Here are eighteen things authors do. There could be more. It’s a process.
Photo by Guzel Maksutova
18 Things Authors Do
- Read – It goes without saying that if you’re an author you like to, if not love to, read. You can’t read all the time because if you did you’d never have time to write! In a nutshell, if you don’t enjoy reading then you’re probably not going to enjoy writing.
- Write – It also goes without saying that authors write. Could be a little, could be a lot, all that matters initially is that words are written and sentences formed to create what the ancient Greeks called writing.
- Use their Imagination – All authors, but especially fiction authors, are prone to fantasize and exceptionally comfortable in the magical place we call headspace, or imagination. It’s that daydreamy place where ideas are nurtured to become written alive on the page. It’s also a place that is essential for authors to visit, stop by, or even live in, in order to write and tell stories.
- Procrastinate – “Wait, what? I’ll get to it in a minute, there’s just something I’ve got to do first before I start writing.” Most authors, especially hobby authors who don’t have paycheck deadlines, and, certainly all authors at some point experience high levels of procrastination during the writing process. Sometimes it seems as if it’s actually part of the writing process. Whatever it is, an author’s tendency to procrastinate must be recognized and dealt with just as any other bad habit. Preferably now. The sooner, the better.
- Are Quirky – Many authors become particularly quirky when writing. Even if they aren’t necessarily quirky people when not writing, many authorrs pick up and take on what others might think as odd or quirky behavior. I tend to think of this as like what baseball pitchers do before they throw a pitch. As long as it doesn’t hinder one from writing, all the positioning or “getting ready” and “getting things situated” might actually help an author find their groove.
- Obsess – For everyone, there are healthy obsessions, like walking a lot which will lead to better heart health, but, for authors who find themselves obsessed with a topic or subject, they might want to evaluate if it is a healthy obsession or not. If the obsession has reached a point where it no longer serves the imagination in a useful, productive capacity, then it should be consciously minimized if not ditched altogether. Of course, that will probably lead to another obsession but, hey, variety is the spice of life, right?
- Deny Themselves and Others – This is a tricky one because there is a fine line between nurturing oneself and nurturing the ones you love. If you don’t take the time as an author to pursue your craft then you’ll be an extremely unhappy person and less nurturing of the ones you love. But, if you spend too much time in the studio, completely unavailable to the outside world, then not only will your work soon be plagued by quirky obsessions but so will your relationships suffer a terrible fate as well. Becoming aware of an “artful balance” when it comes to pursuing the time consuming dream of being an author and the importance of being present in our relationships is becoming aware, and proactive, to understanding and knowing when and how to navigate our writing life within our daily lives. Denying either one too much or too little creates havoc and imbalance to everyone involved. Getting it right seeks the path of following one’s bliss. Get it? Got it? Good.
- Keep Notes – Just like some people keep nails of different sizes in different containers in their garage on their workbench, so do authors keep notes of various length and importance in journals, on computers, scraps of paper, on post-it notes, the backs of envelopes, etc. Whether or not any of these notes will ever get used isn’t a problem. It’s the jotting down of an idea for a scene, setting, or character that becomes a problem unless there is paper handy, or a computer, or journal, etc. Luckily, those things usually are within reach. Authors keep notes. It is from those notes that things get written.
- Indulge – The rewarding of oneself after finishing a writing project, be it a blogpost, a book, screenplay, or even a menu, is commonplace among authors. Remember Stephen King’s “Misery” where the author, who denied himself tobacco until he finished his novel, finally finished his draft and relished his reward ritual of lighting up a cigarette? That was a significant moment for the author. But, that’s not entirely what I mean about author’s indulging themselves. There’s nothing wrong with a well deserved reward. But, allowing oneself to enjoy special pleasures during the writing process, such as in my case, fair if not copious amounts of dark chocolate, peanuts or Hot Tamales candies, might not be such a great idea. Does that mean the treats won’t be by my side while writing, anytime soon? Hell, no. It just means that authors do, indeed, indulge. And, I know for a fact that I am not the only one that does. It’s just something many writers do while writing, be it smoking, drinking coffee, or eating jelly beans. Every writer is different. Maybe writers indulge their senses while writing to stimulate, especially through the use of caffeine, nicotine, and chocolate, dopamine levels. Makes sense to me. Dopamine is connected to our senses of pleasure and pain and those two words perfectly describe the entire process of writing.
- Are Mindful of Conflict and Drama – (Fiction) Authors are mindful of drama and conflict in their daily lives because that’s what they—at least fiction authors, write about. Without confliction there is no fiction worth telling. Are authors more mindful about conflict and drama in their daily lives than everyone else? Maybe. And, I do think many authors consciously think in those terms: Is this drama and conflict happening right now going to effect me and my loved ones, and if so, how so?
- Rewrite – Anyone can write some words and call it writing but an author writes and then always rewrites. The absolutely necessary process of revising ones work comes after being read by an editor and the author realizing there is no other alternative than to revise said work. Rewriting, like editing, is part of the process of “writing” and although it receives little mention in Hollywood movies about authors it is nevertheless something authors do.
- Edit – Grammar, typos, critical story elements, beats, arcs, plot structure, POV, and more all fall under the umbrella of editing. Many modern authors pay traditional editors to evaluate and correct their manuscript but there are also many modern authors using editing software programs that walk the author through the editing process. Either way, editing is something that authors must do whether they want to or not.
- Plot and Plan – Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’? Pantser’s write by the seat of their pants. Plotter’s outline their story. Both plotters and pantsers, sooner or later, plan and plot their story before finishing it. Plotters, or Outliners, prefer to use scene cards or some other way to outline a description of the stories inciting incident, characters, scenes, settings, key plot points, and climax, while pantsers write everything first—or most everything, before going back to correct deficiencies in the story. As mentioned in #11, all writers edit and rewrite their stories thus, to at least some degree, plot and plan until the very end.
- Research – Authors love to research. It’s something they do to add authority and authenticity to their work. Not only does the author learn something during their research, hopefully so will their readers while reading their books. And, books referenced.
- Are Interested in Humanity – Show me an author who isn’t. Even if they have no hope for humanity they are still interested in it. Humanity is the universal story of US in all our glory so every author has an interest in humanity, an interest in human behaviors, actions, and reactions. Even if their story is populated with robots and AI, an author will lean on everything they have learned in life about humanity to describe their characters motivations, fears and desires.
- Cherish Books – Show me an author who doesn’t hold dear an old favorite book and begin talking about it or about when they first read it. Today’s authors may have read their early beloved books from a modern device but I’d bet they’ve since bought a paper version to keep and care for upon a shelf. Authors look with affection to their bookshelves and bookcases. A well stocked library or reading room is a joyful sight to an author. The abhorrent question: Will books become obsolete? has no effect on authors for an author will never let that happen.
- Create – Under appreciated by non-readers and Neanderthals, authors actually do create for the rest of us. Authors create worlds and characters we can go to when the real world is just too much. Authors create guides to help people navigate the real world. Authors help document our history. Authors can make us laugh and cry, feel happy and sad, and remember we’re all in this thing together. So, if you are an author and ever get held back by procrastination or self-doubt just remember that it is an honor and a gift to write, and if you are, indeed, an author, it is your duty to create by writing. Well, go now, better get on it.
- Study the Craft – Unless you were born a savant, like author Daniel Tammet, it goes without saying that as an author you will, sooner or later, come to need and want to read books about writing to better your skills and understanding. In fact, if you are a author, just by reading this article you have proved my #18th point of things authors do. Authors never stop learning.
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