The Ten Best Ways to Identify a Writer

I used to think that the end of the year was about parties, spending time with family and friends, and considering how to improve oneself in the new year. But now I know the truth: the end of December is for making lists of things.

Normally I’d be doing a music-related post today. But since this is my last blogging day of 2013, I’m going to do a top ten list! And since I’m kind of new at this list thing, I’m going to stick to something I know about: Ten Ways to ID a Writer*.

Whether you’re at your local bookstore, or coffee shop, or even somewhere a writer wouldn’t normally be (like a social event), here are some totally legit ways to figure out if the weird person you just interacted with is a writer or just socially awkward (or both).

1. That party you’re at? They’re not there. Or if they are, they wish they weren’t. They want to be home, writing. Or possibly, they’re at the party doing research because their newest protagonist is a socialite. The writer is probably taking notes, or is examining party-goers with the same intensity that a primatologist studies chimps with. “Now the male is again attempting to bribe the female for sexual favors by using a Solo cup filled with smelly liquid. She again refuses. Fascinating.”

2. Daydreaming and staring into space. The writer is vulnerable to Muse Attack at any time. The writer can be eating lunch at one minute and BOOM scribbling notes on their napkin the next. There really isn’t any way to predict when their creativity will strike, but you know when it has. The writer will appear to mentally transport into another world (they kind of are) and they might not hear what you say to them. This can lead to forgetfulness because you talk to them and they technically hear it, but their brain is too busy thinking up a good antagonist to properly store that information, so you might as well have said nothing at all.

Please resist the urge to throw things at the writer who doesn’t listen to you.

Pro Tip: If you want a writer to remember something, write it on a Post-It note and affix it to something they will look at often. A computer, a phone, or the refrigerator are good bets.

3. Talking to themselves or people who are not there. I’m very guilty of this one. I’ve been complimented on having good, natural dialogue in my stories, and the reason I’m good at dialogue is because I talk to myself. All the time. I talk as my characters. Whatever dialogue you read in my books has been spoken aloud (or semi-aloud) by me when I’m alone in the shower, my car, on a walk, or when I think I’m alone but I turn around and my husband is standing there with a look on his face like

“I married a crazy person.”

I know I’m not alone in speaking my dialogue aloud, so if someone is in the corner at a coffee shop having a conversation with themselves, they might not be schizophrenic. They might just be a writer.

4. Intimate knowledge of weird, random things. Who knows the detailed history of obscure European towns, the theory behind time travel, AND which of the moons of Jupiter could sustain human life? A nerd. Who can know all of that information and combine it all into a workable story? A writer. (I just randomly pulled examples out of my butt for this one, but I think I just came up with a story idea.) A byproduct of having this weird knowledge is oftentimes…

5. A disturbing Internet search history. If someone’s search history resembles something that a syphilitic bipolar serial killer would search for, you’re probably dealing with a writer. Or a syphilitic bipolar serial killer, in which case, you should probably leave.

Now. Right now. Run. I’ll distract them.

6. Positing strange questions. “So, if you were walking down the street and a leprechaun jumped out in front of you, what color would you expect his hair to be?” “Leprechauns aren’t real.” “Oh, I know. Yeah. Totally. I know. But if they were real… What color hair do you think they would have?”

(Red. The answer is red.)

7. Penned-up arms. No, they haven’t been seeing the Silence (OR MAYBE THEY HAVE!!!); they had an idea and a pen, but no paper. Skin is great to write on, because you can’t lose it or accidentally leave it in your pockets and wash it. If there are no pen marks on their arms, look for napkins or receipts with hastily-scribbled notes on them.

8. Paraphernalia. A laptop is a dead giveaway, but lots of non-writers carry laptops around. A writer will probably have earbuds in, and not necessarily because they’re listening to music, but because earbuds are the universal sign of “don’t talk to me.” Many writers have pens and notebooks, and inside these notebooks exists a conglomeration of nonsensical gibberish that is nevertheless essential to the writer’s process. Or doodles of dinosaurs. That’s what’s in my notebook.

9. Dressing like they just robbed a Goodwill. I get up about 2 hours before my kids do, and I shlump into my office and get some writing done when I can be un-bothered. I wear sweatpants and a big T-shirt because pffftttt like anyone’s going to see me. Sometimes, I don’t change out of that outfit all day. Even when I need to go to the store for something. I show up at Harmon’s looking like I took a wrong turn on my way to Walmart.

10. Talking about what they’re writing. I know few writers who will just bust out and talk about their work unbidden. But if you find out that someone is a writer, and you ask what they’re writing about, and you seem legitimately interested, then buckle up Mary-Sue. You’re about to get your ear talked off.

So that’s my list! If you can think of another way to identify a writer, drop a comment up in this post!

*A lot of these are tongue-in-cheek. So if you’re a writer and you don’t have grammar rage-spasms, it’s okay. ^_^

7 thoughts on “The Ten Best Ways to Identify a Writer

  1. Bailey Jackson

    Haha, this is hilarious. I’m definitely guilty of number ten, much to the annoyance of my friends and family. I get a lot of eye rolls πŸ™‚

  2. laekanzeakemp

    These are hilarious! I have to admit I’m guilty of most of them, especially number three. If people knew how much I talked to myself, particularly while in the shower, I’m sure they’d commit me. Mostly I’m just practicing my future Oprah interview, which apparently will be like five hours long and mostly about ice cream.

    1. Taylor L Scheid Post author

      I have to clear my search history on a regular basis so if I’m ever a murder suspect, I don’t go down in flames.

      “Why did you Google how long it takes someone to bleed to death after aortic rupture?”
      “It was for a story! I’m a writer! I swear!”
      “And what do you write about?”
      “Cannibal monsters.”
      “YOUR HONOR!”
      *gavelgavelgavel* “That’s a pretty messed-up thing to write about. You’re probably a cold, sociopath murderess. Bailiff, take her away!”

      …..Okay, that got away from me a little bit.


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