by Kyrian Lyndon with James Edgar Gault, Amy Henry, and K.H. Koehler
I agree with many writer quotes (like the one above), but memes about writers and writing often make me cringe. You know the ones I mean— “you know you are a writer if … blah blah blah.” I’m always thinking no; you know you’re a writer if you’re writing. Other than that, we are all different.
To prove that point, I assembled a small panel of writers to dispel some of the myths. I thought it would be fun to see how often we agree or don’t. It was certainly fun for me since I generally love my tribe, and this panel includes some of my favorite people from said tribe. Their answers made me smile and laugh and feel overall honored to know them.
So, first, let me introduce you to the panel. I’ve provided further details about their work at the end of the blog.
James Gault has written four novels, all available on Amazon as e-books and paperbacks.
Amy Henry’s short fiction has been published in various literary magazines. She has just completed a new novel and is seeking representation.
K.H. Koehler is the author of various novels and novellas in the genres of horror, SF, dark fantasy, steampunk and young and new adult.
I, Kyrian Lyndon, am the author of Shattering Truths, the first book in my Deadly Veils series. I have also published two poetry collections.
So, here we go. I hope everyone will enjoy this roundup as much as I did.
We are introverts and/or don’t like people.
KH: TRUE — Or, more specifically, I don’t enjoy long-term contact with people. Short encounters are fine, but then I need isolation to recharge.
Kyrian: PARTLY TRUE — Most days, I do like people. How outgoing I am, that depends on how comfortable I am with the people who are there.
Jim: FALSE — If you didn’t like people you wouldn’t want to create any. That said, I’m a bit antisocial, but I put it down to being hard-of-hearing, so I have difficulty in groups of people.
We thrive on isolation.
Amy: FALSE — People stimulate me and I love talking to/laughing with others. How can you write about people if you don’t go out among them?
Kyrian: MOSTLY TRUE — It’s all about conditioning. I thrived on isolation when it was a respite from my day job. When I was finally able to stay at home and write, I was so used to being with people, that I kept wanting to call someone. I couldn’t get into it. It took months of conditioning to get comfortable with being isolated again, and then I got too comfortable with it. I’d say you have to thrive on isolation if you’re going to write full-time, and I do, but by the end of the day, I’m anxious to see another human being.
Jim: FALSE — We need to meet people to have a view on the world and to find models for our characters.
We’ll turn down plans to stay home and write.
Amy: SOMEWHAT TRUE — Unless the weather’s really good or the tickets were pricey.
KH: SOMETIMES, NOT ALWAYS — I prefer to pre-plan my writing sessions.
Kyrian: TRUE — But there are people I love to be with. I’m happy to make plans with them, and I cherish every moment.
Jim: FALSE — I do sometimes get offers that are more fun than writing, although these get fewer as you get older.
We are always thinking about writing.
Amy: PRETTY MUCH
KH: SOMEWHAT— But not while doing the day job.
Kyrian: PRETTY MUCH — Even while showering or trying to sleep, but when I’m with people, I’m in the moment. I don’t think about writing unless someone asks about it.
Jim: PRETTY MUCH — At least, at the back of our minds, we are. We’re always open to ideas.
We find inspiration everywhere.
KH: FALSE — The writer brain is like a sieve. You may think everything through but only certain things will emerge worthy of building a story around.
Jim: FALSE — I would say rather that inspiration may jump up and hit you anywhere, if you’re lucky, but you don’t always find it.
We can write anywhere at any time.
KH: FALSE — I prefer to set time aside to write.
Kyrian: FALSE —I like to be at my desk, in my space. It’s harder for me to write under pressure, too, or to write something I’m not psyched about writing, like a letter or explanation about something. I think that’s because I feel a responsibility to write as a professional would.
Jim: TRUE. But for a man, it’s hard if you are doing something else at the time. Women, of course, claim to be able to multi-task.
We always have a journal and a pen with us.
KH: FALSE— I don’t use hard copy at all. If I get an idea, I let it stew for a bit. If the idea survives the sieving process, it then gets dedicated to an electronic format.
