10 Unusual Things I Know About Writers

Last summer I put up a post called Do Writers Read Differently Than Non-Writers? and was completely amazed at the huge response.

It’s my only post that crossed into triple digit territory in the comments. I actually thought the comments were better than the post, but I’ll let you be the judge. (link above)

In honor of all the newbies here at More Cowbell, and the software rollout that is currently bashing my brain in at work, I’m sharing this post again with a few new additions. I can’t wait to find out more about everyone’s reading habits!

Enjoy!

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From our earliest moments, most writers are avid readers. We devour books – for story, for Craft, for new worlds and new ideas.

We have To Be Read piles (TBR for short) that are taller than small children. Our favorite authors and characters become our friends. 

I don’t know if we become students of the written word because we love to read or if we read because we were born to love the written word. All that chicken and egg Zen is well beyond me.

I just flat out love books and every writer I know does too. You might even describe us as “obsessed with the printed word.” It takes a lot of love to go through what we must do to yank our stories from our hearts onto the page.

If you are a writer, there are things that I know about you that I don’t know about the other readers I meet:

  1. I know you read odd things in odd places. If you are stuck somewhere without a book, you will begin reading any words available – shampoo bottles, food labels, billboard signs. Whatever. Books and magazines are preferred, but in a pinch, any words will smooth your soul.
  2. You read by flashlight in bed at night when you were a child. When your person-in-charge confiscated it, you waited 5 minutes before pulling the back-up light from its crafty hidey-hole. If they were on to you and confiscated the back-up, you tilted the pages to try to read by the light from the hall.
  3. When a book touches you, it is a safe bet that you will not only remember the details of that story, characters, etc…you will also remember where you were the first time you read it and what you were doing that day.
  4. I am certain that if you named 10 best friends from the various periods of your life (and were being honest), at least half of them would be book characters, authors or titles.
  5. You have different books for different moods. These are your go-to books when you’re in the grip of overwhelming emotion. You keep reading through that stash of books until the feeling gets a little more manageable.
  6. Piles of free books by your most cherished authors gives you that same zing of attraction that you felt the first time you saw your true love.
  7. When you go to a writing conference or a book events attended by your favorite author(s), your tongue gets tied in knots and the idea of speaking to them gives you an extreme physical reaction. (I blush, nearly every time.)
  8. You have rituals associated with your books. Whether it’s the way you clean them, sort them, store them or lend them, there is something particular you do with your books. And it makes you feel happy and peaceful when you look at your books after you’ve done it. (For me, it’s the way I order them and which shelf or room they’re in. My husband knows: don’t be moving my books without telling me. It morphs me into the Devil Wife.)
  9. On the touchy subject of lending…writers are quite particular about loaning their books. I know that when someone borrows a treasured book from you and doesn’t return it – or worse, passes it on to someone else without asking you first – your friendship with them changes. You’re probably  still their friend, but you’ll either “forget” to loan them books in the future or you buy a copy from the used bookstore as a back-up and loan them that. There is an A-List of book-borrowers in your life and you love to have coffee with these people.
  10. When a book touches your spirit and transports you to a place you’ve never been, it’s not uncommon for you to read the last page, turn the book over and start at Page 1 to figure out how the author did that.

There are more things that I know about writers and their reading habits but I want to hear from all of you. What are your book rituals? Do you non-writers have book rituals too?? Which of the ten “habits” made you laugh? Enquiring minds always want to know here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

BOOK ALERT:
While we’re on the subject of books, many of you know my pal Roni Loren – she’s the founder of Fiction Groupie (great blog!). Her debut novel, Crash Into You releases today! (Squeeeee!!)

With reviews like: “Revved up and red-hot sexy, CRASH INTO YOU, delivers a riveting romance!”…obviously I MUST read this book. I hope you do to.🙂

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in Humor, Reading, The Writing Journey and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

100 Responses to 10 Unusual Things I Know About Writers

  1. I love this! I cracked up at #1. Since I started reading, I always read the entire cereal box in the morning with my breakfast. Even the nutrition panel! If there wasn’t a new cereal box to read, I’d read the rice box.

    Great post, Jenny.

