My “Writer-ly” Quirks

In Writing by Matthew Hazelwood

My "Writer-ly" Quirks

On reflection, one theme of these articles seems to be “what is objective?” and “what is subjective?” The question came up again when I had an idea: to write about character traits of writers. But “writers” are a diverse group. What would you put in a list like that, other than useless stereotypes? I did not want to throw away the idea altogether, though. Writers must have some similarities, I thought. After all, I did write an article on what a writer has to do. To find that out, however, we would have to change gears. I would have to openly sacrifice logic for relatability. This, then, will be personal observations on what I think makes ME a writer. Some will understand, others may not.

1. Bibliophile

I will try to avoid using words like “magical” or “spiritual”; books, however, are somehow special. I cannot leave a library or a bookstore without a book or two–“#addiction”, am I right? Part of it must have to do with my admiration for intellectualism. There are books on the history of mathematics to anatomy. Just by reading, you can get a good generalist education (although, admittingly, the wideness is at a sacrifice of depth). Historians are clear on this: the printing press truly changed society. I would not want to live in a society without books.

2. Pen and paper

No matter where I have been or where I am going, I do my best to keep material to write on and to write with. You never know when a sentence, concept, character, etc., will come to mind. Whomever else I am traveling with, is often waiting in the car, while I frantically search for the nearest usable pencil and paper. If that fails, then I might even grab my laptop. Anything that I can write or type on. I get to be feeling uneasy if I have not written anything for even a day. But reading and writing are better habits than, say, smoking crack on the kitchen floor all day!

3. Distracted

Given I feel uncomfortable if I have not written in a while, it follows that I think about writing constantly. I could be at a family member’s house, sitting next to them, and be zoned out. That is because I am contemplating what I will be writing next. What will the topic be? What format should it be in? Is it even a good idea? I do my best, though, to be in the moment when I am not writing. If I am writing, forget about it! The whole world could have blown up and I would probably not notice. It is not intentional self-centeredness but intense concentration.

4. Long walks

I wrote an article about famous people who walked to get their thoughts in order; so, I will not go into too much detail here. And while I am not a famous visionary, I do love to walk. I could walk for hours on end, especially if the temperature is just right and the scenery pretty. We all could, most likely. Our ancestors were nomadic. I have to wonder if the rise in obesity is caused by this. Our bodies may be built for constant moving about. I highly doubt our extinct cousins the Neanderthals were sitting around all day playing ‘Angry Bird’.

5. Chatter box

My mother once called me a “fine conversationalist”. While I cannot be the judge of that, I do pride myself on stimulating conversation. It seems to me the art of conversation is dying out. Not to sound like a curmudgeonly old man, but social media probably has something to do with this. People reply with “yeah”, “okay”, “alright”, and “fine”-none are grammar emphasized. These monosyllabic replies we all use shut down communication. Writing, for me, is all about starting meaningful conversation.

6. Emotional intelligence

Read a book like “The Catcher in the Rye“, poems by John Keats or even essays by Fredrich Nietzsche. All or most writers seem to have a key sense of emotions; either for others, their own, or both. This might apply more to fiction writers. You have to get into the head of your characters convincingly and empathetically. But even a journalist reporting on current events has to be in touch with the human. You are reporting events that effect people. I myself extend empathy (love would be exaggeratory) very easily. I try to think about what someone else might feel and adjust behavior accordingly. However, I will not say I am a master of emotional intelligence, for no one is.

7. Fluctuating Self-worth

My emotions tend to be a rollercoaster. One minute, I feel like a great genius whose name will be known for a thousand years. Other times, I feel like a complete fraud and failure. I was called attention to this by one of John Green’s videos. Then you think about the personalities of past writers. Hemingway portrayed himself as a tough guy, but his life ended by suicide. The English essayist Logan Pearsall Smith once wrote, “Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.” This seems to be a general truth of creative people in general.

8. Mental illness

There does seem to be a connection between mental illness and creativity. Does art come from suffering? That statement is a tad melodramatic, but one’s life and art are certainly intertwined. I have been diagnosed with two disorders and a syndrome. This causes me to have trouble talking to people clearly and honestly. Writing, I think, is my way to try to get my voice out there. Though I am not qualified to psychoanalyze myself or anyone else. I am also fully aware of the barbed wire I am climbing. My experience might not be the same as yours. I am also not saying anxiety or bipolar disorder are gifts. Regardless, there is always room for hope. You are loved; never ever forget that, my dear friends.

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