Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How to be an Eccentric Writer

Announcement: Cait’s blogoversary (blogaversary? blogversary?) giveaway is still open, and she’s also offering another giveaway on her site, so you should go check that out (you know, if you want). To top it off, Sierra’s blogoversary giveaway is still in full swing as well. In other words, today is your lucky day.

From the outside, it may seem like writers sit around all day penning novels from dawn till dusk, taking breaks only for sophisticated activities such as book signings, photo shoots, meals, galas, and shopping trips. Spectators view us as normal people—or, better yet, as celebrities with brilliant lives. In reality though, most writers teeter on the brink of insanity, and were you to spy on them, you might find your writer at their laptop, in their pajamas, snacking shamelessly. And anyway, why would you be stalking them? That’s just creepy.

So, since we’ve debunked the notion that writers are glamorous creatures, it’s time we move on to something that isn’t mythical: writers are interesting people. This might not mean we’re good at dinner conversation, and we might find our mental interactions with our fictional friends far more amusing than small talk with other human beings. But it’s all part of the job description.

As a writer, it’s your duty to be a little eccentric. So without further ado, here is a list of ten suggestions for cultivating that slightly crazed persona.

Number One: It’s helpful to have a hobby. Some writers like photography (if taking hundreds of selfies counts, then yes, I am also into photography). We like origami, martial arts, knitting, baking, and what-have-you. But while these are all wonderful activities, they are also the fodder of normal people. We need something that sets us apart. Gardening, for instance, is fun—but it’s much more writerly when, instead of vegetables, you grow hemlock and deadly nightshade and other varieties of poisonous plants. There are two benefits to this. Firstly, you can better describe these plants should you choose to include them in your novels. And secondly, if other people catch wind of what you grow in your special garden, you’re sure to enjoy a lot of peace and quiet since few will feel inclined to bother you. Just don’t eat your produce, whatever you do.

Number Two: It’s important to carry on loud conversations with your computer, not only in the safety of your own home but also in public. Reprimand Microsoft Word when it insists that your grammar is incorrect or that the word you have chosen is not actually in the dictionary. Scold your wayward characters when they behave in a dissatisfactory manner. And don’t be afraid to cackle manically when killing off your little darlings. This is an especially good strategy for those times when others around you won’t leave you alone. Believe me, one evil laugh, and they should give you a wide berth. Unless they call the police.

Number Three: Have an interesting pet. I’m sorry to say it (not really), but dogs and cats are both commonplace and boring. Some—more appropriate—alternatives include Madagascar hissing cockroaches, pythons, spitting cobras, red squirrels, rabid wolverines, Tasmanian devils, moose, martins, emus, ravens, owls, octopuses (octopi?), and bush babies. Personally, I have a pet rat named Twinkletoes (Twinkie for short) who likes to sit on my shoulder and critique my work.

Number Four: Cultivate a disturbing Google search history. Many writers like to kill off their characters right and left, and in order to make this more interesting, we need to find lots of creative ways for these characters to die. This Google history should be enough to get you incarcerated if you ever come under suspicion. Some searches I’ve seen other writers use include: How long does it take a human body to burn up? (A while.) Is it possible to kill a person with a pressure washer? (The answer is yes.) And, which stab wounds are lethal/not lethal? (Some fascinating factoids there.)

Number Five: Have frequent conversations about the different ways you have chosen to kill your characters. Bonus points if you do this in public. There’s nothing like giving a lengthy, gory description of a glorious death scene, only to have people look at you in horror because they think you’re a mass murderer.

Number Six: Disregard normal sleep and meal schedules. Forget to eat at appointed times. Forgo rest for days. (If only the caffeine patch were an actual invention.) And don’t forget to snack like it’s the end of the world. (Also, if you want bonus points, you could try developing a mild case of paranoia.)

Number Seven: Take long showers—take obscenely long showers. There’s nothing like standing under a stream of boiling water to get the ideas flowing. Buy waterproof paper and make copious notes on your book. Bonus points if you figure out a way to use your laptop in there without electrocuting yourself.  

Number Eight: Be a super critical reader, to the point where you annoy all your friends. Tear apart the works of other writers and figure out why some stuff succeeds and other stuff doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to find fault with even your favorite books. Just generally make yourself a nuisance. And when you go into book stores, make sure you fawn over the shelves and stroke the covers and talk to the novels until you get kicked out for being creepy.

Number Nine: Correct everyone’s grammar. It doesn’t matter that grammatical errors seem to spontaneously generate while your .docx file cools in your hard drive, you always have free license to wield that grammar handbook like a strange and deadly sword. Bonus points if you get caught vandalizing a sign—and by vandalizing, I mean correcting the sign’s grammar and punctuation.

Number Ten: Shun all forms of society. This last one is a looser suggestion than the others, as I have learned the disturbing news that there are some writers who need interaction in order to thrive. (GASP!) However, writers are mysterious beings, and they are far more interesting when they only show their faces four times during any given year. (Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.)


There you have it, my ten suggestions for cultivating the eccentric writer persona. Now it’s your turn. Do you have any tips and tricks up your sleeve? Any thoughts to add to my list? Feel free to let me know.


  1. I need a bush baby, I think. I long for that kind of eccentricity. Or octopuses. I'm already capable of talking about a lot of death, so go me. :) I also don't have a normal sleep schedule. I am more nocturnal than ever! Showers, I find, are amazing for ideas, and shunning society is always good. My only thought to add is that it is important to master the art of the shady glare. It'll freak people out!

    1. I need a bush baby too! Or a pet rattlesnake or something. Maybe a cuttlefish? And I'm glad I'm not the only one who fits into some of these categories. I'm not as nocturnal as I'd like, because I enjoy morning as well and because I prefer to get all my work stuff done early so I can write in the afternoon. Yes! The shady glare! *adds that to mental list* Writers should inspire a sense of healthy fear in those who know them, right? :)

  2. It's funny because I started to draft up a post like this a few weeks ago xD

    But I agree with everything on this list. I drink a lot of coffee and don't have a normal sleep pattern. Sadly, I am yet to acquire any pets other than a cat and a fish.

    1. Ah, I'm story for beating you to the idea! :( But you can still do yours. :)

      I'm glad my list works though. *nods* I drink way too much coffee, as a general rule. As for your cat and your fish, you could also buy a catfish to supplement the others. It would be sufficiently eccentric, I think.

  3. I'm pretty extra sure I'm taking up growing hemlock tomorrow. Like, seriously. I've been WASTING my writing life and that's so abominable. I've just been doing normal things like walking my dog and rearranging bookshelves. I NEED TO BE A LITTLE MORE ECCENTRIC. *takes copious notes*

    1. Yes, GROW THE HEMLOCK, CAIT. You have been wasting your writing life--you have. WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? Although, I will say, I rearrange my bookshelves a lot, so I guess it's okay to do a few normal things. But I'm glad I could help you on your path to becoming an eccentric writer. :D

  4. LOL, this post literally made me laugh out loud.
    Also, I think I'm going to get either a bushbaby or a red squirrel to make me a little bit more eccentric. *nods* This is a good idea.


    1. Mission accomplished. *bows deeply*
      You should totally get either, or both. You'll be even more eccentric if you get both. *nods in agreement that this is a good idea*

      Thanks for commenting!