Kyrian: MOSTLY FALSE — A pen, yes. A journal, never. I’m lucky if I can find a tiny piece of paper.
Jim: FALSE— But maybe I’m not a serious enough writer.
We love writing, and it comes easy to us.
Amy: Love writing: TRIPLE TRUE Comes easy: PRETTY MUCH
KH: SOMEWHAT — Usually it does. But if it doesn’t, that usually means the story is not yet “ready.”
Kyrian: PARTIALLY TRUE — I love writing, but it’s extremely hard for me at times.
Jim: TRUE for first, FALSE for second
We’re writing in our sleep.
Amy: FALSE — I’m dead to the world in my sleep, exhausted from all that writing.
KH: TRUE —I often design future scenes in my sleep.
Jim: FALSE — I wish it were true, I could get so much more done. I do sometimes get ideas from dreams
We can never have enough coffee to keep us going.
Amy: TRUE — Always a pot on, and one waiting to brew.
KH: SOMEWHAT — I am pretty much inured to caffeine.
Kyrian: PARTIALLY TRUE — I love that first cup of coffee in the morning (Peet’s Arabian Mocha Java or Major Dickason’s Blend), and it’s an oversized mug, so I believe that counts as two. It does get me fired up and going, but I don’t usually drink more after that first one. I am chipper enough in the wee hours of the morning. Drives night people crazy.
Jim: FALSE — Not a great coffee drinker. I keep going on chocolate.
There is an affinity between writing and drinking alcohol.
Amy: FALSE — How dare (hiccup!) this be suggested.
KH: SOMEWHAT — I’m a good writer drunk, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a daily method.
Kyrian: FALSE — More than fifteen million people in America struggle with alcohol addiction that we know of (just read that). It’s a complicated issue that affects people of all backgrounds and professions. With writers, I think some want to cultivate that image—come across like another Hemingway, James Joyce, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I don’t drink alcohol anymore and couldn’t imagine writing drunk even when I did. Aside from all of that, I need whatever brain cells I have left.
Jim: FALSE — I was never a great fan of alcohol and the doc has now warned me off it after an attack of gout some years ago, but if anything, I write more now I don’t touch it.
Our work areas are a mess with bunches of balled up papers everywhere, and we don’t have time to clean.
Amy: SOMEWHAT TRUE — At the completion of every writing project, I clear all surfaces of the thousands of post-it notes I tracked ideas on, but touch those little bright pink squares while I’m working and you’ll wind up a victim in one of my plots.
KH: FALSE — I must have a clean, orderly environment. My mind can be chaotic. My writing space cannot.
Kyrian: FALSE — Since I’m fortunate enough to work at home, I make sure everything stays clean and organized. My desk is what you’d call organized clutter, but you can find whatever you need.
Jim: UNQUESTIONABLY TRUE — It took me ten minutes to find my computer so I could write this.
While writing all day, we are ‘in the zone’ and often have no time for grooming, showering, and exercising.
Amy: FALSE — This is a stinking lie!
KH: FALSE — This only happens if I find myself on a deadline.
Kyrian: FALSE —I don’t want to sit there all day, not good for your back or your health. I break to stretch and workout, keep my housecleaning schedule and my daily grooming routine, prepare food for dinner. It’s all about balance. In the end, you feel better about yourself.
Jim: SOMEWHAT — I’m a bit of a tramp really, and when I get into something, not just writing, nothing else matters.
Amy: FALSE — Only by other people’s standards.
KH: TOO TRUE
Kyrian: TRUE — Totally weird.
Jim: PROBABLY — But we’re not the ones to judge.
We talk to ourselves.
Amy: PRETTY MUCH — Doesn’t everyone?
KH: Lately this is TRUE — But then, I have the best advice for me.
Kyrian: TRUE — And, as I mentioned, I’m dying to talk to anyone else but myself by the end of the day—except for a telemarketer.
Jim: TRUE — but hopefully not out loud in company.
We want to kill people we hate in our stories.
KH: SOMEWHAT — Sometimes they aren’t worth memorializing that way.
