Personality Disorders of the Creative Writer

Most writers consider themselves introverts, and with a few exceptions *coughVictorialDahlcough* I’d say that’s true. Think about it. Where does a creative writer spend a whole lot of time? Alone. In front of her computer. And there are people talking to her that NOBODY CAN SEE. When she’s not communicating with these voices in her head, she’s probably thinking about them.

Suppose one day you’re having a perfectly normal conversation with someone you just met, or maybe someone you know in passing. In the middle of conversation she suddenly gets a vacant expression. How rude! She’s zoned out on you. And then she says:

Do you think it would be easier to kill someone with a ballpoint pen or a spork? 1

You may not need to back away slowly and then run for your life. She’s probably just an author. To test your theory, you say say this:

How many words in your MS (pronounce this “emm ess”) so far?

If the answer isn’t numeric, then you run.

This sort of thing happens to authors all the time. They spend inordinate time alone and when they are with other people, it’s pretty certain those people are not writers, too. By and large we’re a strange bunch, given to drifting off and mentally rewriting Chapter 10.

But, you might say, I go to signings (oh bless you! ThankYouThankYouThankYou!!!) and you authors are smiling like Vanna White pimping vowels. You make conversation with anyone who walks within 20 feet of where you’re sitting. You tell complete strangers about your book, you shove bookmark into my hands whether I want them or not!


This abnormally chipper behavior comes at a cost. We are introverts thrust into the world of the extrovert, and let me tell you, it’s exhausting. Draining. By the time you get home you’re ready to crawl into bed and sleep for 12 hours straight only you can’t because you have to catch up on your word count so you don’t miss deadline. For most authors, no one has heard of us. Readers are not champing at the bit to get a signed copy of a book by some weirdo person they never heard of, and we can tell most of you are sorry you accidentally walked into our gravitational field . . . (evil laugh). We only want you to try our book. Look at the pretty cover! And the words, they tell a story you will LOVE if only— no no, don’t go away. Here have bookmark. Yes, I love Nora Roberts, too. She’s a great author, I agree but my book it’s about ohgoddon’tleaveme. Mostly it only gets worse from there.

So, if, at a conference, such as RWA or what have you, there is a place for an author to go where she can assure herself of a friendly, understanding reception while she gets ready to go be an extrovert, which goes against everything in her marrow, she might just go there. To be ready. To spend a few minutes with people who know what she is and don’t expect anything. It’s an oasis. Thank goodness. For a little bit we can be our introverted selves.

There are a lot of reasons why it’s hard to be an author, and for many of us, having to be an extrovert when we’re not, is one of them.

Answer to the ballpoint pen vs. Spork question

The spork. Doh.


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3 Responses to “Personality Disorders of the Creative Writer”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Moira Rogers (Bree), Carolyn Jewel. Carolyn Jewel said: Personality Disorders of the Creative Writer (probably will be a multi-part series) at my blog: […]

  2. Jami Gold says:

    This is so true. I’m looking forward to the RWA conference, but I know that I’m just going to collapse and sleep for a full day once I get home. Draining? Absolutely. But I can’t wait to meet some fellow crazy people (i.e.: writers).

  3. […] Literary Agency sister) Carolyn Jewel tells us in her hilarious (and dead-on true) blog post “Personality disorders of the creative writer.” And don’t miss the priceless Spork cartoon at the […]