Top Ways You Know You’re a Writer (a.ka. Top Writer Probs)

As a fiction writer, I am part of a unique group. Writers get a weird rep sometimes, and the world will probably never come to fully understand or appreciate us. Still, it’s pretty darn fantastic to be a writer and to be read. And so it is with the deepest honor for my fellow writers that I make this list.

You know you’re a writer:


1 … when you worry that someone will see your Google search history of “most dangerous medieval weapons” and “how to survive in the wilderness” and “most painful ways to die.” It was all research – really!


2 … when you write stories in your head while doing mind numbing tasks. “No, really, Boss, I actually like shredding paper all day!” *spends work days plotting out entire series*


3 …. when you’re talking to your family or friends (all non-writers, of course), ranting about your main character, and then the situation turns into the infamous:

Non-writer: Oh, for a second I thought you were talking about a real person…

Writer: Well, that was offensive.


4 … when you pick books to read for two main reasons: 1. it looks like it’s full of delicious drama, and 2. because it’s in the same genre as your WIP and you want to know what your competition has on you.


5 … if you use writer jargon (i.e., WIP, MSS, MC, charries).


6 … if you use the term “word war” and you don’t mean a verbal argument.


7 … when you have to bribe yourself (usually with food) to meet your writing goals.


8 … when you get that ‘look’ from people. “Oh. You’re a writer.”


9 … when people joke about not wanting to make you mad for fear you’ll fictionalize them in your novel and torture them, and you laugh it off. But later you consider how exactly you’d do it…


10 … when people tell you people tell say things like, “It must be so nice doing what you love and never having to work.” And all you can think is that you never said it wasn’t work.


11 … when you joke about being a “starving artist” and then realize that the stereotype fits.


12 … when you meet people and have conversations like this one: “I want to be a writer.” “Oh, you mean a journalist?”


13 … if you think about brainstorming/writing/editing all day long. Literally. You’re making plot diagrams and revising that scene in your head when you’re in the shower, on the city bus, and while you’re making lunch.


14 … if you debate with your writer friends over things like whether “charries” should be pronounced more like “carries” or “cherries.”


15 … when you realize that if one of your non-writer friends listened in a conversations between you and your writer friends, they’d be completely lost and worried for your mental health.


16 … if sometimes you just have a writer breakdown and wonder if everything you ever wrote is just fluff. But then you keep writing anyway.


17 … when you understand how painfully true that famous writing quote is: “Writing is rewriting.”


18 … if you feel sympathy for your character’s trials, but then torture them in the next scene.


19 … when you get frustrated at critic partners/readers for saying “it was a good story.”  What does that even mean? What made the story ‘good?’ Let’s all just agree that the word ‘good’ is the most vague and unhelpful word when it comes to feedback.


20 … when you write that your character is holding her breath, and then realize that you’ve been holding yours, too.


21 … if you write the most intense scene of your novel, consequently writing yourself into a tension headache.


22 … when you become addicted to inspiring pictures of potential characters and settings on Pinterest.


23 … if you become addicted to Pinterest in general. I mean, sure, it’s a time sucker, but it can be an educational, inspirational writing tool…


This is not an exhaustive list by far, and I’d love to hear more. What would you add to the list? 

Refusing to Let City Living Equal Complacent Living

I walked around downtown Minneapolis today, and even though I’ve technically lived here for two years, the stark juxtapositions I saw while walking the streets still made my head spin. I turned to my left, and I saw two teenagers standing in an alley, suspiciously trading a wrinkly brown paper bag for a wad of cash. To my right walked a group of business people with fancy briefcases, talking in office jargon about “international accounts” and ” making conference calls.”

Then, on the way to the Central Library, I witnessed two college-aged students meeting up for a music practice session. They brought their own keyboards and had rented a private study room. I walked past and on the other side of their study room walls sat a man with an overflowing shopping cart sitting at a table and staring listlessly out the window. Out of his shopping cart stuck a cardboard sign. I know that many homeless people make use of the library during the day (I volunteer at a homeless shelter and I often see familiar faces at the library) but it still surprises me.

This concept of juxtapositions and plurality within one city elicits questions. Why is there such a gap? And what determines which side of the gap you stand on?

I know that there is a plethora of reasons for why ‘things are the way they are’ (to use an annoying euphemism for poverty). For example, poverty is cyclic. Poverty often exists because of a lack of resources. I know that these things are true. But sometimes I think we use that as an excuse to not do nothing in our cities. It’s the attitude of why bother? Poverty is inevitable anyways.

Being complacent will help no one, not even you. Being complacent about helping/befriending others will not help you grow as a person, and we ought to always be striving towards growth. Being complacent means being stagnant and stale and, honestly, it means being cozy. Growth is not cozy.

