We’ve all heard about the personal habits of successful salesmen, entrepreneurs, and just about any other kind of profession. “A positive attitude and persistence!” is what we’re told makes a great salesman. Heck, I’m sure most of us even know the habits of successful writers, like reading and writing every day, finding solitude, and being observant. However, not many people have spoken up about the terrible habits of writers. Just like with any other career, writers have some pretty bad personal habits when they’re absorbed in their work.
All writers, whether they’re content writers, poet laureates, or established novelists, have a tendency to develop personal quirks on the job. Each writer’s routine is like his or her thumb print; no two are the same, and a select few don’t have one at all. However, there are a few things we all have in common across the board, and one of those things is our penchant for getting just a tad too immersed in our work. Without further ado, I hereby welcome readers into the wonky inner-workings of an avid writer’s psyche.
We Are a Panicky People
When picturing a professional writer, you may imagine a master of his craft who is the embodiment of outer tranquility. He sits down to his typewriter, pipe in hand, wearing a handsome tweed jacket or thick-knit sweater. Almost as if possessed by a spirit, he immediately begins to work on his masterpiece, eloquently putting down every word with marked intention. Rest assured, this image is not as it seems.
Our minds are often spinning with a thousand ways to say what we mean, and it’s our job to choose wisely. Even when we do finally grasp a complete thought, it still doesn’t quite come out the way we intended. This, as you can imagine, leads to inner turmoil and subsequent panic. Writers want to be published, so every time we send something out into the world, we are gripped with a feeling that we could have done better. Add that to the fact that many of us are trying to adhere to strict deadlines, and you get a good idea of the frantic and fragile little birds we can sometimes be.
We Are Painfully Insecure
Writers are expected to develop a tough skin. There comes a point when every writer must declare a piece complete, regardless of how the writer feels about it. If we weren’t able to wipe our hands and move on at some point, nothing would ever get done. The funny thing is, most of us don’t develop a thick skin. Sure, we can muster up the courage to submit a final piece, but don’t think for one second that it ends there. We stalk the internet for reviews and feedback. We curse ourselves when we realize there was a better way of saying something. Bad reviews make us want to cry and throw out every notebook we own.
The depth of our insecurity can be mind-boggling and crippling. Perhaps it’s our heightened sensitivity that makes us writers in the first place, but it’s that same trait that turns us into our own worst enemies. It’s not uncommon for writers to be so paralyzed by insecurity that they deny themselves the opportunity altogether. Franz Kafka is a prime example. While he had a few short stories published in his lifetime, he only received notoriety after death. Kafka had explicitly instructed his best friend to burn all of his manuscripts, letters, and diaries when he died. Thankfully, his friend disobeyed his request and published his work anyways.
We Only Eat So We Don’t Die
Many writers have eating habits that would make their grandmothers cry. It’s not that we don’t enjoy food as much as the next person, it’s just that we often forget or ignore the fact that we’re hungry in the first place. There’s nothing that will derail a train of thought faster than the chore of cooking. When writers are truly absorbed in their work, they often put off eating until they’re done with a particular thought. “I’ll make something quick when I finish this sentence,” they think. One page turns into two, then three, then… well, you can see where I’m going with this.
Personally, when I’m working, I don’t eat anything that takes more than 3 minutes to cook. If someone places a meal in front of me, I’ll eat it without even looking. This can be a dangerous habit. Roommates could offer me a plate of cat food, and I would probably eat it (let’s hope none of them read this). The truth is, many writers probably enjoy cooking; after all, it’s the act of creating something. We just don’t always have the motivation or time to do it.
We’re a Little Crazy
One minute we’re quiet and consumed by our thoughts, and the next minute we can be heard talking to ourselves with great fervor, perhaps even engaged in an argument with ourselves. The vast majority of us are introverts. While we do get inspiration from observing other people, we often feel drained after being around them. We long to discuss our favorite subjects with people, but simultaneously suffer from ennui.
Our brains are like a hamster in a wheel: you know the thing is tired, but it just keeps running. Many writers even go full recluse as a way to conserve energy and just get away from people and noise in general. I myself often entertain the romantic notion of becoming the town hermit.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to live a day in the life of a writer, fire up your laptop, draw the blinds, and pop some Ramen in the microwave.