Were all alike, us writer types

Earlier this week I had tea with fellow writer Faith Hunter and came away from it with a few realizations.  The first being, as always, that I really need to get out more.  (laugh)  The second that you are never to good at your craft to not need someone to talk things over with. (I always come from our teas rejunivated .)  The third being that although the lives and work of a writer is pretty much solitary and self-taught, that every single writer, I’m guessing, is probably exactly alike when we get down to the basics.

Now, I’m not saying that we all work the same way or that we are all alike in personality, but I’m looking at my agent, and though we don’t spend much time together, he’s seen enough of us writer-types to know exactly how I’m going to react, expecially when it’s under stress.  We’re all alike, us writers, and they know it.  We can have one conversation with our mouth, and another one in our head, sometimes simultaneously. We get these long pauses where our attention has shifted from what we’re doing this week to how we can work into our next project that fabulous outfit that woman has on over in the corner.  Our spouses or friends can tell us something point-blank, and we might nod and never even hear them because this one aspect that we’ve been working on for two hours is finally making sense and it is far more interesting that the reminder that we have to pick up the dry cleaning.

So I had tea with Ms. Hunter earlier this week, and my faith was renewed that I’m not alone even though I work alone.   We had a moment of perfect connection where I was trying to explain something, and her eyes went distant and I thought, “crap, I’m not explaining this very well, and she thinks I’m nuts.”  I even told her that, and she laughed, telling me that she got it, and she was trying to see how it fit with something she was doing.  She pulled one of my tricks on me.  It’s a solitary job, but you’re not alone.  We all have the same issues, and we all handle them differently.

Faith is over at her blog today talking about the “idea” and how it drives her nuts until she has direction.  The same thing happens to me, but I think it hits Faith harder.  She’d love to hear from you if you suffer from “holding the lightning.”  😉  Magical Words.


Filed under Drama Box

53 responses to “Were all alike, us writer types

  1. SeattleRobin

    I read Nicola Griffith’s blog regularly. She mentioned something like this a while back in one of her posts. She and her partner are both authors and had to learn that when one of them goes glassy-eyed at the dinner table it has nothing to do with boring dinner conversation and everything to do with how writers will suddenly halt everything and go internal because a new idea is blossoming or a problem point is finally shifting into place.

  2. Thursday

    I do that a lot. Especially when my triggers go off. I get ideas from a couple of things. Mostly voices or the way someone says something and it might remind me of one of my characters. Or a song that suddenly flashes a scene in my head. Or even a sudden epiphany that just catches me totally off guard.

    Oh and guess what I saw our lawn frog again on my porch tonight! I call him Lester. His brother Frank got squashed in our drive at the beginning of summer. Poor thing.

  3. Heather

    A bit off topic but…I finally got a change to read Bespelled (I only had the hardcover of ODW). The story (amazing!) totally reminded me that no matter how charming, amusing, and intriguing Al is…he is a DEMON! Somewhere along the way I had sorta become complacent to that fact but man is he twiste…and I LOVE it!

    • Thanks, Heather! I’m glad you liked it. It’s not very long, but it’s packed with all kinds of foreshadowing. And yup, he’s a demon. Rachel needs to be careful. –Kim

    • Kat

      I can relate to this. I really like Al too, but then I remember all the terrible things he did when killing the witches! Yuck!!! But then again, the demons live by their own moral code. Humans are kind of like bugs to them…

