26 Obvious Signs You’re a Writer

26 Obvious Signs You’re a Writer

Ah, the writing life. You know it so well.

Endless caffeine, a little bit of procrastination, blank Word documents, piles of notebooks, bouts of self-doubt and the satisfying clickety-clack of the keyboard. All things those of us who fancy ourselves writers are intimately familiar with. (OK. Maybe it’s a lot of procrastination, not just a little.)

We took to social media to ask writers all over the world to complete the sentence, “You know you’re a writer when…” The results are hilarious, honest and heartfelt.

You know you’re a writer when…

1. You keep a journal and pen by your bed — you know, for those middle-of-the-night bursts of inspiration.

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2. Every moment when you’re not writing is spent thinking about writing.

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3. You take a sick day from work to stay home and work on your latest project.

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4. You can never have enough coffee to keep you going.

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5. You have a stockpile of 15+ blank notebooks and journals and buy more faster than you fill them.

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6. Your friends, family, and colleagues make you write their important emails, cover letters…and even the inscriptions on greeting cards.

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7. You turn down plans with family and friends so you can keep writing.

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8. You type, type, type away and don’t even care about the time.

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9. Your wrist physically aches.

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10. Every person you see, whether on a bus, at work or out shopping, becomes a potential character for your novel.

via GIPHY

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11. You finish reading a novel and you head straight to your laptop to start writing yours!

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12. Your friends and family are a tad sick of hearing about your latest writing project.

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13. You get in a writing groove and just can’t stop.

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14. Word counts only slightly stress you out. OK. They really stress you out.

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15. There’s paper wadded up all over your floor from editing.

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16. You’ve perfected the art of procrastination.

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17. Your computer is filled with half-baked story ideas that you’ll get to one day.

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18. A blank page no longer scares you.

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19. You think “this will make a great story” as you’re in the middle of an experience.

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20. You document your life on the Internet.

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21. You’d rather be reading a book.

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22. You use words like an artist uses paint.

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23. Every part of your life (purse, car, house) is filled with random Post-it Notes and scribbled-on-receipts because you got an idea at a random moment.

via GIPHY

24. Killing off one of your beloved characters gives you real heartbreak.

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25. You finally admit it to yourself.

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26. You write. Simple as that.

via GIPHY

Go on! Add to this list in the comments. You know you’re a writer when…

Thank you to members of the Freelance to Freedom Project, One Woman Shop and The Write Life Facebook communities for contributing to this post!

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102 comments

  • You suffer withdrawal symptoms if you go more than a certain amount of time without writing. For me it’s about 24 to 48 hours. Others, it could be a lot less.

    • AJ says:

      I can go the weekend without writing, but that’s really the extent of the time before I start feeling that loss. Like my imaginary friends are going to be mad because they haven’t spoken to me in forever.

    • Good one, Ani! Writers need to write!

      • Wendy says:

        I don’t know, I get in these love/hate cycles . . . I’ll do just about anything to not sit sown and start writing, and then I’ll write ’til I’m too bleary to think straight, and the next day, something else that absolutely needs doing (last wee it was two clogged drains) just happens to come along . . . and then I’m out of my rhythm again.

    • Karen Crider says:

      You know you are a writer when you corner complete strangers in grocery stores, Walmart, and Books A Million, and explain to them you are a writer. That leads to questions as you detail your latest short story, novel, children’s book etc, and would they be interested in having it for their child, grandchild, children in their second childhood, etc, because you have several copies in the car. Of course, that leads to other books you may have written over the course of your life, and a passing exchange of telephone numbers and addresses you fill your purse with. A week later, your husband finds names of men you have met and he wonders if you are more than a writer, “And what are you doing with all their addresses?”

    • Ant says:

      I know what you mean! My withdrawal symptoms begin the moment I turn of my pc to go to work. And then I can’t wait to actually get to work so I can steal time to continue my writing, lol! 🙂

  • A most entertaining post, Jessica. The video clips are genius. It scares me that I’m actually like that. For me, an anxious sickness in my stomach plagues me when I read some great piece of writing that I wish I had written.

  • Creative says:

    I can certainly with these obvious signs You’re a writer.

  • Charles Thomas says:

    You know you’re a writer when you need it like food. That is, when you need both to READ and to WRITE equally, like bread and drink. A lack of either means a lack of nourishment of the soul, and induces a range of stress symptoms.

