Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Writer Lives Here? How Can You Tell?

A few summers ago, I went on the Beach & Bay Cottage Tour in Bethany Beach, Delaware, with a friend of mine. We had a blast, and the homes were gorgeous, but let me just say that there wasn't a "cottage" in the bunch.

Writers are more likely to live in cottages, and rarely at the beach. We usually share these living spaces with family members who wonder why we find it necessary to spend so much time at the computer or scribbling our thoughts on scraps of paper. And since you're not likely to find our homes on any tour --  at least not until after we're famous and dead (in that order) -- I thought I'd share a few telltale signs that you're in the home of a writer.

Photo: Paulina H. via Pixabay
Books. Though some writers have cool hobbies like geocaching (Michelle!), many of us have hobbies that are more tame. Though I've heard that they exist, I've never actually met a writer who didn't love to read. If you're in a house where the books outnumber...well, practically everything, chances are good that a writer lives there.

Enough paper and writing implements to open a small business. I'm never more than one room away from a piece of paper/tablet/notebook and a writing implement. Every purse or tote bag I own has a small pad of paper in it, and you'll find a small notebook in the sun visor organizer and a spiral notebook in the driver's side door pocket of my car. (Writing implements are in the console. Oh, and one on the visor). This way, I'm always prepared to capture wayward impressions, ideas and observations that come to me when I least expect it.

Specific writing implements tucked into out-of-the-way places. Or behind closed doors. While anything with a point will work for jotting down ideas, writing is more serious business. Many writers have pens to suit not only specific tasks (planning, writing, revising), but also our moods. Color matters. So does the feel of the instrument and the way it glides across the page. Though I do most of my writing on a laptop, I often do my planning on paper, hand write first drafts of short pieces, and edit hard copies. And when I do, the writing implement I want to use had better not be in someone else's hand.

Other possibilities: You may also find clutter, dust and dirty dishes (signs of an impending deadline or a really good writing day), noise canceling headphones (for those times when the writer's family invokes their right to actually live in and make noise in the cottage) and makeshift offices in rooms of the house designated for other purposes such as sleeping, eating and relaxing.

If you call a writer or ring the doorbell and he or she doesn't respond, please don't take it personally. Any of the usual reasons (in the shower, out of earshot, on the phone) may hold true. Or perhaps, he or she is working, dressed in an outfit not meant to be shared with the general public. Catching a writer "mid-write" can be as dicey as catching a toddler before nap time; trust me when I tell you that coming back later may be the best thing you can do for all involved.

If you do get invited into a writer's lair, there's no need to be reverent. Just please understand that what looks like a mess to you may look like progress to us. If we have office doors, we close them for just that reason. If we don't, and we invite you in anyway, then we must really like you.

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our tour. For further details, ask a writer, or leave your questions in the comments below. Thank you for joining me, and please visit again.

Just don't touch the writing implements.

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