11 More Signs You May Be a Writer


Writer DogA while back, we had a little fun on the blog talking about the weird things we writers (and would-be writers) do that make our friends, spouses and children wonder about us.

In the comments, there were some, “Yeah, I do that, too,” and “Have you been spying on me?”

As I thought about it, more ‘crazy writer’ behaviors popped into my head. If you are a published author, an aspiring writer, or newbie, you may recognize these warning signs. Some may be just my personal idiosyncrasies (because, really, who else makes candles talk?) and others may haunt you from time to time, too.

Here they are then:

11 More Signs You May be a Writer

1. You forget how many tablespoons you’ve already put in the coffeemaker.

I put in one tablespoon (or was it two?) when a fabulous idea for a new story pops into my brain. I look into the innards of the coffeemaker, trying to guess where I was in the measuring. But, of course, I can’t tell. So I have to dump it out and start over. The other day, I even knocked the open container of newly filled Starbucks dark roast blend on the floor.

We go through a lot of coffee in our house.

2. You obsess over the deleted scenes in your movie CDs.

I can’t watch deleted scenes without puzzling over them. Why was this particular scene cut out? It illuminates the craziness of that character. And that is essential to the plot.

Bob refuses to watch deleted scenes with me.

3. You say, “That’s nice” at inappropriate times.

This one happens to me when I am thinking about my story instead of listening to what someone is saying to me.

Case in point: When I was teaching first graders, I was writing children’s books. One day, one of my students tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mrs. Dunn, did you know that my brother broke his leg?”

In my absentminded writer mode, as I was turning my story over in my head, I said, “That’s nice.” He walked away with a slightly puzzled frown on his face.

4. You keep a notebook of book titles you will never use.

I don’t do this so much anymore, but I used to keep a spiral notebook handy in case I thought of the perfect book title. I was still in the stage of focusing on the fun part of writing: coming up with the title of a book.

Never mind that I didn’t take any of the titles farther, to the story development and plotting stages. (Because, well, that would be the hard part.)

I was still thinking about writing instead of actually writing.

5. You turn the problems your friends share with you into plot lines.

As I listen, I am thinking, “Now this would be an interesting idea for a short story.” So I listen, respond and jot down notes at the same time.

I stopped feeling guilty about this when I realized that no one is off limits when it comes to the seed of a good story.

6. You inflict an emotional scar on your child by turning inanimate objects into characters.

When I was a single parent, one year, in an attempt to entertain my four-year-old at a Christmas dinner with just the two of us, I gave the candles in the floral centerpiece names and made the ‘family members’ talk, each with their own unique voice. They were a happy, chirpy candle family, telling their stories.

I did not anticipate the moment when I would have to silence them. When I blew them out, she wailed in that way only a small child can when they have been severely traumatized.

She grew up okay (no visible signs of trauma in this photo), but I always thought that any therapist worth their salt would be bound to have a lot of material to work with in future sessions.


7. You find it hard to form the words, “This is finished.”

Sometimes I come to know my characters intimately and don’t want to leave them when the story is over. I have even contemplated killing some of them off so they won’t haunt my dreams.

Or I think this sentence or that line of dialogue could be better. Until the day I realize that it is always possible to do one more rewrite, which leaves my work in limbo, in the Land of Perpetual Edits.

8. You jump up from your desk and scream the first time your most beloved author favorites one of your tweets or talks to you.

I started my stalking—er, following—early on. I shared her updates, responded to her tweets, all the time sensing that they had dropped into a bottomless vacuum somewhere in cyberspace.

Then one day, she responded to me on Facebook and started favoriting some of my tweets. It was like Christmas! Because to have a conversation with a literary idol is an amazing thing.

9. Your favorite thing to say is, “Yeah, but what would happen if…”

I can take any event and construct an alternate ending, kind of like those Choose Your Own Adventure children’s books in the 1980s. The whole concept is, “Yeah, you could do that, but what if you did this instead?”

My mind gets lost in the what-ifs, in the wondering about all the things that could change in a real life situation if this person had said or done this instead. Maybe a barista screws up and gets Starbucks orders switched, which causes two people to meet, and in the sorting out of their drinks, to exchange phone numbers and start dating. Who knows where something like that could lead?