    Like

  2. I connected with all of these, Jenny. Yes. I read anything when I’m stalled somewhere. I especially love the English/Spanish/French/German/Finnish translations on labels. They’re my Rosetta Stone. My on-going “library” read is Marley y Yo. I’m determined to regain fluency in Spanish.

    The picture made me laugh. My earliest exposure to books was on a potty chair propped on top of the toilet. Mom had four girls aged 3, 2, 1, and newborn when she was 25. I once asked her how she handled so many kids in diapers. She told me she didn’t. We were all “trained” by the time the next sister hit the scene. She plopped me on the little-butt seat, handed me a book, and left me there.

    YES! I totally start over to study craft. Tabs and notes and highlights make it 25 to 50 pages into the next read. Then, the story takes over and I’m lost in it again.

    Great post (as always).

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Your mother is a saint, Gloria! FOUR girls??!! Yikes. I’m dying to potty train Baby Girl and everyone says I have to “wait until she’s ready.” It doesn’t sound like your mama did. Hmmmm….

      Marley Y Yo has been making me laugh all morning. Thanks.🙂

      Like

  3. Christy Farmer says:

    You nailed it Jenny! I’m definitely #1 and #4. I always tell family that if I could have chosen my aunts, they would have been Jane Austen and Margaret Mitchell🙂

    Like

  4. shawna88 says:

    THIS FREAKED ME OUT! This is me to a tee. Thanks for making me smile.

    Like

  5. OMG I didn’t know that compulsive reading was a common trait to writers – I thought it was just me! I am never without a book! Good luck on your software rollout.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Nope, it’s every single writer I know Louise. Amy Kennedy is normally pretty mild mannered and you’ll die over her comment on the first post: “Don’t touch my freaking books!”

      Like

  6. LOVE this post! It’s sooo true and you nailed me to a tee! I laughed out loud at the “If you are stuck somewhere without a book, you will begin reading any words available – shampoo bottles, food labels, billboard signs. Whatever.” OMG – soooo true!! ROFL!!!
    Congrats RONI!! I saw that her new book was coming out and it’s definitely on my TBR list.

    Like

  7. Stacy Green says:

    Still love this, and number one is still my favorite. It’s so nice to know I’m normal, lol.

    Congrats to Roni!

    Like

  8. cc spencer says:

    Boy, you’ve got me to a “T” there…I think my mom’s favorite complaint when I was a kid – outside of “what, do you think we’re the Bank of England?” – was “get your nose out of that book!” I’ve always had one with me, and whined like a 2 year old when I didn’t!

    Like

  9. Took my daughter purse shopping yesterday, and one of our main considerations was purchasing a purse that could fit a paperback. My mom instilled in me the habit: go no where without a book or you will be stuck reading the posters on the wall at the DMV.
    Now I actually have a new habit, if there is nothing to read, I am plotting in my head. Or maybe this is an old habit, I just have a use for it now!
    I had no idea that other people didn’t do these things, I come from a family of readers, hence the stack of magazines in the bathroom. I want to offer a choice of topics, just in case!

    Like

  10. What? Everyone isn’t like this??

    Like

  11. Sherry Isaac says:

    TBR pile taller than our children… my oldest is 5’11”.

    When it looked the the TBR pile might topple, I started a new one. And speaking of TBR Piles, I joined a challenge. You can read about it (shameless pimping) on my blog, here: http://bit.ly/rvdfdf or on my website, here: http://bit.ly/umwBvh

    Thanks, Jenny!

    Like

    • John Hardy says:

      Have been letting the library hold my TBR pile. This has taken a lot of weight from the floor joist. Thus insuring less chance of implosion.

      Like

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        That’s very brave of you, John. The library isn’t open in the middle of the night you see, and I’d likely have a panic attack if I NEEDED a certain book and couldn’t get my hands on it.🙂

        Like

  12. Never read by flashlight. My mom’s a reader too and never cared how late I was up as long as I was in bed and reading.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, Lucky you!! I was always getting yelled at to go to sleep, so then I’d wait 5 minutes and tilt my book to read by the hall light. If you read the comments from the first post, the backup light sources were ingenious. I’ve heard of people reading by the light of their watch, their phone or a glow stick.