    You know you’re a writer when writing is no different to being in love, when the bliss of the state as well as all its traumas affect you to the core and dominate your life and your choices.

  • Jim says:

    Wow… my life i doomed. The entire “GIPHY” thing went far far over my head.

    Visiting their web page was a serious dissapointment.

    I now feel the writing gods may swoop down and erase all my bylines!

  • Robert Nielsen says:

    You know you’re a writer when your Internet search history (and possibly topics of conversation) can cause concern from family members, and POSSIBLY be of interest to local law enforcement!

    Example: I’d been doing a lot of talking (and researching) on the death penalty–finally, my wife asked me WHY I was doing all this. I said, “RESEARCH, dear! I might want to include a death-penalty scenario in a novel sometime, so I NEED to know about procedures, what happens on death row, etc.”

    • Good one, Robert. I try to do my research late at night and file the sometimes weird info I collect in a secret password file. After that I delete all the search history. You almost feel like you’ve done something wrong.

      • Robert Nielsen says:

        Thanks, Ron. A secret password file? Hmm…might be a good idea! And yeah, deleting search history is DEFINITELY a good thing, for more than one reason! 🙂

        • Brian says:

          You can achieve some anonymity by using a VPN, or the Torr browser, you can erase browsing history, etc., but there’s no such thing as total or perfect anonymity.

          More to the point, your browsing/search activities aren’t nearly the subject of interest to anyone – including the NSA – that many people seem to think they are. If and when you become a person of interest in some type of actual crime or criminal activity, that’s a different matter.

      • emily mackenzie says:

        Ron,
        you make me laugh! And ditto to what you said!

    • Haha, yes, as writers, I’m sure our Internet search histories can often by quite questionable!

  • You know you’re a writer when you have a history of writing in secret, of stealing postage stamps from the husband’s stack, or hiding you manuscripts but knowing that you much.

  • Andrea Roach says:

    You know you are a writer when you have to join a gym because you have spent weeks sitting on your duff.
    You know you are a writer when you hit save every 5 minutes just in case the lights go out.
    You know you are a writer when you look at a “You know you are a writer” list and say ” Thank God I’m not alone in this. “

  • Lisa Cross says:

    You know you’re a writer when you ‘sh’ your husband because your characters are shouting louder in your head. They’re chatty little blighters.

  • Mag says:

    You pay a lot of attention to the first line in novels, so much so that you don’t read the second line for five minutes.

  • Kayleigh says:

    You know you’re an author when you subscribe to TheWriteLife! XD

    You know you’re an editor when you are constantly checking your email, and when you find it empty you are miserable because your friends didn’t send a request asking that you help edit their books (most of which only get to a page or two before they’re dumped for a new idea).

    You know you are perfectly crazy when you make a Google Doc titled “The Sleepover Document” and bring your favorite female characters there to have a sleepover with your writing buddy’s characters.

    You also know you’re an author when write you bunch of well-detailed sentences in your 6th grade ELA class instead of paying attention to the speaker.

  • You are a writer when you ended reading this with a smile on your face and daydrram away…….again…..

    ‘Writing is about putting things in perspective, blurring the sharp edges of daily life’
    The Nomadic Blogger

  • Layla Rose says:

    How wonderful and fun! I go long bouts w/o writing, but I’m always thinking. Being sick often keeps me down for many weeks, even months, at a time and I won’t get any writing done at those times. Sometimes, all I can manage is to get some poetry out. But this was so amusing. I’ve actually been getting a bunch of stuff done lately. Even started a new blog. So I hope some people check it out soon.

    • I’m with you Layla. It can be so frustrating to sit in bed with millions of ideas running through your head but very little making it to the page. And when we do have the bursts of actual writing time it feels like such a blessing!

  • You write a lot, even when you’re not well, and when you don’t you miss it.

  • You know you’re a writer when…

    You can’t make it to the bottom of a list post without going back to your writing project.

    UNLESS it’s a post about writing.

    Thanks, Jessica!

  • I can certainly relate to #17. Sometimes I’ll open a doc at random (in the hopes of discovering what in the world the title “some story” means) and, upon reading it, can only shake my head and continue wondering.