  4. shauna

    O.M.G. What a relief it was to read that. I was seriously considering that there was something wrong with my mind and the way it drifts into places of my own creation. I’ve allways done it, even when I was little though I didnt write about it then, I just ran around, pretending that I was some character or another, but lots of little kids do that so it wasnt so bad then. I started getting worried when I realized that I wasnt growing out of it and until this point I was still kinda worried, since I dont know anybody else that does it and I cop endless crap from my family about it. After my short but overly eventful life I figured it was just another way that I’d been screwed up that could be added to my ever growing list. but I read your post and what other people posted and I am so glad that it isnt. I used one of my old school books to write in when I was 13 and told anybody that asked that I was doing ‘homework’. Now I carry my note book around with me all the time and jot thiongs down when they unfold in my head. Only my cousin knows what im doing when I ‘drift out’ of our conversatoins but I told her that Im still aware of what shes saying so she just chats away. She read one of my note books once, with her friend, thinking it was a diary (every body thinks that- and I let them) so she knows what Im up to when Ive got my book with me- I still dont know if im happy about it or not but she promised she wouldnt tell so its cool- I dont like the idea of giving everyone something else to hastle me about. Its ok to put it here because nobody in my family reads this. but Ive gotten a bit off subject havent I… So thank you for making me feel that little bit better about myself, I smiled after every post I read.

  5. mudepoz

    An oldie but goody

    There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick.
    Robert A. Heinlein

  6. Tiffany

    Thanks Kim. Somehow your post is just what I needed to hear. I get like that too. My thoughts have a strong pull sometimes, I think especially when my brain is creating – whether it is creating a solution to a situation I’m sorting out, a way of wording something I’m writing, or even a when creating a statement in a database query I’m figuring out at work. I get immersed from time to time – sometimes I’ll be sitting down working on something when I hit that state and sometimes it comes on when something unexpectedly triggers a thought that demands to be guided into its place.

    When someone talks/is talking to me when I am in that preoccupied state…well, sometimes I don’t even notice they are talking to me, but when I do it’s like my thoughts are in glue – part of them stretching out to one side to try and answer and the other larger part unable to pull away from what I was thinking about, unable to let go of the demand my brain makes that the thought must finish being guided to its resting place.

    However, I get a lot of flak for it in my life. Having to back up and explain that you are not deliberately ignoring someone is a surefire way to kill that state of mind. So, thanks for making me know I’m not alone. Your post and these comments are helping me in ways I can’t thank you enough for.

  7. trisha

    i told my hubby what you wrote today and he says you must know me because what you wrote sounds just like me he hates when i “zone” but loves what comes out of my “zoning” he loves my stories and wishes others could see what he sees in them

    • Hi, Trisha. That is beautiful that he supports your work. You need to start sharing it face to face in a writer critique group if you haven’t already. -Kim

    • trisha

      theres not one around here

    • Have you tried asking at the bookstores? Don’t ask just one clerk, ask several. Libraries, too, often host writer groups, and coffee shops, too. Or if there is a college, sometimes the professor of the language department might know of one. Writer groups that physically meet are very hard to find. Trust me. I found mine by a miracle of coincidence. A current member wrote to the editor of a fantasy magazine I was submitting to, and I recognized the city. Dropped her a letter, and pop! There I was. Good luck. It. Is. Not. Easy.

  8. Marsha

    Very nice post. I wish I could say that my “zoned out” staring into space looks were due to a creative synapse in the brain, but I fear it is more likely to be old age. I do understand what you mean though. If only I had the talent to take the images in my brain and translate them into the written word…I’m quite jealous of you all.

  9. Antonio Rich

    I was thinking about what you said yesterday, that you are already braced for criticism on what people’s expectations for Ivy were in the upcoming Graphic Novel. I don’t have any “firm” expectations, I’m looking forward to meeting her(and Rachel and Kisten) and seeing what she looks like.

    But, when i do think of Ivy, i think of her as a person of motion, the way she moves, slinks, sashays, or as you wrote in LLD “her obvious languorous sultriness” even when in repose. She’s going to be a challenge for the artist(s).

    • That might be why I’m having a hard time with the early sketches. I don’t want to get the reputation as being hard to please, but I expect a lot from myself _and_ those whose work touches mine. Mmmmm. You will give me your best, just as I give mine, and together we will fly. Otherwise, it’s just a paycheck.

    • Antonio Rich

      Suggestion: Music. I always think of Ivy with a soundtrack in the background…rythym, movement, and undercurrent of emotions, still waters running deep…Tell him/her to listen to Shirley Mansion, Evanescence…Like Jazz, it’s often the space between the notes that defines the whole.

