6 Secrets Every Writer Shares

writer secretsWriters spend a lot of time inside the depths of their own heads. I’m a writer, I know we can’t help it. No matter the size of our office, it is the inside of our mind where the majority of our work is done. Whether writing great copy or doodling with our own fiction, we are often left to our own devices, spoiled on solitude and self management.

Though every writer is indeed an individual, I suggest there are at least 6 secrets every writer shares.

1) We fall behind on our deadlines or word count due to nothing but our own faulty management and then feel the looming pressure to neatly knot the loose ends.   We recognize what must be done and set aside the time we need to draw straight lines through the length of our list. We have our agenda laid out and prioritized by importance. We’re ready to put a pillow over the face of our day and smother inefficiency, only to spend the majority of our early minutes web surfing, flitting around on Twitter and bouncing from email to email, finally realizing with just two hours to spare that a days worth of work must still be done.

2) Whenever we learn of some horrible calamity, there is a part of us, even if only a whisper, that starts immediately trying to twist the tragedy into compelling copy. Earthquake, fire, flood; missing persons, stolen money, viral epidemic… it matters not. “That’s a great story!” worms its way into our wandering thoughts. Sure, most of us might even feel guilty, but the whisper is wondering how to add depth to the disaster.

3) We all feel something when we face the bleached sheet of a blank page. Trembling fear or a tinge of excitement, conquering nothing by masking it with something is a battle to be sure, and no warrior enters the fray without feeling. For me, nothing is more difficult than that first sentence, the white space mocking me before I can mar it with the machinations of my mind and drop my thoughts like footprints in the snow. For a writer, the blank page is both canvas and altar, to cover and praise in equal measure.

4) Occasionally, the ivy green gremlin of jealousy will come to nibble at our ear when we encounter prose we fear we might not ever be able to match. When fortune is smiling however, this monster meets a metamorphosis, changing it into our biggest champion, cheering us forward and telling us that we too can greet words with out glory.

5) Sometimes we feel sullen when reaching the sunset of our work. This is especially true for online writers and bloggers. We pour our hearts into our posts, press publish, then watch as our words slowly whither on the WordPress vine until they finally perish to nothing over the short course of a few brief days.

6) Once in a blue moon, we part from our paper or screen feeling like a mighty conqueror. These are the times when our fingers are on fire, seeming to meld with our minds for the unrivaled nirvana of perfectly articulated prose. Writers weave worlds from nothing, creating chronicles, creatures, landscapes and legends. Whether writing a simple blog post or an epic saga, we are lord and master of the worlds in our mind. In these rare moments, we can feel it in our marrow and know beyond doubt we have created something worth repetition and remembrance.

Many of us are creatures of habit, our rituals and routines giving shape to our method. Perhaps because so many of our moments our birthed in isolation, they feel like treasures to be buried. Maybe it’s just me, but I imagine I’m not the only one.

Sean Platt is a dad, ghostwriter, and occasional potty training expert.

The Collective Inkwell Community Question: Do these six secrets ring true for you? Are there any others you’d like to confess?

19 responses to 6 Secrets Every Writer Shares

  1. Jane Alexander

    1 and 4 ring very true on this desk. The white page usually invokes a deep sigh and a sense of barely concealed despair – makes me wonder really why I don’t jack it in and get a proper job.
    Sometimes, in (even) darker moments I think that writers:
    7. Write because we don’t dare engage with life. Why live it when you can write about it?
    8. Lose the capacity for coherent speech – really need to conduct conversations with a keyboard (why do so many of us love Twitter, email, Facebook, blogs etc?)
    9. Are inherently depressive or manic depressive (hands up? Bet there’s a flurry).
    10. Are basically solitary beasts with enormously fragile egos…(but that taps into 4).

    Interesting post…

  2. Sara

    Sean –

    You nailed it. Loved this post.

    # 1 so true…cant decide if its ADD, fear of the blank page, need to warm up, desire to pad the brain with material before embarking, social / connective nature of writing, or other.

  3. Marc - WelshScribe

    1) All the time, despite all the tips I can give out on time management!

    2) Very true. This can be a two-fold experience for us writers. Not only do we feel guilty for writing it but as readers we may feel guilty for the dread fascination that comes from reading it!

