11 Signs You May Be a Writer

grammarlyNOTE: I used Grammarly.com to grammar check this post, because a writer making a grammar mistake is like your surgeon forgetting to make sure he didn’t leave his scalpel in your abdomen. Sloppy. Very sloppy.

Writing is hard. Really hard. Not many of us would purposely choose such a tortured life. We are never “off work.” We see stories everywhere. You don’t have to be a published author to recognize these eleven warning signs. Just understand that, as of yet, there is no cure.

11 Signs You May Be a Writer

1. The people you see in real life become characters.

As in a story, you only name the important ones. The others are the grocery store checker, the yoga teacher, the Starbucks guy. When they become an important character in your story, also known as your life, they get a name.

2. Something unexpected that happens in your life is not a surprise, it’s a plot twist.

When life throws you a punch, you are plotting out all the other things that will happen as a result of that one plot twist—how things will change.

3. You can’t stop staring at that customer in Starbucks.

You’re thinking his mannerisms would make him a unique character. The way he holds his coffee, wrapping both hands all the way around it and blowing on it. The way he keeps smoothing the lapel of his jacket. How he throws his head back when he laughs.

4. You buy way more books than you need.

You have purchased so many books that your spouse has threatened to take your credit card away. Your Kindle is either going to explode or run out of shelf room.

5. One typo, anywhere, will stop you cold.

You are so distracted by that typo that you can’t think of anything else. The secret to the universe may be revealed in that blog post or Facebook update, but you turn away, obsessing over that one misspelled word.

6. You take too long finding the perfect greeting card.

There must be one that says exactly what you want to say, in exactly the way you want to say it. You understand how you get when you are card shopping, so you do not bring anyone along with you to the Hallmark shop.

7. Your partner doesn’t want to watch movies with you.

You comment on plot structure, whether the inciting incident comes too soon, where the exact division points between acts one, two and three are, how to make that one line of dialogue better, why the plot fizzled in the middle. Your spouse can only roll his eyes.

8. You carry around a little notebook to record lines of dialogue you hear.

You are sitting in the styling salon, your head dripping with hair dye solution, when a customer in the next chair delivers the perfect line of dialogue. : “His degree said engineer, but his heart said cowboy.” You keep repeating the line to yourself until you can reach your notebook to write it down. You don’t know if you’ll ever do anything with it, but just in case…

9. The first thing you do with a book is turn to the author bio.

If you are a debut author, you keep comparing yourself to other authors. In the bookstore, the first place you check in a book is the inside cover section with the author’s bio and pic. You count how many books she has published. And if she is thirty years younger than you, you get all depressed, just certain that it’s too late for you and the dream is over.

10. You write several drafts of your Facebook updates.

Are the verbs strong enough? Too many adjectives? Is it engaging enough?

11. Your daughter doesn’t want to hang around with you anymore.

By the number of notes you take when having lunch with her, she is afraid that she is going  be a character in your next novel.

Do you have any of these warning signs?

Is it time to get help?

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  1. Patricia Yager Delagrange August 28, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Fun post to start my day, Judy.


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks for reading, Patricia. Glad it connected.


  2. Lyndie Blevins August 28, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    to funny….I saw myself all over the place


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Hmm. So a few of these had your name all over them? Welcome to the club of neurotic writers. : )


  3. joan Z. Rough August 28, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    OMG, Judy, you have hit the nail on the head. Numbers 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 describe me well. My playwright husband Bill is guilty of what #7 talks about. Even sometimes in the middle of a movie, he’ll twitch and shake his head if he thinks the screenwriter made a big mistake. Sometimes, after we see a movie together that I love and he doesn’t I have to tell him to keep it to himself. 🙂


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 9:52 am #


      We’ve all done many of these, I am sure. And your husband? That is funny. It surely can spoil a movie for the other person but I can’t help myself!


  4. Suzanne Lieurance August 28, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Yikes! You’ve nailed it, Judy. I can identify with every single one of these – especially number 7! When we see a movie, my husband turns to me and says, “okay….so go ahead and tell me… what are the holes in the plot?”


