9 unsavoury character traits of real authors

character traitsFirst of all, let’s clear one thing up: You’re mad.

There are already millions of books out there, pre-prepared for just for you in a bunch of different genres. And what do you want to do? You want to go and write one of your own.

What makes you think the world needs another novel about vampires struggling with puberty and their own blood lust? Why should we listen to your tragic tale of the Mafia boss who only wants to be loved but keeps the mummified heads of all his victims in the closet?

Since the rise of the internet, it’s become apparent that the world is full of wannabe writers. Every other person and his/her disaffected, half-wit offspring has a blog declaring their writing in big, bold HTML.

And every one…every last one of you feckers is mad as Norman Bates. Here are some of your more endearing character traits:

  • Writers are delusional. You want someone to read your endless rants and so you write them down. Sometimes, someone who is equally delusional will agree with you or laud you and this reinforces your writing behaviour, making you pick up your pen and write even more. It’s all a self-perpetuating lie – a slow, painful spiral into the dark pit of despond – and you don’t care. Because your head is wired up wrong.
  • Writers hate the real world. You hate the drudge and banality of it all. The way the seconds slowly tick by towards an empty and meaningless death without so much as knight in shining armour to make it seem worthwhile. It makes sense to create your own world and live in it. Nut jobs do it all the time, so why shouldn’t you? Except that it’s not real. It’s just you daydreaming out onto paper and it doesn’t change that dumb world you live in one iota.
  • No one understands writers except other writers. And other writers are far too selfish to be really interested in your work. We are self-obsessed creatures at best. And the rest of the world doesn’t care much either. People might be initially impressed that you write but watch their eyes glaze over when you start talking about your beloved work – you get the same effect when you pull out your holiday snaps at work.
  • Writers hate criticism. You hate constructive criticism even more. It stabs you. It gouges a bloody wound in your heart. As a writer you believe you have been born whole and with a purpose into this world, armed with perfect penmanship and a few neat ideas. How could anyone think that your work was faulty in some way?
  • Writers love the shiny-shiny things. You are easily distracted, let’s face it. Ohh! What’s that over there? The big wide world is forever trying to drag you away from your computer and sometimes you are too powerless to resist. This comes from that nugget of self-doubt deep in your writer’s soul, the one that reveals who you really are. That’s why you find it so painful to look at the empty page and why that thing over there by the window is such an easy distraction.
  • Writers are bipolar. One minute you’ll be buzzing and the next you’ll be staring at the bread knife with a self-indulgent fit of depression, thinking hideous things and tearing at your hemp t-shirt with “you don’t have to be mad to be a writer but it helps” emblazoned across your back.
  • Writers have over-inflated egos. Some of you keep up the pretence that you are mellow beings, altruistic to the core. But it’s all a lie. Only a consummate egoist would think their words were vital to the future and well-being of mankind and the planet.
  • Writers hate the successes of other writers. It’s true. You think: But…but that should have been me!!!! You put on that fixed smile and type a congratulatory post, but you are burning inside (see 4 above).

All of this goes to prove one thing. That maybe I shouldn’t drink red wine and write in the afternoon. Maybe I should get on with my novella and get it finished and stop making the lists of things that I think are wrong with me. Maybe I should shout my writey-ness (obviously made up word) from the top of the nearest mountain, declare it to the unwitting world. And maybe I should just shut the hell up.

Self-doubt is a terrible thing…

So, what’s your worst writing characteristic? The one you hide from everyone. Let us know in the comments section below.

26 thoughts on “9 unsavoury character traits of real authors

  1. LMAO! I love this! I think in my case it would be tearing at my fuzzy bathrobe and slippers. 😉

  2. I want to shove my half-written manuscript at everyone I meet, yelling “read this!” Especially by email. Only my heavily-ingrained manners prevents this.

  3. Characteristic #10: Writers have absolutely no fecking choice but to write. Or they’d do something sensible that involves working in a cube farm. I took at 75% pay cut to become a writer. And I don’t regret the decision. Although I do sometime moon over cute shoes I’ll never own…

  4. Bazinga! What… no Bazinga?

  5. Collette Thomas May 24, 2010 — 7:20 pm

    I think my worse is to remain silent when someone looks at me and tells me how much they love another writer’s work, especially knowing that particular writer is making moocha monies and is a best selling author. It’s like me having my neighbor’s daughter come over and do my hair, paying her and then telling her, you know I think I’m going to go to so and so salons because I like her work better. Actually she did tell me she “prefers” stories without a lot of “that sexy stuff.” And yes, I’ve had that glazed look come at me when attempting to talk about my books. Then again I write erotic romance fiction, edgy stuff, so it’s probably good that I don’t talk to much about it or be classified let’s say in a derogatory manner. Collette Thomas

  6. It’s true! I do hate the real world! So much so that I actually refuse to believe it *is* the real world. But I firmly believe that the best writers of all time are the ones who are just the same nutty as me. That goes to prove your second-to-last bullet point. I believe I am special for being quirky. :-)Although I actually *do* love reading other people’s work, even if it does make me feel just a tad masochistic.

