1. You take a pen and paper with you everywhere, sometimes even into bed with you, just in case you have an idea at three in the morning that absolutely must be remembered. That idea never usually ends up good, but like everything you say when you’re stoned, it sounded very good at the time.
2. You really, really want to buy a typewriter, even though you never expect to actually use it. You just want a typewriter because you’re one of the 10 people in the world who still finds them romantic and sexy. All of those people are writers.
3. When you date someone and they say that they majored in “English” or “Poetry,” you’re instantly excited but then exceedingly nervous. Why? Because you’ll eventually be expected to read some of their poetry — something they really love and don’t show to a lot of people — and have an opinion on this much guarded poem. You can’t deal with this kind of pressure. This has gone badly before.
4. You buy a lot of books you never, ever end up reading — just out of the thought that you might find time to read it someday. I took my copy of Don DeLillo’s Underworld with me on a trip to Paris once — just in case I suddenly felt the urge to read a challenging 900-page opus by my favorite writer. When that book later got stolen out of by bag, I actually cried. It was like losing something I never knew I had. (Side note: I even have a copy of Americana in French, and my French isn’t even very good. Someday.)
5. You will use almost anything as a bookmark or a writing pad in a jam — like receipts, money, bank slips, old envelopes, newspapers, unopened mail or death threats from your bank. You can’t throw out anything in your apartment without checking to see if it has writing on it first. That bag of popcorn could be important.
6. When you hear the words “I’m on deadline,” you immediately burst into action, a Pavlovian response to a) always having something due and b) always being behind on it. You’re certain that if they were able to make your procrastination into an energy source, it will solve our nation’s fuel crisis. Or at least make gas cheaper.
7. Most people get tattoos of trees or pigeons or misspelled odes to their exes. You get tattoos of your favorite lines from Faulkner or Pablo Neruda’s face. Full disclosure: I currently have two poetry tattoos and I’m planning to get some lines from W.H. Auden, when I can figure out the placement. One day, I’m going to be the Guy Pearce in Memento of dead white dude verses.
8. You have more books than you have friends, by a large margin. You’re a little concerned that one day, you might become a hoarder. (Fact: I own two copies of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. One is a backup, just in case I happen to lose the other one. Insurance, my friend.)
9. There are Amazon deliveries at your door almost every day. You’re certain that at this point, they have to know you by name.
10. You sometimes refer to authors by their first name or a pet name you never realized you gave them, like calling Bukowski “Chuck” or “Charlie,” James Joyce “Jimmy” or Salman Rushdie “Sally.” Most people aren’t allowed to call him Sally, but it’s an in-joke between the two of you. And, yes, it still counts if he doesn’t know about it and you’ve technically never met him.
11. You have really weird dreams about writing or your favorite writers — like that you suddenly have a great idea for a story but then your computer eats you or that you’re best friends with Emily Dickinson — which, truth be told, is a little boring. Agoraphobes aren’t great partiers. You also dreamt that you were the manager of a Bronte sisters girl group. Charlotte was the Beyonce, Emily was the Kelly and Anne was the Michelle, the one everyone forgets about.
12. You’re a little too in love with alliteration, so much so that you’ve thought about giving all your children alliterative names. (Lorelai Lana Lang, I apologize in advance.) Also, you find it really sexy when someone knows what consonance and assonance is.
13. Big vocabularies are one of your turn-ons. There’s nothing more erotic than someone with a twelve-inch brain. As long as they know how to use it.
14. You’re a little too obsessed with post-it notes and stationery and have a favorite pen. An alarming amount of your budget goes out every month to writing supplies, books and coffee — but mostly coffee. Fact: If I gave up drinking coffee, I’d probably be a millionaire. Is it sad that I choose my love of java over my love of money? No. Not expecting any fiscal reward proves you’re a writer.
15. When you were in school, lots of your other friends were majoring in things that you could make actual careers out of — like Online Gambling, Extortion, Funneling Money to the Caymans and whatever else they’re learning at business school these days. You majored in something that your friends universally raised an eyebrow at or didn’t know you could major in, like Occult Studies, Obscure Pre-Ice Age Russian Novelists, Teaching Underwater Basket Weaving Studies as a Second Language or Advanced Poverty. You now have a very fancy, expensive piece of paper that means you learned a lot of crap you forgot later.
16. Your dream job is to one day have a career that affords you to be in your pajamas all day or do all of your work from bed — like Marcel Proust or Heidi Fleiss. Some people want a career where they have to look professional all day. You want to look like crap, eat Cheetos, watch Revenge and pour your heart out into your computer. But who doesn’t want that, really?
17. No one will ever play you in Scrabble, Boggle, Catchphrase or Scattergories, because you always win and you’re always super competitive about it — especially when you’re drunk. You’re like the New England Patriots of party games.
18. You sometimes refer to your self-imposed writing schedule as “going to work” or “working” and are often known to say “I have to work from 9 to 5 tomorrow.” People usually ask where you work and you say, “From home. I’m a writer.” Of course, they always then want to know what you really do for a living and you say, “I’m a writer. I write for a living.” Then silence happens.
19. Whenever someone breaks up with you or one of your friends does something really cartoonishly terrible, your immediate consolation is that this is going to make for a great essay. Recently someone decided to stop seeing me for no apparent reason, and my response was, “Great! I had nothing to write about this week.”
20. When you go on dates with people, they always ask if you’re going to write about this, and you assure them, “No, silly! Of course I’d never write about you.” You are a dirty liar. You will absolutely write about them. You’ve already started that piece in your head.
21. People sometimes know things about you before you actually told them, like choice anecdotes or oddly personal information that you wouldn’t share on a second date. Then they tell you that they “read your blog” or “follow you on Tumblr.” And you realize that you share that kind of personal information on the internet all the time. Next time, you’re just going to tell your date you’re a serial killer.
22. You have a bad habit of solving your problems or conflicts by writing the person a letter, rather than just confronting them about it. In high school, my mother was in her “I want to be a romance novelist phase,” and I could tell when she and her husband were in a fight because there would be a letter on the table every morning until whatever they were going through was resolved. Some people fight, you start an epistolary novel of angry feelings.
23. You never stop writing something after you’re done with it, which makes publishing difficult. Eventually you just put a gun to your head and say, “Screw it, I’m done with this.” (Which is how Obama must feel every day.) You’ll later come up with the perfect ending for that piece — a month after publishing it.
24. You have certain punctuation marks you can’t stop obsessively using (anyone who has read my work knows that girl loves dashes) and others you want obliterated from the face of the earth. I’m neutral on semicolons, which can be used sparingly, but I cannot stand the sight of ellipses. I feel like they’re stabbing me in the eye.
25. You often put off major things until you’re done with this poem or this article — like showering, eating or (occasionally) breathing. One day you might turn blue in the face and die mid-article, but it’s understandable. You were on deadline.