For the most part, I’m a normal, capable adult human who is much like every other normal human. But there’s also a dark side. I hate human interaction, have a caffeine addiction, and can’t look at a thing without thinking about what it could possibly be a symbol for. That’s the writer’s life, baby!
While I generally think writers look just like everyone else, I will say that we approach life differently. There is no down time for the brain of a writer, and anything is story fodder. The writer’s life is lived in service to the written word.
So, if you’re wondering what the writer’s life looks like, just keep on reading.
Welcome to the Writer’s Life
There is no set definition of the writer’s life. All writing is valid, and people who blog are writers, as are journalers or journalists, fiction writers, and content marketers. There is, however, a set of traits writers tend to possess.
001: Scribbling ideas.
If you’re a writer and a thought strikes your mind, you’re going to write it down. This is why I have half a screenplay in a notebook right now. I’m not a screenwriter, but ideas must be written down.
Whether you use a traveler’s notebook, a pile of Post-Its, the notes app on your phone, or a standard Moleskine, writers scribble ideas all over the place.
002: Having strong feelings about caffeine.
I have never met a writer who wasn’t ready to start a turf war over the whole coffee vs. tea debate. And while I commend anyone with convictions, it’s very silly.
At the end of the day, writers are overly caffeinated. Most of us cut our teeth by drinking a caffeinated beverage way past bedtime and sitting up in bed, pouring ideas from our heads into our stories. Whether it’s because we associate coffee with the cafes in our favorite bookstores or because we love how Instagrammable a steaming mug is when you set it next to a book, we like caffeine more than we should.
003: Collecting metaphors.
While I write, this, I’m staring out the window in my living room. On the fence in the backyard, orange trumpet vines wave in the breeze. Once, I wrote down a ton about this invasive species and how it would be a great symbol in a story about gentrification and trying to cover up the sins of the past with something that seems pretty, but is actually pretty bad.
I have one about the waves of the ocean lapping against the shore too, but I think I’ve already shared it in a New Year’s post in the past. Either way, writers collect flashy turns of phrase to further their (occasionally heavy-handed) points.
004: Being jealous you didn’t write what someone else wrote.
There are days I pick up a book and get extremely jealous I didn’t write it. The same thing happens with blog posts that are equal parts inspiring and viral.
It’s not great, but writers aren’t saints, and very few of us are actually good and decent humans. So, jealousy is just a fun hobby for us.
005: Pushing the bounds of insufferableness.
I don’t know a single writer that isn’t ready to have a long, drawn-out philosophical conversation at a moment’s notice. And usually, it’s a very niche and specific type of philosophy. They will take the extensive knowledge they have and lord it over you.
It will be interesting, but the conversation will go on for too long and every non writer will bounce long before the writers in the conversation are even warmed up.
A Writer’s Life in a Nutshell
There’s no set definition of the writer’s life. For as many genres and niches as there are, there are just as many writers with their ideal lives.
To me, a writer’s life is the life where I get to write. Yeah, there’s a lot of other stuff that I have to do to enable it, but mostly, all my tasks could be filed under writer. (See this post on how I built my creative business.)
It’s about balancing deadlines for others with the deadlines I set for myself. It’s about reading the latest fiction books that everyone can’t stop talking about, and also reading up on Google’s best practices when it comes to SEO. It’s a lot. It’s an intentional writer life.
But it’s the only life that allows me to simply write. And maybe that’s what I’m getting at.
To have a writer’s life, you simply need to make space for writing and all the things that enable it. You don’t have to get a degree in the subject. You don’t have to do it the way that others do. You don’t even have to use a computer.
But you do have to focus on writing. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing every single day. But it does mean that writing is a priority.
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the most unhelpful things a professor said to me was that writers write. And like, yeah. We all know that. But I also think it’s really important to outline what constitutes writing, and what you should welcome into your writer’s life.
This is an incomplete list of things that are writing, even if they don’t look like it:
- Staring out windows.
- Jotting down something cool someone said.
- Listening to music that lets your mind wander.
- Going for a walk.
- Going over old journals.
- Researching obscure nonsense.
- Doing anything with your hands so your brain can think.
- Creating databases of fictional information.
- Building an altar.
- Taking a shower.
There are a ton of other things that are also writing without writing. And yeah, I know these aren’t the activities that get words on the page. But they are the activities that prime your brain to write.
(I have outlined whole novels in the shower.)
And if you wish to have a writer’s life, you need to make space for some of these things, or your version of them. Because there is no writer who is putting words into a document all the time.
What Is the Writer’s Life to You?
What does your ideal day as a writer look like? Do you engage in the writing activities that don’t look like writing? What is your insufferable philosophical topic that drives people away?