10. You can find a line of dialogue from a movie to fit almost any real-life event.

I have seen these movies so many times that I can switch out the lines for practically anything that is happening in my life. Of course, only Bob, who is as crazy about movies as I am, will understand, mainly because he knows almost every line by heart, too.

11. The use of “your” for “you’re” in a Facebook update will ruin your day.

I must force myself to keep quiet when this happens. Because it’s the idea I should be focusing on, not the grammar and spelling, right?

But I cannot help myself. It is like a blinking red light. It is all I can see.

What about you?

Do you have any of these warning signs?

What have I missed?

Make sure you don’t miss a post.


  1. Kaarina Dillabough April 21, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…” Yes, I see them:) Cheers! Kaarina


  2. Judy Lee Dunn April 21, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Hey, Kaarina, I am sure that you recognize some of these. I’ve missed chatting with you, my friend. We must catch up soon.


  3. Waseem A. Syed April 21, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    Haha. Nicely written. I don’t know about other writers. The 7 & 8 I do often. Twitter is a great place for marketing your content and its amazing to get liked from people you are following and you love them most due to their work.


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 21, 2014 at 7:37 am #

      I know! Number 8 was a big one. You admire these people from afar and when they engage in a conversation with you, well, that is so much fun. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, my friend. I am glad that we are now friends on Facebook.


  4. A Writer Inspired April 21, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    I’m literally on the floor laughing. I always love your posts but this touched my heart. Just had the conversation with my roommate about why I can’t remember anything she says (see #3). Number 5 is something I still do and sometimes have to catch myself from saying aloud. I have to go back to the first list to see if anyone does the talking to the dog/puppy when working out dialogue, like I do.


  5. Judy Lee Dunn April 21, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    So, I am intrigued by your testing out dialogue on the puppy thing. That is hilarious. Whatever works, huh?


  6. Courtney Cantrell April 21, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Oh man, I totally do the what-ifs thing. Sometimes it’s paralyzing, because I don’t just do it with storylines; I do it with decisions, too. If I choose x, then here are all the dozens of ways that might play out, and then I have to follow the rabbit on a variety of those outcomes, as well. Sheesh, it’s a wonder I even get out of bed of a morning. ; )


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 23, 2014 at 7:10 am #


      I love you for your OCD—I mean, thoughtful—tendencies. You totally get me. I used to do an exercise with my gifted education students where we would start with one action and plot out action-reaction possibilities to see how one single condition or event could affect many peoples’ lives. I would use a marking pen and a sheet of paper and make something similar to a mind map (main idea in center and spokes outward for the reactions/consequences). One silly one I really was “What if there were no more pizza deliveries?” We had spending more on gas in our cars and drivers losing jobs and phones less busy, etc. Then we figured out what the consequences would be for each of those. And on and on. It became quite silly in the end, but, boy, those kids could think.


  7. Paul Hawley April 21, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    They all ring true, though some I suppress better than others. But number four? I do that sporadically because Ray Bradbury instructed me to. It’s the first level on his approach to a notebook. When it’s time to begin a new project, he runs over the list to see what sparks an inner response. (I speak of him in the present tense, because Grandmaster.)


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 23, 2014 at 7:13 am #


      You see, you have figured out a way to make #4 work! For me, it was total avoidance of the hard part, the writing. In addition to being a writing genius, Bradbury was (obviously) good at following through on his ideas. Sounds like you are, too. 🙂


  8. Lisa Ahn April 24, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Judy, these are fabulous and made me smile!


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

      Thanks, Lisa. I was going for the smile. 🙂


  9. Jack April 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    I live in my own world(s) and I am much happier there. 😉


  10. Judy Lee Dunn April 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I like the plural on “world” there, my friend. You fit right in here.


  11. Nathsha June 25, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Thank you for the morning laughter. Numbers 5,8,9,10, and 11 are all me.

    I have no child to traumatize but Fendi, my fur baby, freaks out when I freak out over my writing. 🙂


  12. Judy Lee Dunn June 25, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    Ha! Our fur babies ARE our kids, aren’t they?You would appear to have several signs/symptoms of writer syndrome. Good luck with that. 🙂


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