When I started blogging a few years ago, I didn’t consider myself a writer. I knew how to put a sentence together, sure, but there were journalists and novelists out there producing much better content than I was and writing about topics that were significantly more important than “13 Best Jennifer Lawrence Moments of 2013” and “How to Tan Incorrectly.” Over time, though, I began to develop the marks of a typical writer: spending hours editing a piece only to move a period, opting to write instead of hang out with friends, chastising people on their word choice in text messages. While some of the habits that I formed were good (nothing teaches you time management like receiving a writing assignment in the middle of finals week), many of them are not:
1) You agree to anything because it will make a good story.
Stuff into an 18 person hostel in the middle of a foreign country to save 3 dollars? Yes, that sounds reasonable! Jump off a cliff with a tattered sheet and hope it turns into a parachute halfway through your fall? Totally worth the risk. Stumble across a lone hitchhiker carrying a chainsaw in the middle of the night? Give him a ride! What’s the harm? These are the kind of thoughts that go through your head when you are a writer. Situations that other people may find dangerous or sketchy suddenly become alluring, and “it would make a good story” becomes your unofficial life motto.
2) You leverage your power and audience against your family.
At a family function one year, my mom once warned my uncle against making too many sarcastic jokes around me, in case I decided to get revenge and share an embarrassing story about him on the Internet. While I tried to play off her comment as a joke, the flood of family vacation stories about my uncle filling my brain told me that she was right. If you’re one of the lucky writers that has a regular following, the influence you have over your family and romantic relationships is enormous. This can work in your favor (“Buy me a doughnut or I will tell the world that you are a neglectful mother!”), but most of the time, it only causes problems. When you start writing about your life, you become the Taylor Swift of the blogosphere and run the risk of alienating your friends and family by sharing their personal information with the world.
3) You’ll go to dangerous lengths to complete a piece before a deadline.
Unless you’re dying, there’s no reason to turn down an assignment. Even then, turning it down is questionable, especially if it’s called “10 Thoughts You Have While You’re On Your Deathbed,” or something else that you might have valuable insight on. This means that, if you’re on a bus in the middle of Berlin at 11 o’clock at night going on 3 hours of sleep and you get an email asking if you’re free to write about alpaca GIFs for the next day, your answer should be yes. Maybe it’s raining. Maybe you have a friend with you. Maybe you’ve never heard of an alpaca. Who cares? You must treat your deadline like a new child and shower it with love and attention until it’s fully grown and you’re so tired of looking at it that you send it away.
4) Your eating habits go down the drain whenever you start a new project.
“Dieting” and “writing” cannot exist in the same sentence. Once a writer sets his or her mind on something, it’s impossible to pull them away from it and they will eat anything in the general proximity, including candy, week-old yogurts, and pencils, if necessary. Even if you choose to leave the house and work in a coffee shop, the food options are often limited to bagels and chocolate chip frappes. If you can’t make it in less than a minute, it takes too long.
5) You forget how to relax.
For most people, relaxing is easy. I mean, it involves literally doing nothing. But when your brain is constantly coming up with story ideas and there’s an imaginary writer sitting on your shoulder saying “You could be working on that article right now!” every time you sit down to watch Netflix, relaxing becomes synonymous with “wasting time” and the very thought of lounging around the house too long becomes almost stressful in itself.
6) Your ideas come so fast, you fill your immediate surroundings with illegible notes for later reference.
I live in a house made of post-it notes. They cover my walls, my desk, and even my dog. I keep digital stickies on my computer in case I run out of physical notes and my brain isn’t responsible enough to stay focused for the two seconds it would take me to run from my bedroom to my kitchen. My phone’s “Notes” section is filled with comments like “moose baby climbs mountain, finds wisdom” and “eggs, Oak Tree, Mark Walhburg stuff” that were written in a state of frantic inspiration and no longer make sense. But when your mind is constantly churning out ideas, what else would you expect?