    You know you’re a writer when….. your sister swerves, nearly missing an oncoming car, when you suddenly exclaim, “Oh, yes, I have to write that down now!” Further evidence [of being a writer] ensues when you reach for a notepad and your favorite pen only to discover you left your purse at the house. Your sister is not a writer, she has no pen OR paper in her car. You panic, hyperventilate, can’t say a word, but your sister knows you well – instead of driving straight to the ER she stops at the nearest convenience store and rushes in to buy pen and paper for you. She reaches them to you through the window. You can breathe now. 🙂 True story.

  • Genie Krivaenk says:

    My thing: It makes me INSANE when I tell someone I finished a story and they say “What are you going to DO with it?” DO WITH IT!!! I tell them I DID what I’m going to do with it…I WROTE it!!!!!!!!!! Anything beyond that is gravy. Getting words on a page – THAT’S the hardest part. Think it’s easy? YOU go write something and see.

  • Wendy says:

    You know you’re a writer when your bookshelves are made of books (including a lot of writing guides).

  • Helene says:

    Wow! You’ve got me! I can last about 12 hours Wilbur writing something. The one about the post it notes and receipts really speaks to me. Once I was at carpool waiting for my kids and I was inspired, but alas no paper, I wrote on my leg! (Lucky I live where I can wear shorts!)

    One more to add: you know you’re a writer when your family doesn’t understand what the big deal is about what you post on your website, I mean, content is content right? That’s my biggest gripe.

  • How about when you find yourself doing something which seems perfectly normal to you, all of a sudden you look up to find someone staring at you (not even trying to hide it) and your only response (as if this justifies your odd behavior) is “Im a writer.” (My Sunday at Target, thankfully security was not called.)

  • Rhonda Davis says:

    When you take the time to read this post and laugh so hard as you see your post-it notes, coffee mug and piles of books around you.

  • frank says:

    very amazing…..In fact i love this especially how you did the illustrations

  • You know you’re a writer when your mom decides to leave you alone when you stay up late reading in bed, because it’s safer than sitting on the open windowsill of the 14th floor reading by moonlight. (That’s where I wrote my first poem:)

    You know you’re a writer when you email a million copies of what you’re working on as you write- to two different email accounts, and also save to Google Docs.

    You know you’re a writer when your IPhone is one of your best friends because you write on the fly, and it’s by your bed so you can wake up and write at night.

    You know you’re a writer when your IPhone is out of storage because your Notes app is full of your writing projects.

    You know you’re a writer when it would be cheaper to buy the books than pay your library fines.

    You know you’re a writer when your friend is crying in the church lobby on Mother’s Day and you start to talk to her and encourage her. But then you pause mid sentence and say, “Wait a minute; you’re inspiring me,” and whip out your phone and write your thoughts in front of her, hug her, and text the message to her family for them to read to her. By then she is laughing and says she’s glad she could inspire you. And then you go home and post it on your blog along with three other pieces. (Stop by and visit:)
    https://tattooitonyourheart.com/2016/05/08/the-measure-of-a-mom/

  • Barbara Levinson says:

    I’m a writer because I can’t not be a writer. My DNA reeks of blue ink.

  • I knew i was a writer since i won my first writing competition in high school in England,
    and published my first book, Cockney Girl. But all I know is I am obsessive and love deadlines for written works. Dishes pile in the sink, bills are ignored until dangerous,
    forget to pay water and suddenly find i am in a desert or don’t find out water is cut off until others complain. I have published 50 plus articles and stories ranging from
    scholarly to scurrilous and four manuscripts ready to go. Forget competitions, i now want to sell what I love writing and yes, almost every experience has the element of a story or article. I have kept diaries since I was 15 and have led an exciting life, much of which is novelized. The work is much, the time is short. Saying from Ethics of the Fathers. God give me time. Writing is the erotic part. Getting published and known is the boring part. Public speaking, being recognized for your writing, to your amazement, is very pleasant. Being paid for what you enjoy is welcome surprise for the artist in you.

  • Endah Achinko says:

    This is just me. I just can’t stop writing and I am exploring every medium where I can share my thoughts and imaginations. Not only as a novelist but also as an online blogger. What I also find fascinating about writing is when you know how to play with the words.

  • Lynn Everard says:

    Great article Jessica.

    You know you are a writer when you feel like you will die if you don’t.

    You know you are a writer when your biggest fear is that you will die with words left to type.

    You know you are a writer because you type run on sentences because you know that letters are free and punctuation marks cost money.