  10. suzannelazear

    LOL, I love this morning’s post. Faith’s too. That totally happens to be all the time. I also did that I hear-you-not-quite thing for all of grad school, lol. I still do it. I get “whatcha thinking?” from the hubby and usualy it’s “We’ll I’m trying to figure out how to kill this character,” or “what do you think the dating habits of dragons are?” I’m a dancer as well so sometimes it will be “well, I’ve having problems with my hornpipe, I just can’t get that front click” or something like that. 🙂 I also break out into random dances, lol. The freezer aisle of the grocery store is best.

    the tot does random dances too. She had her first irish dance class on tuesday. I can’t make the “baby class” so she’s taking the “big girl” class with me for the moment. The teens adore her, lol.

    Have a great day!

    ~Suzanne and the tot

  11. You’re so totally right — authors do have a lot in common. We live so much inside ourselves it’s often hard to get us out from under our rock. My spouse has come to recognize “the author has left the building” expression that forms on my face when I’m noodling out a difficult scene. A chance comment by him or one of my writer buddies will spark an idea, fix a problem or complicate the h*ll out of something I’m working on. It’s all very interactive. Which is why this is such a cool job!

  12. I know what you mean. I do it to my husband and friends–my mind will think of something and I’ve got to jot it down. 🙂

  13. Thanks for the post.

    This can be a lonely business.

    • Hi, Jocelynn. Sometimes it doesn’t help knowing that there’re others on their own islands. Writers need to learn how to build boats, I think, to get to the next island over. Hang in there. 😉 –Kim

  14. Jenny

    I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing but , it’s very similar for me with colors and different shapes etc.I am always looking out the window or if I am riding in a car(not driving ). I see the way a branch is moving in the wind or the way the sun is shining on the grass or maybe how quickly the colors of the sunset meld together and change, depending in the time of day. If someone is talking to me during these moments I don’t really “hear” them either, because I am thinking “that red would be fabulous on canvas” or something of the like. It also happens when I am working on an art piece,especially if it has alot of detail or fine lines in it.Is this making any sense? Hopefully it does , since I do understand what you are saying. It’s just coming from a different form of art.

    • Jenny, that is so cool. That is exactly the same thing, just a different media. I’ve always believed that writing is an art form, not study that can be taught or learned by by book. (Yes, classes help, but you still learn by doing.) What you said sort of proves it. Thanks! –Kim

  15. Jemma

    Correction: “They do LIVE in my head most of the time…” not ‘like’. 😉

  16. Linda (germany)

    Jeez. You writer are difficult persons I think.
    But also amazing. Living in the real world and in one you created by yourself must be very exhausting.

    God, I could slam you into a wall. (big sorry smile) You really did brake me with these math thing.

    But, there is chemistry. And that is something, that will never change. There are rules and these rules are made by nature herself.

    One tiny straw I can clutch myself at. It’s so fucking creepy, seeing that you can’t control anything because you can’t know everything and you all by yourself because you can’t look inside there heads so you actually can’t trust them.

    Damn it all to hell. Life is hard, isn’t it?
    But what would life be, when it’s all simple and fit together?


    So whisk me luck by finding my way and the person I can really trust.

    • mudepoz

      Oh dear, Love, the paradigm for chemistry is always changing. After all, it did originate in alchemy.

      The sciences are losing their partitions, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, biology, there is no separation anymore.

      And Nature changes the rules ALL the time. Pangaea, Glaciers, a green Greenland…

      Mud, the destroyer of innocence.