      Like

      • My mom to this day thinks reading is a waste of time in her own life.O_o But she encouraged me to do it and is one of the biggest fans of my writing. We STILL argue over her reading issue and we’re 77 and 54!

        Like

  13. Yes, yes, yes … right down the list. And then came audiobooks so I didn’t have to stop “reading” when I was walking or on the treadmill. Reading is the best addiction in the world!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m all about the Kindle on the big font setting for the gym but you’re right, nothing could be better than an e-Book when you take a walk…way to multi-task, Patricia!!

      Like

  14. OMG so true, every last word! I felt like I was reading all about me! LOL

    Like

  15. Marcia says:

    Love this list and all appply to me, but I especially loved #10. I’m happy to know I’m not the only one! It made me smile, though it’s not that often I read a book that makes me say, ‘wow, that was good! How does he/she write like that?!’ I go back to reread certain passages and marvel all over again at the skill. I also make notes (not on the margins-on paper) when I read descriptions that are so fresh I ahve to remember them…Like in James Rollins’ Devil Colony. he’s amazing!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh my God, when I get a really good one, in whatever sense it is, I always do it. Like if they do conflict really well, or dialogue, or 3-Act structure. I’ve GOT to figure it out!

      Like

  16. I don’t know why, but book borrowing is a really big deal. I also get a little miffed if I lend a book in perfect condition and it comes back with a broken spine or bent pages or smudges/coffee stains. I hate to admit it (because it makes me feel like a horrible person), but I’ve been “unable to find” books that certain book destroyers wanted to borrow and directed them to the library.

    Like

  17. Ginger Calem says:

    100% truth — every one of them! There’s hardly a moment in my life I’m not reading in some capacity. I’m never without a book or kindle or a notebook and multiple pens. I shelve my books by genre and grouped in favorites. I’ll reread Harry Potter like a dose of comfort food. (And most of the time, the audios are in the car, listening to HP4 now.)

    At our recent garage sale, I set up my book store table and manned it like a librarian. I wouldn’t let anyone else mess with my organized piles. (Best selling table too!)

    Fantastic post!!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, Ginger…I can just imagine you manning the book table!! That is so funny…thanks for commenting. I LOVE the Harry Potter books, and all the Louisa May Alcotts, and, and, and…

      Like

  18. Julie Glover says:

    Reading this post gave me the same feeling I get when I read a personality test summary and think, “How do they know me so well? Are they stalking me?” I think the other things I have considered are (1) how obsessive we can get about other people reading our favorite books (“You MUST read this book!!!!!”) and (2) how long we can discuss a book (“Got 12 hours to delve into the wonders of Pride & Prejudice?”) Great post, Jenny!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Julie! It’s been an education for my husband to hear my writer friends and I talk about characters like they’re real (because, hell0? They completely ARE.)

      Like

  19. Kara says:

    Great list and so true. Glad to know I’m not the only one that will read the ingredients on the toothpaste bottle if that is all that is around;)

    Like

  20. Debra Kristi says:

    Such a great post! I read for the pure joy of the story. How I wish I had more time for it these days. Not returning books or returning them in poor shape is a total pet-peeve of mine. I especially find it disappointing when someone insists they returned a book to me when I know they didn’t. I am anal about my books and I know where they are. My TBR pile is a little overwhelming at the moment. Maybe I should be thankful that so many of them are on the kindle so that I don’t have to actually look at them. LOL

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Like you’d ever forget exactly where your favorite book is. Please…they tried the old “I returned it” lie on you? Did you bitch-slap them? I mean, ask nicely for your book back while vowing NEVER to load to them again?

      Like

  21. Brinda Berry says:

    Someone I work with has recently committed #9. I keep waiting…surely she will give it back. It’s a hardback. It’s one that I’ve had for longer than my child. This may be the genius of loaning books on Kindle. They AUTOMATICALLY return in 14 days.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Brinda, you brave soul…I can’t ever bring myself to loan a book I have a deep relationship with…I just can’t. Have you asked for it back yet? I haven’t played with the Kindle lending. That sounds extraordinary!!!

      Like

  22. Lesann says:

    Guilty as charged!

