Living Like a Writer

March 17, 2011

There’s often an image of writers as eccentric people who wear black clothes, live in dark rooms, chain themselves to their typewriters, drink a lot, are socially awkward and rarely venture out into society. In fact, years ago when my boys were young, I taught a writing class at their elementary school. The students participated in an ‘author’s panel’ for the parents, and after the panel one of the fathers approached me.

“I didn’t know you were a writer,” he exclaimed. “ You don’t dress like a writer, and you’re so outgoing and friendly.” I almost died laughing.

“What should I dress like?” I asked him.

“Well, I just thought writer’s wore long black flowy things and were reclusive.” (Yes, he really said this!)

 Back then I was writing magazine and newspaper articles, and I spent very little time at my desk. I was out and about doing interviews and research. I also had three young sons, and was very involved in their schools and activities. I often wrote, as Elley has said, while I waited for a child at baseball or theater practice, or late at night when the boys were all finally in bed.

I was out experiencing life and had plenty to write about.

Now I’m finally writing what I want to write, fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing non-fiction and never ran out of ideas for articles, but fiction was my dream. Anyway, I find that I can be more isolated. I do wear a lot of black (mostly because I think it makes me look thinner) and sometimes when I’ve re-written the same chapter a dozen times, I think about taking up serious drinking. Luckily, I prefer my Diet Coke (a habit I’m trying to break), so I keep my drinking to date night with my husband. 

As a non-fiction writer, I didn’t have to work at a social life; it came to me. I was invited to events by people who wanted a blurb in an article or one of my columns. I was out interviewing or looking for interesting new material for my next piece. I also had those boys, and their social life became mine.

I work hard to guard my writing time and not fill up my schedule with things that will keep me away from the character’s in my head that want my attention. That in itself lends credence to stereotypes of writers, drugs and insanity…But, even my characters can lose a sense of reality if I spend too much time chained to my ‘typewriter.’ So I try to schedule ‘research time’ out with friends, my husband, a class, a walk on the beach, something every day to keep me in touch with real life and give me fresh inspiration.

Today it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and after some writing this morning, I’ll have lunch with a special aunt–just good for my heart–then hubby and I will be heading to McGeady’s, a little neighborhood bar, where we like to play pool. I’ll be wearing green–not black–but I will have a couple of glasses of wine.

Plenty of fresh writing inspiration waits at McGeady’s, lots of laughter and friendly faces. There’s Jim, my favorite bartender. He just makes me smile. Rick, the drummer, who played (and still plays) with some incredible artists. There’s Waldo, a girlfriend who refuses to go by her real name, and Larry, who’s 50-something and rides his skateboard to the bar. I’m sure that there will be a toast to Irish John, an old friend that we lost last year. Plenty of characters, stories and inspiration.  If you’re in the area, stop by and say “hello.”

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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2 Responses to “Living Like a Writer”

  1. Cynthia Says:

    Oh no, another Diet Coke fiend. I think that is the modern version of a glass of Scotch for the hard working writer.


  2. And for me it’s green tea.

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