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 9:56 am #


      Great meeting you over on Facebook. Your husband reacts like mine. “Okay. Are we going to obsess tonight, or can we just enjoy the movie for once?” It is an amazing thing that our spouses put up with us.


  5. Lori Gosselin August 28, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Hi Judy!
    I couldn’t wait to read this post and see what was on your list! Maybe I’m not really a writer because though typos stop me cold and I buy too many books the other things on the list didn’t resonate with me 😮
    What I would put on the list is this: You see your life as a story. Do you relate to that 😉
    I also am so irritated at the misuse of the English language by journalists, even if they are live on the air. You should, as you have said, master the language if it is your tool! That being said, I’m off to check out Grammarly! Thanks for that!


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 11:02 am #


      Yes, yes to seeing your own life as a story! Perhaps you have a memoir in you. I used to put memoirs squarely in the category of nonfiction (as in not being “stories”). But as I began to develop mine, I realized that a story quickly forms and the characters are as interesting as any characters in fiction, they are just also real people. That is why this list resonates with me. I think that the best memoirists pull from fiction techniques, even with a true story (if that makes sense). Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!


  6. Kaarina Dillabough August 28, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    “Warning, warning…danger, danger Will Robinson” Oh yes, I have these warning signs:) Cheers! Kaarina


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 11:05 am #


      I suspected that you did. Is there some kind of story mulling around in your brain. C’mon, you can tell us!


      • Kaarina Dillabough August 29, 2013 at 5:19 am #

        Top secret:) I’d have to put you in the cone of silence 😉


        • Judy Lee Dunn August 29, 2013 at 7:43 am #

          Cone of silence? Hmm. Is it like that thing dogs wear after surgery? On second thought, Bob does that all the time (puts me in a cone of silence). I’ve rather gotten used to the cone. Your secret is safe with me anytime, she says devilishly.


          • Kaarina Dillabough August 29, 2013 at 10:55 am #

            Actually Judy, the ‘cone of silence’ is from the old TV program ‘Get Smart’, with Agent 86 and Agent 99 and the Chief. Are you familiar with it? (or is that before your time? 😉 I use a lot of Get Smart phrases and images, like the shoe phone, cone of silence and the like. And I know my secret’s safe with you. Will share…soon:)


            • Judy Lee Dunn August 30, 2013 at 8:18 am #

              Okay. I remember the shoe phone, but the cone of silence escaped my memory. Love that term, though. It is now in my lexicon.

              I’m here if you ever want to talk.

  7. Vaisakh August 28, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    😀 That was quite fun! I liked points 1 and 9 the most 🙂


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 28, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Yes, number 9 has been my curse, too. Why do we have to compare ourselves to others? But I do. I always do. : )


  8. Di Mace August 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Oh dear. I’m beyond help. On the bright side though, at least I’ll see a lot of myself in all the other people at the same ‘camp.’


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 29, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      Yes, we are all riding that short bus to camp, all of us neurotic writers. You have given me quite a visual there.


  9. Josefina August 28, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Very true specially number 9. Made me laugh and cry.


  10. Josefina August 28, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Very true specially number 9. Made me laugh and cry.


    • Judy Lee Dunn August 29, 2013 at 7:47 am #


      Yes, that number 9 is a bag of mixed emotions. Do we laugh or do we cry? : )


  11. Samar September 17, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    I am a translator but I saw some signs in myself especially with regard to typos, they drive me crazy.


    • Judy Lee Dunn September 20, 2013 at 7:54 am #


      It is part of who we are, that we cringe when we see a typo. What an interesting job in the writing field you have. Must be challenging at times, too.


  12. Jennifer September 25, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    I think I’m going to need an intervention.
    PS. I’m sitting here trying to come up with something brilliantly witty. The perfect words will come as soon as I click submit.


    • Judy Lee Dunn September 25, 2013 at 11:22 am #


      Haha. Another trait of writers. The best line will come to you after you have published a post or made a comment. As far as an intervention? I think we are what you call “enablers” here. We support and feed each others’ habits. Welcome to the community!


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