    • Hi, Linda. Luck, luck, luck. –Kim

  17. Jemma

    See, it’s exactly this kind of realisation that makes me think I should really try my hand at writing for a career. I THINK like a writer and I do WRITE, a lot, it’s just for the past few years it’s been mostly blog-type stuff or acedemic texts for uni (and I do write those well and get got wonderful grades because I tried to put myself into the text and explain things in fun quirky ways so that it’s not all big words no one understands. People tell me I articulate things well.) but I used to write a lot of fan-fiction (as I think anyone of my generation has) and while that’s cring-worthy now I do realise that I have ALWAYS written and my mom has even read some of that old fan-fiction when I didn’t know and tells me I should write. I’ve had original characters in my head for hte last few years whom I adore (Jess and I used to write some things together, so the problem is now that it would be hard to work with those characters alone without hers to bounce off of) anway, what I’m getting at is I find it hard to think of a story, I can’t for the life of my think of interesting twists in a full-blown plot for these characters yet they do like in my head most of the time and if someone gave me a situation to put them in I could write exactly how they would react. I have that writers briain in terms of I am always day-dreaming and always aware of how my characters would react to situations that I find myself in. I also noticed a few years ago that pretty much all of my friends are writers/aspiring writers but I didn’t know that when I met them and became their friend. It’s like I’m subcontiously attracted to other people with this way of thinking, it’s only after knowing them for a while that I find they write and they THINK like this.
    Sorry for the rambling comment but your blog reminded me of my own realisation about this stuff.

  18. Maria

    I think you writers owe your environment a big “thank you!” for holding up with you 😉

  19. Remember my ‘psychic’ post. I watch my friends, all with similar issues, and no matter if they are in New Jersey, London or Perth…(my little group is rather wide flung, we’re looking into skype now) and I pity all of you.

    I am strictly muse and in most cases an instant Google for science corroboration. The ADHD of my friends bemuses me. I’m grateful for what it produces, but it also confuses the heck out of me 🙂

    Nice to see another glimpse into your head.

  20. wow Kim, that is my wife to a “T”.
    She’s trying to get published, and I’m working hard to help her, but I feel like sometimes I’m completely ignored. And then, bam… I get the “sorry, I wasn’t ignoring you I just thought of a way to change this scene”, or “sorry,I was stuck on a line”…
    I’ve taken to just go about my business when she gets like that and let her finish her process. 🙂
    Writers are special people and have their own way, you give them space so they can create.

    • Hi, JayInRic. You should see my grin. I think that Guy would agree with you that writers are special people. Sometimes, we’re just too special. (laugh)

      That’s wonderful that you’re so supportive. Good for you. You’re making a hard road a lot easier. –Kim

  21. Corpse1001

    My family gets frustrated with me for much the same reason. I am always working out art problems in my head. I am known to derail converstations because of ah-ha moments.

    I just read Faith’s story in Strange Brew last week and ordered some of her books off Amazon. I see that she has a role playing game coming out based on her work. Any such license in the works for the Hollows? I know a lot of gamers a chomping at the bit for a game.

    Thanks. -Thom

    • Hi, Thom. No game is planned for the Hollows, no, but the rules I’ve been using in the books are pretty straightforward and balanced, species-wise. If there is a market for it, it will happen. If not, well . . . shrug.

      I’m glad you liked Faith’s work. She has a strong voice, and I’ve always enjoyed her character’s view of the world. –Kim

  22. Sebrina

    Yes! I know exactly what you’re talking about. That distant, I hear you, but I don’t hear you. Sometimes an idea, or a scene will enter my head mid-conversation with people. It might be with friends, or with my boyfriend. My friends don’t really understand, but my boyfriend is incredibly supportive. He’s my grammar nazi, and blatant when I ask him to edit my writing. For the critique of the story itself, I go to different people I know. Academic types or Ph.D students who also write fiction, and has had some things published.

    I think you’re right though – writers are the same on some level. Perhaps it’s because in the end we’re the people who are unable to stop writing. The moment we stop we become miserable, because we have all these ideas, thoughts, or characters, and they build up with no outlet. We enjoy the writing despite the many frustrations, but we must at all costs keep writing. It’s not what we are, but a part of who we are.

    Or maybe I’m projecting ;-).

    • That’s it, exactly, Sebrina. That’s great you have a supportive boyfriend. Especially if he helps you with the grammer! –Kim

    • Sebrina

      He helps me with a lot of it really. He’ll give me feedback on what he thinks would make the scene work better. There’s a bit of a bet to see if I’ll finish my degree first, or my first book/novel. This is simply finishing – not attempting to get it published. We make a good team. *grin*