Listen, I mean that with true, total love and affection.
Sometimes there’s a lot of what I call “shelf measuring” wherein writers do a couple of different things depending on their persuasion. A writer who is a total book nerd will try to find out if you are a book nerd too. Do you go to second hand shops and look for copies of books you already own but with strange, one-off covers? Have you run out of room in your house for all your books? A writer who considers anyone less “literary” than themselves not worth their time will attempt to suss out your feelings on Gogol because Tolstoy is too mainstream. These are basically hipster writers who in addition to their snobbery over the classics hoard their new writer finds. Writers who are more academic will talk ask about your influences and offer you a copy of a book about writing by a professor type because you need anchoring in structured practice. There are the writers who love words; they know a lot of wonderful quotes, work tirelessly on phrasing, and want to know if you’ve read any great wordsmith’s they’ve yet to discover. Many writers have a favorite genre or time period of writing that they get a bit of tunnel vision about. They’ll tell you lovingly about the depth of X during the Y or describe a genre in such a way to make it all encompassing of the human experience, with or without unicorns. There are the fan writers who have a favorite book they just have to tell everyone changed their life and is the reason they decided to become a writer and they’re dying to know if you’ve read it. Note if you have, purchase a pot of tea, not just a cup…and a piece of cake so you can chew thoughtfully.
We also all get writer’s block. Some people say they never get this. They are lying. It may not feel like a block to them because they’ve got a plot map or they’re taking time off to look back at things afresh or they’re just too busy to write for a little while. In my book, those are all blocks. My kids are walking, talking writing blocks because they often physically bar me from the page. Recently, I saw a quote that I am not going to bother googling (you do that, I wrote this, it took time) that basically said writers are people who have a harder time writing than normal people. I’d put money on that idea meaning slightly different things to every writer. To me, it means that I care too much about my writing. I want it to be good the first time. Really good. I don’t want to go back and make it better (yes, i live in the place with the unicorns). To another writer it may be that finishing an idea, an arc is hard because our plots can’t just be regular old character meets problem finds resolution. Some writers want to weave a plot, throw you a curve ball, toss in some revelatory knowledge via the subtext of that chic-lit.
Then there’s the complaining. Oh my. We love it. About how hard it is. About editing. About finding this and making that and sending and submitting. Up. Hill. Both ways. Kvetching. But at least we do it together. It’s good. How could we deal with all the rejection otherwise?
Some of us…ok, all of us, are competitive, though to drastically different degrees. You want to be happy for your friend that just got an agent, a deal, a publishing date, the best-seller list. And you are Happy. But you’re also jealous. When your profession requires soul baring, when your daily writing life is spent trying to create some kind of art via scratching marks on a page, it is hard to feel like “no one” is ever going to see it or appreciate it. There are naturally more competitive and petty writers out there, but that’s true of humanity. Mostly there are good folks.
Procrastinating might be a thing too, but I wouldn’t know.