How to Pick Writers Out of a Crowd

Not-So-Subtle Habits

Writers are weird. We think weird thoughts, and we do weird things. We’re drawn to each other, and we can pick each other out of a crowd faster than we can think up a perfect metaphor. But for any non-writer types, here are a few surefire tells that you have a writer in your midst.

1. Scribbling

Writers are always scribbling on something. You don’t know, but that line about your grandma’s dog—I’m going to use that. Writers typically carry a small notebook, but you’ll also find us tapping away at our phone screens and jotting down notes on napkins and receipts.

2. Zoning Out

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you saying something? Writers are always thinking and making connections. Sometimes that process takes most of our brain power. Our eyes glaze over, and we get lost in the twisting stories playing out inside our minds. We wind up staring into space (or awkwardly at another person) for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. If you catch someone gazing into the distance with their jaw half-open, know that person is probably a writer. You could not imagine the adventures happening behind those blank eyes.

3. Non-Sequiturs

We do that thinking thing when we’re not spaced out, too. Sometimes we’ll be engaged in a perfectly normal conversation and then our mind bursts into super speed. We fly through half a day’s worth of thoughts before something catches—and it probably has nothing to do with the current conversation. If you’re having a lovely discussion with your writer friend about how you like to cook sweet potatoes and they suddenly blurt out that Pluto’s demotion from planet was ridiculous, just smile and go with it.

4. Separating From the Crowd

Writers, by definition, are outsiders. To write about the world, we have to see it from a different perspective. We have to allow ourselves to drift far enough to gain a broad view, and sometimes that means creating literal distance between ourselves and others. So if you see someone slinking away from a group of people, there’s a good chance you’ve spotted a writer.

5. Talking to Nothing

Okay, we’re not talking to nothing. We could be talking to ourselves or to our characters. We could be having a very in-depth discussion with a tree, because the only way we truly understand something is to 1. write it down or 2. say it out loud. And let’s be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of people willing to listen to a two-hour breakdown of the intricacies of our high fantasy novel’s social structure. If you are, indeed, one of those people, please feel free to walk over and place yourself between the writer and the tree. They will be happy to regale you.

Let’s Play Spot the Writer!

There you have it: five ways to spot a writer in the wild. Try not to to disturb them in their natural habitat, no flash photography, and don’t feed them unless you’re prepared to offer large quantities of chocolate and coffee.

Photo by Anthony Kentuck

May 25, 2017
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