Even though I’m a strong believer in selflessness, I don’t think it’s wrong to have money. I don’t think it’s a crime to be that business man or woman talking about accounts and conference calls. I do think it should be a crime to act as if you’re the only worthy person on earth because you’re that rich business person. Likewise, it should be a crime to let money be an excuse for sitting on your hands.

And so if you fall on the privileged side of the city, know that your privilege comes with responsibility. And if you’re a privileged person as well as a Christian, you especially have a responsibility. If you disagree, describe the time when Jesus told us to hide away in our houses and think only about our own needs. We are told to love one another and to help the poor. It’s actually quite fantastic how many times the Bible mentions showing kindness, and particularly showing kindness to the poor.

On that note, there are, in fact, many ways to do something and ease the chasm between the two sides of every city. Here’s a few:

1. Admit that you can be complacent. We all are. The first step in the 12-step program is admitting you have something to improve so that you can destroy denial. We all have our biases and prejudices. Acknowledging them is the only way to move forward.

2. Don’t be a stranger to your neighbors. It all starts at home. Throw a block party (or apartment complex party, or whatever). Plan a play date with your neighbor’s kids and your own. Bring over a pan of brownies or offer help to those new guys moving in. Complacency can lead us to close the door behind us and pull down the shades in order to shut the world out. I’m an introvert, so I understand – but I’ll also be the first to tell you that going out of your comfort zone won’t kill you.

3. Smile more. And why not? When I pass someone on the street, there’s this unwritten rule that says that I can’t smile at or otherwise acknowledge anyone else for being human. It’s so stupid. They are human and should be treated as such. Feel free to join me in breaking that social convention.

4. Volunteer. Ever wanted to serve the homeless a meal, help immigrants with language skills, tutor kids in math or reading, help refugees settle in, or bring meals to the elderly? Especially if you live in a large city, opportunities are everywhere. However, to find opportunities, you need to look for them.

5. Pray for people. It works, even on complete strangers.

How to Thrive in College

You’ve heard so much about that dreaded C word. Your parents, older siblings, and older friends tell you horror stories. “You’ll never sleep. Prepare to become addicted to coffee and Red Bull,” they say. But don’t fear. People really do survive this trying time of life. Some of us even have fun in college, but in order to do so, you must do one thing: you must be passionate about what you are going to school for. It will help in so many ways.

For one thing, college is expensive. Why pay thousands of dollars each semester for something you can’t even tolerate?

In high school, I heard the “college is expensive” mantra a thousand times and rolled my eyes. But with two years of college and lots of loans under my belt, I get it. As an English major, if I didn’t love to write fiction so darn much, I’d say it’s not worth the tuition costs. Yet I know I could fill a book with all the new concepts I’ve learned and because I have tangibly grown in my writing more than I ever thought I would. I know the costs, but I know it’s worth the results.

But what if I followed a more practical and not a passionate route? What if I went to med school or majored in business? It’d be a terrible waste of money for me.  My passion doesn’t lie in those areas. I’d be miserable in each class, I’d be staring at the clock in agony, waiting for the professor to just stop. No one should be in college if the only outcome is a lack-luster, resigned student.

Do something you’re passionate about. Make your degree worth it.

And I’m not talking about it being ‘worth it’ just in terms of money. Presumably, the field you get your degree in is what you hope to have a career in. If you’re agonizing over your four years of undergrad classes, imagine how you’ll be feeling in another 10 or 20 years, when you’re applying the same concepts in your everyday life. Do you picture a miserable self? It might be time for a major change. (See that word play there? It wasn’t even intentional.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that being passionate takes the place of all reason and logic. If you’re a broke musician, for example, don’t go apply to Julliard and expect that your passion will magically pay your tuition for you. We do still have to be practical sometimes. Now that sounds like a contradiction – be passionate, but be practical. Still, that odd duo is a necessity. In order to make college (and your career, and life) work, you must have a balance of passion and practicality.

So if Julliard is your dream but is absolutely out of the question, find something that is plausible. This is not called settling. This is called finding a better perspective. When I was in high school, I realized that I could not go to my dream college. But the college I’m at now became my dream. Here I have professors and roommates and friends who I can grow with and be passionate with. That was not called settling; that was God’s plan for me being more sufficient than any plan I could have had.

Pursue your passion in college. You won’t regret it. Well, you might… Things will get hard in college. And that stereotype that no one gets enough sleep in college? It’s true. But after a trying late night of studying (and after you get more sleep), if you can look back and realize that your passion will make it worth it, you’ll have the right mindset.

Think like Bethany Hamilton: “I don’t need easy; I need possible.” If you carry that attitude and your passion with you, you will go far in college… and in life.