Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writers' Quirks

Let's face it: Writers aren't normal. We're simply not built like other people, for better AND for worse. Every writer I've ever known has their share of quirks and I'm no exception. (In fact, I have mild OCPD so I'm probably worse.)

Some of these quirks are actually useful/helpful. But some are just plain crazy. I'm going to let my freak flag fly for a few and tell you about some of my quirks.

Major Zone-Out

I'm usually a very good listener and I love talking to people. But sometimes, something a person says will trigger a thought about my WIP and no power in the ' verse can bring me back to Earth. I'm talking a full-scale near-comatose zone-out. This often ends with me running away in the middle of a conversation to scribble my thoughts down before they escape. I know it has to be obnoxious for the people around me, but it's like I'm possessed and I can't stop it.

Usefulness: ★★★☆☆ 
Craziness:  ★★★☆☆

No Place Like (anything but) Home

I can't write at home. Messiness and disorder bother me so much that it causes actual physical symptoms. When I lived by myself and could control the state of my apartment this wasn't an issue, but now that I have three roommates who don't understand the concept of clean-as-you-go, it's impossible. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising if I sit down in our living or dining room. (I should point out that my roommates aren't that messy. I'm just that crazy.)

Usefulness: ☆☆☆☆☆
Craziness: ★★★★☆


When working on a novel, I like to have a trinket or something that reminds me of it. For example, when I was writing Brigid's Cross (my first, now-trunked novel) I ordered a silver Brigid's Cross necklace. I play with my necklace constantly so every time I touched it, it reminded me what I should be doing (WRITING!) instead of what was distracting me (TV!).

I recently told my writers group about this little quirk and my friend Mike brought this to the last meeting for me:
He received it as a gift from his sister so he's letting me borrow it until I finish Dragons Are People Too. I know it will help because every time I see it, my fingers itch to be at the keyboard! (I'd really like to find a cool dragon bracelet though, so let me know if you see any!)
Usefulness: ★★★★☆
Craziness: ★★☆☆☆

I'm a Creeper

I constantly watch people in public and listen to their conversations. And it's not passive like most people. I consciously take the seat in the mall food court closest to as many people as possible. I write down things I overhear. I stay longer at a place if people near me are interesting. Every time I leave the house I get caught staring at a random stranger.

Yeah, I'm a creeper. But - short of getting arrested - I'm not going to stop my clandestine ways. It's a great way to get story ideas, study speech patterns, pick up new phrasing and so much more!

Usefulness: ★★★★★
Craziness: ★★★★★

What writing quirks do you have? Does their usefulness make up for their craziness?


  1. I totally do these things too, especially the token one (though I call mine mascots because then I feel like they're cheering me on while I write).

    I guess my biggest quirk is my writer's toolbox, which I call the ORACLE and which is housed in a small wooden treasure chest so every time I go to it for ideas, I feel like I'm finding buried treasure.

    Great post!

  2. I like to collect pictures that look like my characters, and there are a few models/actors that I don't necessarily think are hot or anything that I have pictures of. My husband finds this really weird and calls it stalking. I also have OCD, and I am CONSTANTLY thinking of my story - like rehearsing scenes over and over in my head until they "feel" right. I do write better in other places because the clutter at my house, while it doesn't bother me too much on a regular basis, keeps me from focusing on actually writing.

  3. I definitely zone out. Somebody will be talking to me and suddenly I'm not there. My family's usesd to it, but I'm sure this disturbs a few strangers. :)

  4. Haha! I am dying! This post was hilarious! Love the star ratings! Way to equalize it all out in the end! Brava! :D

  5. This made me laugh, including the comments - thanks for sharing, everyone! The zombie zoneout is me 100% when I'm in story mode. I burn meals and get comments from my husband like, "You're not listening to a word I'm saying, are you?" I promised him that I'm not trying to be rude, I just can't help myself! I assured him that most writers are zone-out freaks, but he wasn't buying it. I'll have to make him read this post. :)
    Another freakish plague that I suffer while in writing-mode is insomnia. I'll wake-up early as crap with scenes playing in my mind, and have to get up and write. It's annoying, but also kind of nice. Reassuring, in a way.

  6. I need to talk things out sometimes. My husband is the one who usually gets roped into duty as my sounding board, and he's learned that what I really need is not so much discussion, but for him to sit there and nod while I run through scenarios in stream-of-consciousness style. For a while, he thought he was actually supposed to help, with useful suggestions, but no. If it's a problem I can't work out, I just need to talk it out until the answer squirms free. And he just has to, uh, sit there and wait for me to finish. ;-)

  7. I play video games and watch cartoons to better understand the current needs and likes of my target audience. It's also because I enjoy these things as well.

    My biggest quirk is my addiction to instrumental music in movies and games - ya know...the kinda music that plays when the protag fights the big bad boss! Ya, it riles up my soul and I use it to help write my actions scenes.