    3) Ah the bane of any writer for sure. My weapon of choice: the quote. Nothing like reading a good quote to spark an inferno that will engulf that bleached white canvas for eternity.

    4) Every time I read your words Sean. Even though as a disabled man jealousy is something I’ve long learned to beat back I can still see it whimpering in the corner pulling faces at me.

    5) Not so much on this one. I see it more like the scattering of acorns that will one day bloom into a lush forest teeming with life. Money does grow on trees right?

    6) Oh for more of that beautiful blue moon!

    Marc – WelshScribe’s last blog post..How To Effectively Manage Your Time

  4. Sean

    Jane: LOL, I’m not the typical writer as I feel little to no angst. Granted, I feel restless to get things rolling and make a living so I’m not worried, but I never feel restless when writing. In fact, I’d say the impression I had of writers feeling depressed probably kept me from the craft a little too long.

    Sara: I think it’s a cocktail of all of it. Once I start it’s easy to get going, but kicking the ball down the hill can sometimes take FOREVER.

    Marc: Ha! Quotes are great for getting things going, no doubt. I used to use that trick at the WD all the time, but not so much anymore. Your #4 is very kind. Thank you. #5, I definitely have stuff on the shelf that is finished and I feel a tiny ache and hope I can come back later and groom it to something better.

    Lori: Sorry. I hope I didn’t ruin it for all of us. : > )

    Sean’s last blog post..Black and White

  5. Sara

    btw re #4 – there is a hebrew saying: Jealousy among writers breeds wisdom. If that is any comfort.

  6. Alan

    Definitely some truths to the the secrets. Number 1 rings true with me. I’m not the greatest at maximizing ‘too much time.’ I seem to be sharper when I can taste the deadline.

    Regarding #2, someone chastised me on a message board the other day because I suggested that the recent Somalian pirate incident would make a great movie. I can see my critic’s point, but I feel a little vindicated knowing that it’s my nature. 🙂

    Alan Macfarlane
    Twitter: aljmac

    Alan’s last blog post..Sesame Street’s Lesser Known Citizens

  7. Vered - MomGrind

    “only to spend the majority of our early minutes web surfing, flitting around on Twitter and bouncing from email to email, finally realizing with just two hours to spare that a days worth of work must still be done.”

    Guilty as charged.


    Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Make Everything Taste Like Bacon!

  8. Barbara Swafford

    Hi Sean,

    As a blogger, #5 rings true for me. We can have the most popular post of all, but as soon as we hit publish the next time, it slowly begins to get buried. If we’re lucky it was one that was popular with search engines, but for me, that’s not often the case. Kinda sad, isn’t it?

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Just The Facts

  9. janice

    Does writing in cafés when I should be shopping for food count as a guilty secret? Or blogging in my dressing gown before I get washed or dressed in the morning? Sometimes the longing to write is so strong, it’s a like a drug.

    One way of getting round #5 is to re-read favourite posts/articles/pieces and compile them into a free ebook for new readers. I glow every time someone new subscribes.

    janice’s last blog post..A Touch of Grace

  10. Sean

    Alan: If you’re a writer, thoughts like that are swimming in your blood. I have found that it’s best sometimes to smile and say nothing. : > )

    Paisley: Isn’t that how it is for us, we fill it while we genuflect to its power.

    Vered: Yo tambien. I totally know better, but still, it’s like a compulsion.

    Barbara: Devastating if you think about it too long. I’ve started to write for my forever though. I figure, a lot of my posts are just rough drafts for something else later.

    George: Yeah, they’re probably universal secrets at least in some respect, rather than exclusive only to us writers.

    Sean’s last blog post..The Classroom is Only a Baseline

  11. Sean Platt - On Writing and SEO

    […] first post of note was at the Inkwell, 6 Secrets Every Writer Shares. What’s funny is that it was originally 7, but then I thought I should probably keep at least […]

  12. David Cain

    It’s true! It’s all true… *sobs*

    Wow you really nailed this one, Sean. I suddenly feel a sense of belonging to know that other people have these same skeletons in our heads. Number six is my favorite. Each time I finish a post, I literally raise my arms in a V.

    David Cain’s last blog post..You Are the Greatest Story Ever Told

  13. Sean

    David: LOL, we’re all in it together, right? I throw my keyboard down like I just made a touchdown.

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