  • Clare Rubel says:

    You know you’re a writer when…

    You talk too much because you’ve written too little.

  • Amy Isaman says:

    Great piece – LOVE the gifs. It was a great break. I think #10 is my favorite – I could watch people all day long!

    I would add, you know you’re a writer when you feel, with every cell, that “The End” is meaningless! Because then comes the hard part, revising…

  • Leonard T A Salt says:

    …………….when you have no choice in the matter. When every fibre of your being is driven to write and it’s not something that you choose to do, it is something that you are driven to do. The artist will create pictures and sculptures out of old rusted bicycles if there’s nothing else. The musician will turn a plastic bucket upside down and create rhythms. Build a guitar from a tea chest or a cigar box if that’s all there is. The writer will take the words in their head and put them on paper because not to do so would be the same as not being alive.

  • tracy jones says:

    yep that sounds like me alright. also if you read a book, especially one with errors (when you proofread) you say “I can write better than this” and then you proceed to prove it.

    • EJ Jackson says:

      In a way, that was kind of what got me started again, Tracey. I’ve always loved reading, and have always wanted to write, but after a few attempts in my teens/twenties didn’t have the self-confidence to try again until almost ten years ago. A few years after that I read a novel that people were raving about and realised that if this person could do it, then so could I, and why shouldn’t I? With age comes confidence, plus the realisation that life isn’t a rehearsal… now I have the urge to write and create and there is no way I ever want to stop. I am as avid a reader as I am a writer, and couldn’t imagine my life without either one.

      A friend once bought me a notebook that had on the cover ‘Be careful what you say to me – I might put you in my next book!’…

      To your great list, Jessica, I would add:

      Family and friends know that you almost never remember to finish that cup of tea/coffee, so make you half-cups instead, ‘because of the waste’

  • Debb Stanton says:

    You stop and wonder how this or that character in your book (or another book) is doing today – because they seem that real to you. 🙂

  • Confused says:

    What if you only related to half of the listed items? Does that mean that you’re a potential writer? Hmm. But then, I started late in life… I don’t have much time to write, but enjoy it when I can. I am also a musician. It’s an amusing article, but I don’t think that anything in life is that definite.

  • kalman says:

    You know you are a writer when you can’t sleep at night because your characters are keeping you awake.

    • Alia says:

      Ahhh! I spent two weeks not sleeping because of this! Of course, the story was well worth it once I relented and wrote it 😉

  • Beverly says:

    You know you are a writer/editor when you have to flip back 10 pages in the book you are reading because the character just tripped over her loose shoelace and you know she was described as wearing knee-high leather boots earlier in the chase.

  • Nina says:

    This was a fun post! I laughed, because I completely identify with numbers 1, 2, 5, 6, 15, 16, 17, 19, 23, 25, and 26. Sometimes I doubt I’m a real writer, because I’m not formally published, but this post reminded me of how much I love it. Thanks!

  • Laura Turner says:

    Wow! What a fun post!

    Okay — you know you’re a writer when you write about writing — almost as if to justify it to yourself and the universe. I have been writing and publishing since I was in my teens and somehow my inner critic still tells me I need to declare myself as a writer. I’m getting closer to 50 now — and I’m still a writer! Ha! But, I still find myself writing/blogging about writing and what a challenge it is to do such work. Perhaps this post will give me permission to say, “Yep, I’m a writer. It’s still hard work — but, it just IS.”

  • Semanti says:

    You know you’re a writer when your virtual world is more real than the real world and you cling on to a dream you saw last night because there’s a great story in there

  • Yarro says:

    funny but so true my few friends are scared of me because they know I am going to bog them down with my new story.

  • Rene says:

    You know you’re a writer when…

    You are reading a book and you get excited because of the words the author has chosen to express his ideas. You just stop reading to admire the words that were used and you are thinking about using them yourself.

  • Patricia Neighbors says:

    You know you’re a writer when…
    you randomly blurt out thoughts to anyone who will listen,
    even the ones who don’t!
    Sadly, I have even discovered that even our dogs run for cover when
    I’m on a roll.
    What can I say, I’m a hopeless scribe.

  • C. D. Samuda says:

    I’ve got to search my house for hidden cameras and a bug right now. I’m reporting this to the FBI! Someone bugged my house…You’re a spy!

    Seriously, this made me tear up and my chest tightened as my eyes scanned the contents. How can every single one of these points apply to me?

