What Are Writers Like?

A friend of mine asked me a curious question. It was curious, for two reasons, one, we were in our favorite watering hole and two, why would he think such a thing?

“Are most writers alcoholics?”

“What makes you ask that?”

“Well Dave, you are a writer and I’d like to become one and yesterday someone said to me if I become a writer there’s a chance I will be an alcoholic!”

I smiled and said, “Well, you know I like my wine with my meals but I am far from an alcoholic.”

“Some famous writers were alcoholics, such as Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Williams,” said my friend.

“Granted, some writers think that ideas flow better with a drink while writing, it also relieves the writer’s tension. But that is not what makes a writer!”

“Okay then, here’s another question for you. What are writers like?”

“That’s a better question and for the answer we will have to delve into the writer’s character.”

My friend had a pensive look on his face.

“I’ve heard a lot about “writer’s temperament”. What’s that?”

“I can see we’re going to have quite a discussion here, lets have another drink. Bartender, two more old fashions, please.”

“There are a lot of myths attached to writer’s temperament, like alcoholism and moods. But in reality a writer is a person who is more versatile, more sympathetic and more studious than the ordinary person. They don’t pay much attention to the ideas of the crowd. They amuse themselves in solitude!”

“That’s interesting, but what about the despair of the writer? It’s not all glamour, is it?”

“No, far from it,” I laughed.

“I like to daydream about stories,” said my friend.

“That’s okay, it’s part of the writing process but then you have to turn the dream into reality.”

“There’s a lot of doubt and worry attached to writing, isn’t there?”

“There are times while worrying about my story, I have lots of reasons to doubt and not one for self-confidence. But that’s also part of the writer’s lot, a period of despair!”

“Someone told me a writer is two people in one. What’s that all about?”

“The two people are the “unconscious” and the “conscious”. They are the mental functions of the whole writer. The unconscious provides the rising story, types of characters, scenes and emotional responses. Then in the conscious it is scrutinized and polished and sent back to the unconscious for the final combination of components to form the whole. Then it signals the conscious the work has been done and finally the actual writing of the story begins!”

“Boy, I never knew so much goes on in the creative mind.”

“Yes, you have to learn to be your own best friend and your own severest critic.”

“I’ve also been told that writers have to be original. But others say, there’s no such thing as pure originality because every story has been done! So, how can we be original?”

“Good question, since there are only 36 dramatic situations or plots, so how do we get many, many different stories from those 36? That’s where your originality comes into play. It’s how you present them!”

“What do you mean?” said my wan-a-be writer friend.

“The one contribution we writers can make to the vast pool of knowledge, is how the world looks to us through our stories.”

“Oh, I get it, sort of a personal judicious selection of our views.”

“Hey, right on! Now, out of about seven billion people worldwide, YOU ARE UNIQUE. Isn’t that food for thought?”

“It makes you feel special.”

“Right, no one has exactly your background, your experience, or grew up like you did, or faces the world with the exact ideas that you have!”

My writer friend smiled and said, “So, if I write a story, it is told through my eyes. Then I have a piece of original work.”

“How your story unfolds is unique to you, it’s your character showing through your work, it’s your original point of view.”

My friend pondered that for a moment.

I spoke up, “Lets have an example: Ten people were asked to write for ten minutes expanding this sentence. “A boy was so upset by his parent’s divorce that it tinged his whole life mentally and emotionally.”

The ten people came up ten completely different story versions. Each person saw the situation in a personal light and created a different story!”

“I get it, we all see situations from different angles because we are looking at things through OUR eyes, hence the originality!”


“What is the basic thing we need to write good?”

“Well, we must learn and grow. We need strong beliefs, convictions and opinions because they are the basis of our writing. All our writing is about persuasion. We are trying to persuade our reader to see the world with our eyes, to agree that our story is either tragic or comedic. So, we need to know what our beliefs and convictions are on the major problems of life.”

“Can you put all this information in a nut shell?”

“The writer knows there are times when he must have solitude, time to daydream and time to sit idle. Then the time for silence is gone and you have reached the moment when you must write to exercise the vision!”

“Great, I can’t wait to start writing!”

“And finally remember:


The Writer’s Magic!

I was sitting in my scriptorium (study), one afternoon, gazing out the window, daydreaming! When there was a heavy knock at my front door. Startled out of my idea-catching mode, I went to the door, opened it, and there stood my Long Lost Cousin. He is no longer long lost, because we found each other a few years ago. I ushered him into the scriptorium. I sat in my swivel chair and he plunked himself down on the settee.

“What’s on your mind, cousin?”

“Well, you know I read your blog stories all the time, and I’ve read your ebook, so I like your writing and want to be a writer myself!”

“Do you want a drink, cousin?”

“No, thank you, I want to stay sober because I’m going to do a little writing later.”

“Thank you for your loyalty and the compliment. Have you written anything recently?”

“Yes, I’ve tried my hand at a few short stories. The few people that have read them, including my wife, said they were okay. But I question, can I write?” LLC looked confused.

“Well cousin, there are a few measurements available to see if you can write.”

“Such as?” LLC said eagerly.

“Lets first take “Technical Proficiency”, how well you understand the component elements of writing. Such as dialogue, description, exposition, characterization, punctuation, grammar and narrative.”

“Oh boy, that’s a lot of elements?”

“That’s not all of them, also you have chronology, flashbacks and backstory, show or tell, tense and point of view.”

“You need to know all that?” LLC looked worried.

“Of course, cousin, if you want to write well. Every element melds together flawlessly to create a powerful impression on the reader!”

“So, it’s like magic?”

“That’s right, “The Writer’s Magic”. You can get your reader excited, scared, angry and full of emotion. But they never see how you did the trick!”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, next comes “Structural Proficiency”, the more word count you have, the more demands on the writer. You have to understand pace, storyline, character arcs, suspense, conflict and twists.”

“What kind of writer are you, cousin?”

“Well cousin, I’m a blend of two types. I like to write chronologically sometimes and other times I prefer to write bits of the story separately, here and there and everywhere. Just so I don’t lose the thread of the storyline!”

“When I came this afternoon, were you writing?”

“Actually, I was daydreaming, which is part of the writing process.”

“How’s that, cousin?”

“Daydreaming is one source that a writer has to draw his material from. The writer creates a world of fantasy, like a child at play, he then invests all his emotions into it, while separating it from reality.”

“Boy, this is interesting stuff, cousin,” said LLC, his eyes sparkling, “Tell me more.”

“A writer sometimes takes a strong experience in the present and it awakens a memory from his past, maybe childhood, from which he now proceeds to write about a wish, a daydream, which finds fulfillment in his story!”

“So, after all that, what are the problems that a writer has just starting out like me?”

“The problems are personality problems. The writer starts a story but loses heart, gets stuck and is blocked. Sometimes he writes good and sometimes he writes very bad! It’s frustrating! In other words, they are problems of confidence, self-respect, the demons of the subconscious, where a lot of our ideas come from.”

“Lots of problems then?”

“Yes, but you can work hard and get rid of the habits of thought that impede your progress. In other words, strengthen your right side of the brain, which handles expressive and creative tasks.”

“Any final words before I leave?”

“Yes, cousin, they are on the light side. I asked a guy, the other day, what he did for a living.

“I’m a brain surgeon, what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Oh, that’s what I think I’ll do when I retire,” said the surgeon, matter-of-factly.

“That’s interesting,” I said, “When I retire I want to be a brain surgeon!”