So you’ve chosen to be a writer.
That means getting to know procrastination on a more intimate level. That means learning to doubt your work. Also, that means checking the word count after every couple of sentences.
But there are many other things that bind us all. We writers don’t need to stick together. We already do, through the weird things that make us uniquely ‘us’.
So how many of these writerly things apply to you?
Your search history is suspect
Are body parts sold on the dark web? Where can you shoot someone without killing them? Which anaesthesia works the fastest?
Those are just a few of your tamer queries, and the rest of your search history would probably have you standing alongside greats such as Ted Bundy. But hey, if it’s one thing writers do well, it’s research.
We all know that joke about having our best friends delete our search history when we die, but while normal people take that in jest (because who doesn’t surf porn without Incognito Mode?), you actually hope that your friends honour their end of the agreement—to throw your laptop into the furnace along with you.
Your trivia knowledge is… interesting
When the guillotine was first used, those sentenced to death would fight to be first before the blade dulled.
Also, one good reason why you (or your corpse, at least) should be thrown into the furnace along with your laptop is because bodies do explode if the coffins are sealed too tight.
“Why do you know about all this?” someone would ask. “Aren’t you a writer?”
And your answer will inevitably be: “Yes.”
Sometimes you try to keep things on the low. You bite your tongue when your friend mentions a recent break-in, before you utter something stupid like “That’s why you need to change your wafer lock to a tubular one” and have them stare at you like you’re the perp.
You can never get uninterrupted writing time
Especially in the work-from-home era.
You never really got enough sympathy for this one. Mention having no time to yourself and you’re often met with mock cries. “Boo hoo,” your friend would say, “Joe here has no time to write. And he’s home all day! How I wish I could stay home.”
But then COVID happened, and suddenly your friends take on a change of tone. Now they’re realising that just because their spouse sees them watching YouTube for three hours a day doesn’t mean they’re not working.
That doesn’t change the fact that you never have enough time to write though. Somebody’s always barging into your office (read: your kitchen counter) asking you inane questions right as you get a flow going.
This is why your search history contains queries like ‘which anaesthesia works the fastest’.
…but you don’t utilise time when you do have it
Maybe you decide to rent a hotel room for the weekend. Or you go on a retreat. Or you finally purchase that bottle of chloroform (please don’t). You now have the weekend free, and you’ll be damned if you don’t at least get one chapter done.
But then Saturday rolls around and you spend the day researching. And watching YouTube videos. And clearing your e-mail. You look up ways to plot, hacks to get you to write, and famous writers who’d succumbed to alcoholism.
Now having someone to bounce ideas off is sounding real good, and you’re wishing that your dog would nudge you to play fetch. And your hotel room smells like mothballs, while your ‘office’ had that calming scent of banana bread, or whatever it is your partner was baking for the day.
That’s when you realise that having all the free time in the world doesn’t guarantee your output. Not one bit.
YouTube is for ‘research’
Yes, you don’t just watch YouTube to procrastinate, it’s also a legitimate form of research.
Some people use mood boards. Others have a folder full of images. You search for videos like ‘driving at night’ just so you can better describe a car’s elongating shadows as it zooms under a streetlight.
You shouldn’t have to do this. You should be able to turn everyday things into words on the page. Shame on you. After all, how many videos can you find about people just walking on streets?
A lot. The answer is a lot.
You write more backstories than actual stories
Ah, worldbuilding. You start by browsing baby names for your characters, and the next thing you know, you’re looking up political ideologies to design your civilisation’s economy.
Then you write thousands of words about a character going about their day because Hemingway said that the more important bits are the ones that don’t make it to the page.
So you interview your characters. You have coffee with them. You put them in weird situations, just to see how they react. You lay out every bit of lore related to your world, even create a whole new language.
Then you realise you’re 40,000 words deep but none of it has to do with your actual story. But hey, at least you had some fun, right?
Anyway, spoiler alert: you don’t finish your story. Because…
This new idea is going to be the one
If writing was an innuendo, then you probably don’t last that long in bed.
Because Shiny Object Syndrome is a thing, and you know it’s a thing, because you’ve just hopped onto a new idea after being stuck on chapter three. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that you’re on your fourth attempt. This week.
But this isn’t going to be like the other times. It’s different now. You can feel it.
This one little imagery of a robot travelling through time is the bomb. In fact, it’s going to be the basis of your entire novel. Series, even. You’ll be three chapters deep before you realise that this idea has been done before. Multiple times. But the one you had in mind was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And just like that, you’ll find your Shiny Object Syndrome standing at your kitchen counter, holding a shotgun, saying: “I’ll be back.”
You’re very familiar with generators
Not the type that runs on gas. For you, it’s the name generator. City generator. Job generator. Prompt generators. Plot generators.
The only generator you don’t need is a backstory generator. You’ve got that one down pat.
You paint yourself into corners, even though you’ve never held a paintbrush in your life
This is especially true because you’re a pantser. Everything’s fine until you change one teensy little fact, and now you have to overhaul your entire manuscript.
Because your ending needs laser beams to melt mirrors instead of bounce off them—a detail you didn’t know you needed until you reached the end. So now you go back and change every piece of lore you’d written earlier, every battle, every interaction with mirrors.
Then you realise that your fictional government shuns all things laser. It’s there in the political manifesto you decided to include in your manuscript. So now you have rewrite everything that you’ve just rewritten.
That’s when you hear a whisper in your ear. It sounds Austrian. And it reminds you of that time-travelling robot.
You live the writer’s life, kinda
Not in the artistic way, no. Instead, you’re a living meme. Your Twitter history is all about procrastination instead of writing. Hashtag amwriting.
You’ll have one drink, and that’s enough to get you tipsy. You post the picture of your old fashioned with the caption “Write drunk, edit sober.”
You also post screenshots of your Word document, usually the first chapter—just two shy away from ditching that idea and moving onto the next one.
Then you write. You truly, actually write, and it gives you one of the best feelings in the world. You’re doing it. You’ve finally achieved flow state. This is what writing feels like. This is what contentment feels like. And this will be the best seven minutes of your life.
Then it’s back to Twitter. Or reading nonsense posts like this one.
You can’t make sense of words
The more you write, the more you realise that for someone with your experience and interests, you actually know very little about words.
So the thesaurus becomes your good friend, because for the life of you, you couldn’t think of another word for ‘nonsense’.
But that pales in comparison to your realisation that you don’t know how to even spell. Words like ‘broccoli’, ‘fluorescent’, and God forbid, ‘diarrhoea’ trip you up all the time. And you’ve looked them up hundreds of times, but you still can’t remember how they’re spelled.
At this rate, you’d probably fare much better in any other job—most probably recommended by the job generator—than you would in writing.
But at the end of the day, there’s nothing else you’d rather do
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting that you’ll actually write. That means you’ll probably need to check into your nearest asylum pretty soon.
But that’s what makes it so fun, because you wouldn’t do it if it were easy. Plus now, you feel much more connected to your fellow writers through these writerly things.
And you know that no matter how hard it gets sometimes, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
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