  7. Well I was laughing until I read the three characteristics that apply to me 100%. No, I’m not gonna tell you which ones! But I will say I actually do enjoy reading other peoples work. If I didn’t, I couldn’t be an editor. I think my worst trait as a writer is trying to make it ‘perfect’ before anyone sees it. Even a beta or co-editor for an opinion. It will never be perfect, so, sometimes things just don’t get finished. *sigh* So much easier with other peoples work.

  8. Well, I don’t hate the world but I guess I’d have to say that I both want criticism (of course I want everyone to love my work but constructive actually helps me) and am terrified of it. Not necessarily by my internet readers but by my family and irl friends. Oh- and my 2nd worst trait is that I actually *want* that “you don’t have to be mad to be a writer but it helps” t-shirt. Do you think I could have it specially made? Cool post!

  9. I fall into the category of making my friends eyes glaze over, but they ask for it! They will be polite and say, so what are you writing now, how goes that writing thing, stuff like that, and unless I catch myself, I will start to ramble.. I do it to my wife all the time, then I will look at her and see that glassy look and trail off..

  10. With the exception of hating other writer’s successes, I am ashamed and saddened to say you are yet again correct. There are some published authors that yes, I do not see how they are successful because their writing is uneducated slop in my opinion, but I do not feel that I unfairly hate all other writer’s successes. In fact it is because of another writer’s success that has led me to be so driven with my own writing. I would have to say that yes, I hate criticism. I say that I don’t, I put on the happy, compliant face over it, and while some of it may constructively sink in at a later date, the whole time anyone is offering criticism I am secretly plotting ways to remove their spleen. <– this might also be where I admit to being somewhat bipolar as well.Great insight as usual Ziggy.

  11. All too true (hangs head in shame)

  12. Becky Holland May 25, 2010 — 5:51 pm

    Fabulous! I can especially identify with the fact that no one understands writers except other writers. When I worked as an administrative assistant people would ask questions about my job when I told them what I do. Now, when I say I’m a writer, people just look at me with that pitying look that says, “So in otherwords, you sit around in your fuzzy bunny slippers and play farmville all day… how sad!”

  13. Shiny Things… like for instance this post, which is very good, but decidedly not what I’m working on for next weeks update. Procrastination is by far my worst, it took me a year to start serializing my work…

  14. Oh, yes. Mad as a spoon, us. Well put, Ziggy. I found this darkly hilarious and true.But we have to write BECAUSE we’re so potty. Otherwise we’d be the one’s standing on the roof of Harrods with one shoe, underpants on our head and setting fire to pages of “The Da Vinci Code.” It’s a way of exorcising the daemons we’re currently possessed by; the ones that whisper, “Robot Tennis matches on Mars!” in our ear at night.I for one revel in my bloody-minded, rotten, selfish, bitchiness and to tell the truth, the highs make up for it. For every RT, follow, “like”, and accepted manuscript I feel like I’m kissing God. I’d never trade that in.Here’s to Norman Bates. Cheers, mate!: )

  15. Stop looking over my shoulder, dude. It creeps me out.

  16. Although, I don’t agree with every character trait listed — maybe it’s because I’m delusional — I do find that many of the traits you listed are spot on.I do feel like the only people who truly understand me are other writers.I also think most people in the real world suck. Then again, most of the people in question have given me reason to think that, so it’s their own fault. Not mine.I’m also very easily distracted, as are many writers that I know.I also enjoy reading other people’s work because it inspires me. And yes, I do want to make a difference with my writing. I’m not saying I’m going to completely change the world, but to even have one person tell me I made a difference is enough for me.

  17. I would not say that all of these apply, but some of them gavee a good laugh at myself. I have to say that my worst trait is that I hate proofreading, as it is tedious and hurts my ego.

  18. Shamelessly promoting my work at http://www.scott-hunter.net here, there,every…

  19. always knew I was a demented scribbler. This confirms it.Is there any hope for the woman?Doubt it LOL 🙂

  20. Okay. Here is my ego:“Recession Love.” Eclectic Flash. Ed. Brad Nelson. (forthcoming September 2010)”Author Spotlight.” eFiction Magazine. Ed. Doug Lance. (forthcoming June 2010)”Keeping Watch.” eFiction Magazine. Ed. Doug Lance. (forthcoming June 2010)”Running of the Cows.” eFiction Magazine. Ed. Doug Lance. (forthcoming June 2010)“Dog Fight.” Pow Fast Flash Fiction. Ed. Karen Schindler. Web. 25 April 2010 “The Last Act.” The Wry Writer. Ed. Alexandra Wolfe. Web. 18 September 2009

  21. Fun, painful post! My worst trait is–oh, is that something shiny over there?

  22. I’m the get distracted, procrastinating type mostly. But yes, all of the above to some degree or another. Reading your post reminded me of a line from Alice in Wonderland: “Oh, we’re all mad here!” We’re our own little mad community, we writers.

  23. I’m more than happy to have a long conversation with you about writing over email, Facebook, Twitter…but if you are not a writer, don’t you dare ask me to my face about what I’m working on because I know it will sound dull and lifeless until you read it on the page where it will shine bright and golden right up into your eyes and you will ask all shocked and nicey, “You wrote *that*?”

  24. I want people to read my work… as long as they don’t know me in person. Oops?

    1. I totally agree.

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