree with every single thing, especially the ones about not getting any sleep and backing up your work to 854397549 different places.
    Let’s see, what to add…
    -Don’t worry; it’s completely normal for us to argue with our characters when they aren’t doing exactly what we want them to do.
    -We make spreadsheets to try and organize the mess of a process that is querying.
    -Even with all our advanced technology, we still print out hard copies of our manuscripts to edit with multicolored pens.
    -We draw inspiration from everything, so don’t be surprised when that story about your car with a broken gas gage (and the binder you log the miles driven in) winds up in a story (this one is currently in progress for me).
    -If we disappear into our room/office/cave/rock for more than four hours, please bring us a sandwich/chocolate/coffee/tranquilizers.

    Wheeeeee I could do this all night! But I’m trying to prove the writers-get-no-sleep thing wrong (a battle I wage daily), so I’ll stop now. :] this was such a fun post!

    • So, funny story (except … not) … apparently my computer decided today that it would be fun to get back at me for talking about backing up work in a zillion places. I have this tendency to save the document every few minutes while editing, and all of a sudden, I get this message about there not being enough disk space. Then Word freezes and won’t do anythingggg. Luckily, all was fine when I restarted, but still … maybe I should delete that one from the list :P

      I love your additions SO much. My favorites are the multi-colored pen one (as I sit here with my mug of pink, purple, green, turquoise, orange, red, and blue pens!) and the one about arguing with our characters. I remember doing that on a daily basis with Emily. The room/office/cave/rock one made me LOL, especially because I have spent between six and seven hours editing every day this week. I’m going to start requesting chocolate from people ;-) Oh, and I wanna hear about the car story! Is this being included in RFC or KS revisions?!

      • I actually have plans for the car story in Awakening/Mia’s story. I’ve been keeping notes of scenes I want to write for it so that when it comes time to seriously outline, I’ll be ready!
        and OH NO about your lack of disk space! I hate when Word freezes, it sends me into a panic every single time!!!! Fingers crossed that everything is okay.

  2. 7:23 a.m.?!? That’s inhumane! Shouldn’t they keep normal working hours? No wonder you were frustrated. And WOW on the 80 pages. Good work! You definitely deserve a milkshake.

    By the way, as usual I LOVED this whole post! I want to copy the first point and share it with a certain someone who likes to interrupt me when I’m writing furiously. And I’m grateful for the online community, too. It brought me friends like you! What can be better than that?

    • I know, right? I’m always up early so the timing didn’t bother me, but it made it IMPOSSIBLE to concentrate. I think they started so early because it’s been insanely hot here this week – 106 today – and they wanted to finish before the heat got too brutal. Oh, and I definitely had a chocolate oreo milkshake yesterday! I’ve been editing for between six and seven hours every day this week (note to self: do not write with reckless abandon anymore) and figured I earned myself the treat.

      Hahaha … I wrote that first one and immediately thought of our conversation. Maybe that needs to be the Golden Rule for writers? Aww, and you’re so sweet. Right back at you! I cannot imagine not knowing you!

  3. Yes, yes, YES to all of these things. Especially to jumping up in the middle of something (or wishing you could, because the car example is SO accurate) in order to jot something down, talking out loud, our characters becoming our friends, and being super diligent about saving and backing up all our works. No one (except fellow writers) seems to believe me when I say that if something happened to my flash drive, my life would be over. Ha.

    • I totally get it … can you imagine losing all the precious files on there? I say that completely sincerely. I would seriously burst into tears. I am super (aka: insanely) protective (neurotic? ha!) about my laptop and everyone always teases me, but better safe than sorry, right?!

      Also, as an aside: I was away all day yesterday and came home to your email, which completely made my day. I’ll be answering later today, but in the meantime, just wanted you to know how much it meant :)

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