  8. http://www.pyramidcollection.com/itemdy00.asp?ID=1,621&GEN1=Necklaces+%26+Pendants+&T1=P45659&dispRow=269&srccode=
    It's a necklace not a bracelet but this store always inspires me.

  9. I SWEAR I write better at night. Seriously, during the summer and school vacations when I'm writing like crazy, typically I'll go from 11PM to 2:00-3:00AM. It's bad...

    Then there's the typical zone outs/creeper habits as well.

  10. "Do you have a staring problem?"
    "No, I'm a writer. I'm working."

    Amy's last line made me laugh out loud! :)

    Oh, gosh, Sarah, at first I thought you were a spammer trying to sell us something - awesome dragon necklace!!

    T.D., I think of the Braveheart and Gladiator music - so good!

  11. Haha! It's always good to share our crazy so we know we're not alone.

    Marisa: I definitely write better at night too!

  12. BTW, I'm delaying my contest until my next post date since the Pitch Contest is still going on and I don't want to confuse anyone!

  13. I do crazy stuff and think of great excuses to cover them up.

    Like the 'Kiss it and send it ceremony' (google it), or the Laughing Cow Cheese I must have when I go away to write.

    I'm going to try really hard not to pick up your token idea. I'm trying to keep the freak on the inside...know what I mean?

  14. I buy way too many blank notebooks/journals. (Usually, one for each project.)

    The quirky part? I write mostly on my computer and use the blank books for notes related to that project--if at all.

    I am really jonesing to buy a specific one I saw @ Barnes & Noble for the fantasy project I'm collaborating on with my fiance, but it is VERY expensive, and I can't justify it.

    There must be music! I am very auditorially focused, so hearing anything (even faint noise) in the background is a distraction for me. I listen to songs on a repeat 1 loop while writing. Frequently, it is the same song for the duration of the entire project. This helps the song kind of disappear, but it also cancels out other noise.

    The only two places I have been able to write without distractions are: my dorm room in college (I had the same room all 4 years with no roommate) and my childhood bedroom.

    I go through a cycle of reading and writing. I will go on a reading binge and read about a book a day, sometimes for weeks or even months. Then, I get tired of reading and prefer only to write, usually for a shorter duration. I write no fiction during the reading part, and read no fiction during the writing part.

    For the rare times I do write on paper, it has to be in a blank book for that project, and it must be with a pen... the same color for the whole project... and the pen must be clicky, even though I am NOT one of those people who clicks the pen all the time. Lol

    I can't write if my room is a mess: everything has got to be just.so.

    I usually write best very late at night into the wee hours of the morning on a caffeine high.

    I like to munch popcorn or chew sugar free gum while writing.

    I have a fuzzy yarn rug my Mom gave me that I keep under my desk. I like to run my feet around over it if I come to a place where I don't know what happens next. (Yes, I am mostly a pantser.)

    ...I think that's about it.

    Writing this made me realize that I am a very quirky writer. :D


  15. This post cracked me up. ;) And it's so very true. We're all a little crazy.

    Mine is mainly music; I can't write for crap if I don't have very specific music playing. I can't get into the groove of a WIP unless I've compiled a playlist (which is usually in progress until I finish the book), specifically for that project. In general, I have a difficult time listening to music that I can't assign to something, be it my own characters or someone else's.

    I also have to play out every scene I write in my head like a little movie before I can get the words to cooperate. Sometimes sketching a story-board helps.

  16. I love your usefulness/craziness star rating system - too funny! I can be OCD at times so I completely understand not being able to work in a messy environment. I get bothered by clutter so I'm the same way. Luckily my husband is pretty neat! I also love people watching and overhearing conversations. I do that a lot on the subway during my commute. :)

  17. Oooh I like this post! I'm not the only one with crazy habits!

    Much like Kelley (Hello up there!) I NEED music. My iPod is my habit. I have playlists galore, and every one is carefully constructed for specific moods or events.

    Notebooks are my other habit. I have to have a separate notebook for each story idea, and I have very specific pens and ink colours.

  18. I zone out as well. I also talk to myself sometimes, when I'm trying to work out how a scene should go. Sigh. I look like a crazy woman sometimes, trying out dialogue.

  19. Ugh! I totally do that major space out so BAD. "Oh my god, how long have you been talking to me?" Has become my catchphrase, according to my friends. Also, if I'm working out a scene while I'm spacing out, I make minute facial expressions as I piece together how each character is going to react (I do the same thing when I'm reading.)

  20. Heh. I've always thought of myself as a total nut with a straight face.
    Good post though, I can certainly relate to the people watching. The mundane conversations of people always fascinate me in peculiar ways.
    Plus, I talk to myself. Luckily I've never been caught doing that. Well, not that I know of.