Motivation Monday: On the Essential Isolation of the Writer

There will be times in your life, if they haven’t arisen already, where the essential habits of writerdom will make you seem a little separate, a little strange, to the rest of mankind.

I mean, you look normal; you walk, talk and act just like everybody else. You have friends. You need food, clothing and shelter. But there are some things that other people do that writers, in general, simply don’t do. Like:

quote cyril connolly brambles artist picnic parties1. Send an email without rereading it in your Sent folder. Because you want to know how it looks in context, among other emails, in the wild.

2. Read a restaurant menu without finding a typo, an edit, or a poorly worded dish description. And you will never understand how anyone could describe the taste of $24-per-bottle white wine with the phrase “hints of grass and pencil shavings,” in which that’s understood to be a good thing.

3. Get accused of being poor listeners. The person with whom you’re conversing always has your rapt attention. Perhaps not for the exact reason they think they’ve got your attention, but no one has to know you’re taking mental notes on inflection and dialogue while listening to someone talk about their last vacation to Montreal.

4. Feel really, unreservedly, totally in the moment with other people. You’re always half a step back from the group number, always a beat ahead of or behind the conversation, because as you’re out for a night with friends, you’ll always be in that underground river, close to life but not totally immersed in it. No matter where you are, a part of you isn’t participating; it’s always watching, evaluating—and writing.

5. Use the word “irregardless.” Because you’re too good for that.


What are some other common habits of writers? Share them in the comments.



  • Brian J

    Have what looks like a miniature seizure when a particularly juicy idea makes itself known.

    Proofread a text message before, after, and while it’s sending.

    Have a million ways to speak one sentence, and become tongue-tied trying to get it out.

    Write all over the page, beyond the left margin and throughout the header.

    Write in different directions on the same page.

    And my personal favorite:

    Create a grand epic for the ant crawling across the table.

    • Shan

      Brian, “writing in different directions on the same page” is something I also do. I didn’t realize I wasn’t the only one! And all the rest of these sound distinctively writerly, too.

      • Brian J

        Ha! Nope you’re not alone. I do it all the time and have a few friends that do it too. Oddly enough it helps me get a new perspective on whatever I’m working on lol.

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