    I took the reading in bed to new levels. I figured out that by shining a mirror in front of the nightlight I could reflect light on the pages…. *tapping temple*

    ‘Course my eyesight sucks now.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Boy, Lesann, who knew you had reading down to a science like this? My eyesight sucked too before hubby and our Flex spending account got me laser surgery for Christmas.🙂

      Like

  23. Coleen Patrick says:

    Awesome post. I do all of those things. When I was a kid my sister and I used to read the condiment ingredients at the dinner table–we even would make a game of it. So geeky, but gotta love it!!

    Like

  24. Carrie says:

    I’m definitely most of those 10 things. It’s a weird thought…I’ve never considered the differences. How can anyone NOT love words and reading??

    I’ve been following Roni’s blog tour. I hope to pick up her book. It sounds like a great story with some steamy indulgence thrown in🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m telling you, Carrie, other people just pick a book up, read it and pass it along. No touching, no rituals, no secret special friend characters for them. (And they think WE’RE weird.)

      Like

  25. Yep, I remember that post🙂
    I read EVERYTHING. Literally. I think there is an equivalent of a human catnip in printed words because just seeing books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, articles, yada yada yada, makes me go nuts. Honest to God.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Angela…I remember you telling me you get lost in the grocery store magazine/book aisle….

      Like

      • Ok, this is me to a T! My parents always had to come find me when we went to our small town’s local Woolworth Store. I’d be in on the floor reading a book or magazine and lose track of time. Wow!! I make it a point to go into the magazine/book aisle of the grocery store just to see what and who is on the stands.

        Like

  26. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes says:

    Aw this is a great post! I used to always read the airbag warning sign in the car when I was very little. Over and over, like seriously feeling important about it, lol.

    Like

  27. I used to think everyone loved to read and that everyone did these ten things. LOL Thanks for sharing this post with your newer readers, like me.

    Like

  28. All ten are me to a T.
    There are people I don’t lend books to anymore because the books have come back battered and it can make me furious. There are others who think it’s strange I have so many.

    And every time I move, the first thing packed and the first thing unpacked are my books. Putting them back on their shelves is a very ritualistic thing for me. Alphabetical by author last name, then chronological if I have more than one book by the same author.

    I’m also a compulsive reader. My brother and I used to fight over who got to read which cereal box in the morning. Or the comics. Or the front section of the newspaper…

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oooh, Alyssa, I sort chronologically by publish date for my very favorite authors. Plus, all the trilogies and series go together in order. Heaven help the person who borrows someone from one of my series and doesn’t put it back. Krikey.

      Like

  29. Yes! #1 made me laugh so hard. I’ll read ANYTHING. I never thought it was strange until you pointed it out. Then I realized…none of my other friends do that…

    I definitely order my books very specifically, and I hate when other people rifle through them. I also HATE lending books to anyone other than my mom or my best friend. If it doesn’t come back in the EXACT SAME CONDITION that I lent it in, I get very cranky. And I never lend books with the dust jackets still on them. The book goes out, but the DJs always stay home safe and sound where they can’t get hurt.

    Like

  30. I was very touched by this blog and shared it with readers on my social media sites. Thank you for a post that so many of us identify with. Cheers!

    Like

  31. tomwisk says:

    l read and the only problem is; Where can I send them to a good home when I’m done with them? If CT gets hit by a nuke the pile of books will protect me. (Shades of Twilight Zone) Writers are a breed unto themselves. When I cooked, we referred to those in other jobs as being in the Real World while we were through the looking glass. Still think it.

    Like

  32. OMG! This is SOOO on target. I read EVERYWHERE and EVERYTHING! One time my husband and I were buying a new car. I hate the negotiations of buying a car, so I sat in the lobby and read a book. Totally flipped out the salesman! Threw him “off his game!” hee hee

    Like

    • Cynthia, your story sparked a memory of mine – something I used to do as a kid. My parents have been divorced since I was six, and my dad used to pick me up on Sundays. It was a half an hour drive to his house from mine and I used to get SO bored in the car. So, what did I do? Pulled the owner’s manual to the car out of the glove compartment and started reading it! Should’ve known then that I wasn’t your average reader. HA!

      Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ooh, a book and a cool lobby with a soda machine is WAY better than used car salesman!! Good for you.🙂

      Like

  33. Terry Odell says:

    When we moved to Florida and had to keep cereal in Tupperware to keep it fresh, we lost that breakfast reading time. But this is so true. We read everything and anything. And with the new smart phone apps, even if we forget a book, there’s an emergency backup.

    Like

  34. Kathleen says:

    So true!! And yes, cereal boxes, too🙂 Thank God for Kindle for iPhone, I always have something to read.

    Like

  35. yes, yes and yes. My defn of hell and the worst prison ever – would be to stuck in a place with NOTHING to read. Must read cereal boxes, ads, brochures, signs…everything when theres no books at hand.

    Like

  36. Jess Witkins says:

    I love this list, Jenny! And all of it’s true. Especially #1. I will read just about anything if I don’t have a book with me. And I’ll read it with accents if I have to! LOL

    Like

  37. Lena Corazon says:

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours, Jenny (and that’s saying a lot, ’cause they’re all awesome!). I just got myself a Kindle for Christmas, and one of my favorite accessories is my nightlight. I’ve been up late every night, huddled under the covers and reading. It’s like being 5 years old all over again!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh Lena!!! You got the Kindle with the nightlight??! I have an older model and they don’t have one. I am so completely jealous. I adore my Kindle thought, and I so appreciate YOU!

      Like

  38. Fantastic post, and every word rings true. Well done. Thanks for the smiles — and to know that there are others out there just… like… me.🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jennifer, I think that’s the best part too, is knowing that you aren’t alone in your book habits. Writers are just a wee bit extreme about their reading, eh?

      Like

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  40. Oh, you hit the nail on the proverbial head with this list, especially the part about lending a book. Ooooh, gives me shivers just thinking about it. I only lend to two people~ because I know I’ll get my book back in decent condition. I once borrowed a book from a friend and tore the front cover just a teensy tiny bit. I was so devastated, I bought her a new copy and kept the ‘damaged’ one. It’s one of my favorite books, so that wasn’t a big deal for me. However! She returned a book soggy, torn, words written in the margins (not even words about the book ~ a grocery list!).

    Yep, she’s off the loaner list for life.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Soggy? TORN??? Oh, yeah, off the lending list for life (and possibly the next one) for that one. How rude is that? I mean, for anything, really. But for a book? Holy cow.

      Like

  41. JM Kelley says:

    Get out of my head!! Fantastic post, and completely, totally true.

    Like

  42. The picture alone was worth reading this post. I know one thing. My hubby was certainly happy when they invented ebooks. My three to four books at $15 a pop were getting mighty expensive. And, no, dear husband, I’m still not parting with my treasured books. Like C.S. Lewis, I can’t imagine loving a book and only reading it once.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Carmen, my hubby was happy when they invented ebooks because the endless stream of incoming books decreased to a trickle. It was all about the mess for him. I can’t imagine only reading a treasured book once either. I read those at least once a year.

      Like

  43. Roni Loren says:

    Love this post! So, so true. And I’m so particular about lending. My mother-in-law had surgery and I brought her a stack of paperbacks to read. And she broke all of the spines! Argh! My husband got an earful about it since I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But yeah, next time, I’ll just go pick her up some library books.

    Thanks for the shout out!😀

    Like

  44. Fabio Bueno says:

    Jenny, have you been following me? My whole life? It’s incredible! I nodded so much my neck hurts. You have supernatural powers.
    From reading labels, signs, boring manuals to that one special book, you NAILED all 10.
    Bookmarking this page. What we like, we read over and over.🙂

    Like

  45. I thought I was the only one who read the cereal box in the morning if I had nothing else to read. Now I know I am not alone. I do believe I ruined my eyes as a child. I read by flashlight and if that got confiscated I had a streetlamp outside my bedroom window that I would use to illuminate my books so I could continue to read. I just spent an inordinate amount of time on my E-reader making shelves and putting my books on them. I loved it! And I don’t lend books to anyone. I am very selfish that way. I do buy people books that move me or teach me something special. And I also have the go-to books. Books I read again and again just because I have to revisit those worlds.

    Thanks for a fabulous post!!

    Like

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  48. heather webb says:

    How is it possible that every single one of these applies to me? Great observations. LOL.

    Like

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