One thing that I get asked frequently is something that new writers or soon-to-debut authors wonder about a lot. They want to know if their way of writing or their habits while writing are normal.
Is it normal if I <blank>?
Do other writers <blank>?
What if I <blank>?
When asked any question about what is “normal” for writers (which is a lot more often than you’d think), I have to do a few things. One, I have to remind the question asker that I am still technically a “pup” myself. Two, I explain that I am not all writers. And three, I have to first ask them: “Do you want to be normal?“
“Normal” isn’t a virtue. Can we all agree on that?
The world is full of “normal” and it just keeps getting worse. Just turn on the news. I promise you’ll see what I mean.
Writers often develop odd habits, or, I guess, methods for making sure that they get the job done. Everyone has a different way of making sure that they hit a deadline or word count. If you check out this article on Write To Done, you’ll see what I mean.
Agathie Christie soaked in the tub eating apples and examined murder scene photographs. Truman Capote had strange quirks, like the number of cigarette butts allowed in his ashtray and an aversion to the number 13. William Faulkner liked his whiskey (don’t get me started on Hemingway). Lewis Carroll used purple ink. All of these writers did things and had habits that other writers might find…odd.
My habits include being a creep and observing people too closely while in public places like coffee shops, cafes, and bakeries. I love to hear a heated exchange begin when I am out somewhere because I will listen with every creepy bone in my body (I’ve learned how to shop for soup or sip coffee and listen without looking like I’m listening like a damn professional). Learning about people and their lives inspires me. I also feel restless while writing if I don’t have water (and sometimes a diet soda) to drink. Additionally, I don’t feel I write as well with my contacts in as I do with my glasses on due to eye fatigue. Furthermore, I just don’t feel like I’m doing my best work unless my dog is nearby. Lastly, I feel that I write best between the hours of midnight and five in the morning. I rarely get to do that anymore, but I still feel that when the world goes to sleep, my characters come to life.
So…who am I to judge what “normal” is for all of us?
The best answer I have for writers who are unfortunate enough to get my ear is this:
Try different things. Try writing in bed. At the kitchen table. On the couch. Go to your favorite coffee shop. Take your writing implement of choice and see what happens. Try different tools for writing. Wear comfortable clothes. Dress prim and proper. Make your room quiet. Play music. Try different types of music. Drink different beverages. Try different times of day. Read books in the genre you write for research, but never read that genre while you’re writing. If you read different genres and styles, it will help inspire you to elevate what you are writing to something different than others in your genre.
The most important thing–and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn here–is that you write. Set aside time each day to write something. Anything. Even if you write a single paragraph, you’re practicing your craft and keeping your skills honed. Even if you end up tossing what you wrote that day, at least you practiced.
And, for the love of all things, when you find something that works, don’t question it. It doesn’t matter if it’s “normal.” Anyone who says otherwise is obviously projecting their own insecurities.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,