  • Having ~BUSINESS CARDS~ made with your name and AUTHOR title! ✍

  • After I published my Trilogy I couldn’t stop thinking about writing another book. I listen and watch everything and save stories and old photos from newspapers for ideas. I hear older people with their old sayings and copy them down. I always ask them if I can use them though. I love thinking about stories. There is a story in all things that we see or hear. I know I am addicted to writing I think it will always be with me. I thought I’d finish writing after the trilogy. I did do my life story for my grandchildren which was wonderful. It brought up lots of memories to pass on. I would recommend it to you writers. The children may not want to know but usually later in life they wished they would have asked more questions.

    After reading all of your replies I don’t feel so bad. Most of us are now tied to the one brush. Yes, we are all writers.

  • Oh My! This is incredibly fun and factual at the same time. I so loved the graphics and was grinning all through. lol
    The thing is, i tell people i know I’m a writer because i cannot not write. True. And the funniest part is, i feel so restless whenever i don’t write in say three days. I can’t help. I just can’t help writing after all these years. lol. Thanks for putting up this Jessica.

  • Janelle says:

    hahaha this is spectacular, especially the Daria AND Love Actually GIFs! And, totally on point.

    The biggest sign for me is that I’m constantly writing something in my head without realizing it, then when I acknowledge it and get it sounding right, I’m all “everyone get out of my way, don’t talk to me, I have to write this down!!” ha 🙂

  • Dana says:

    You know you are a writer when you panic when you cannot find a working pen or sharpened pencil in your purse and you need to write a quote, word or story idea before it is lost. Also if all of the stray receipts and papers on your purse are covered in quotes or ideas because you ran out of paper.

  • hilarious post Jessica 🙂

  • You know you’re a writer when you read a post like this and scroll through ALL the comments while nodding your head, knowing you are not alone in your eccentric oddity.

  • Since I decided to start writing my whole family says I´m totally insane, ´cause I became a hermit, don´t date, I´m always talking to myself and can hear me cursing when I´m typing alone in my locked door bedroom, but boy….I loveeeeeee it!

  • Hi Jessica,
    Well, I admit most of what has been shared here has been my personal experience. I loved the simplicity of its presentation. Thanks for your good thoughts. Hoping I could
    write better as I started to follow you.
    Cecilia

  • Allison says:

    You know you’re a writer when your mind wants to be in the world you’re creating, the same way your mind wants to be at Hogwarts when you read Harry Potter, or on the road to Mordor when you read The Lord of the Rings. You want to be with your characters and see the places, and hear the sounds. But what’s magical is that you have created them, yourself. They’re real to you. *sigh*

    • Ant says:

      Allison: I completely identify. Every time I finish reading Harry Potter (any if the seven) it takes me a while to return to where I know I am NOT supposed to be. 🙂

  • you know you’re a writer when you celebrate the rich tapestry of life, all types of personalities & don’t get edgy when meeting those in life, that live out of the box.

    Your friends may judge these people but you celebrate them. You don’t want a beige life, you are interested in & notice the extraordinary on an everyday street.

    You don’t just write words, you talk them out loud, you experience them on your tongue, even sing them before committing them to paper.

    Words are like children. Your head/mind dictionary surprises even yourself.
    Words arrive, unbidden.

    Nature, the lilac mists, the dead flower bud are all beautiful not just the obvious majestic mountains. She is your muse & you are never alone when you are with her.

    You don’t envy possessions, you envy someone else written word, but not in a bad way. They inspire you & you luxuriate in their poetry, perception & resonance.

    Once given a subject ( this) you could write for hours as thoughts start to tumble before one can type them onto the page.

    I will STOP.

  • Jones Kerrin says:

    Thanks Jessica!

    Was in the denial stage until I saw this article 🙂

    Additional inputs: You know you’re a writer when:
    > you go on vacation with a journal and pen
    > you visit parks with a notebook
    > me time means coffee shop, pen and paper

    Will share this and add more 🙂

  • Ant says:

    Love this blog. All of it is true about me! Got one more to add:

    You know you’re a writer when you skip breakfast after a night without sleep and fix coffee with the dog’s food bowl in one hand, a pencil between your teeth and the kettle in the other hand and then realize that you didn’t boil the kettle yet and the dog’s bowl is filled with what would have been your breakfast…

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