Kyrian: FALSE — No, no, never! If I hate you that much, I don’t even want you in my story. On the rare occasion where I do need to base a villain on a real-life incident or person, his or her fate should never be the result of some personal lust for revenge. I’ll do what’s best for the story and can be completely objective in doing that. For the most part, though, I love my world of writing, and I love my characters. I need to be able to see things from their perspective, especially if they are essential to the story, and I write from the heart.
Jim: FALSE — I may well need them for the sequel.
We are heartbroken when we kill of a beloved character.
Amy: PRETTY MUCH — I’ll never forget Reggie. He was generous, kind, and true—and he helped defeat the Nazis.
KH: FALSE — I usually know who lives or dies from the outline.
Kyrian: FALSE — It’s not like, surprise! It’s a story, one that we planned ourselves, and there’s plenty of time to get used to the idea before it happens.
Jim: FALSE — I’m afraid I am heartless, if the story requires the reader to feel sorry for a loved character, it’s curtains for them I’m afraid.
We are special, or we think we are.
KH: FALSE — No one is “special.” We are all just different.
Kyrian: FALSE — I agree with KH, but most of us (not just writers) go through an indoctrination process that leads us to believe we have some special mission with our talent, and we receive divine protection, above all others. I stopped believing that well over a decade ago.
Jim: TRUE — Well I am anyway, especially because of my modesty.
We’re too competitive to support each other.
Amy: FALSE — Seriously, writers are the most community-spirited people I’ve ever known. Possibly linked together for life by the traumatizing experience of writing query letters.
KH: FALSE — By helping each other, we help forward ourselves.
Kyrian: FALSE — I like supporting others because I know what it feels like to need support and not get it.
Jim: FALSE — I only compete against myself. My motto is “BEAT THE BEST.”
We love bookstores.
Amy: TRIPLE TRUE — We have a poster in our kitchen: Wear the old coat, Buy the new book. We live by these words.
Kyrian: TRUE — They are magical places that evoke feelings of nostalgia. I feel at home in them.
Jim: FALSE — I hate shopping, but I TOLERATE bookshops. Only, when you see shelves and shelves of other people’s books, you wonder how anyone could ever find yours, and it’s really depressing.
We read everything.
Amy: TRUE — My mother used to say I read the cereal box when nothing else was available.
KH: FALSE — Not everything interests me.
Kyrian: PRETTY MUCH — At least, it seems that way.
Jim: FALSE — No one can read EVERYTHING but the more we read the better we write.
We want to understand everything.
Amy: TRUE — I still find it highly annoying that I don’t understand exactly how the Internet works and could not build a computer to save my life.
KH: SOMEWHAT — I enjoy a well-rounded, general understanding of the world around me. But I also don’t let myself go too far down rabbit holes that lead to time-wasters.
Kyrian: TRUE — Yes, even things nobody else wants to understand. I am a rabbit hole digger.
Jim: TRUE or at least we can dream up a plausible explanation for everything
We are grammar Nazis.
Amy: PRETTY MUCH
KH: TRUE — Unfortunately.
Kyrian: SOMEWHAT TRUE — I’ve eased up over the years and can virtually ignore mistakes and even refrain from cringing. But there was a time when “ain’t” was like a curse word to me, and that’s just slang. Say “fuck” all you want, but DON’T say ain’t. My son told me I was an elitist, and, even though I didn’t think I was, I now believe, let people say what they want to say however they want to say it—you know, you do you. Besides, we all make mistakes. It’s why most of us need a professional editor before our work is ready to be published.
Jim : SOMEWHAT — As an ex-language teacher I am bit obsessed by grammar but on the other hand the main point of writing is communication and grammar can be inhibiting as well as helpful.
Every story we tell is embellished.
Amy: PRETTY MUCH — Hey, it’s up to us to make the situation worth listening to.
KH: FALSE — Not every story is based on a real incident.
Kyrian: FALSE for real life, although I like to include a good buildup which can make some people impatient — TRUE if I’m writing fiction.
Jim: I’m not really a raconteur of stories myself, but I have noticed that about half of the creative writing group I go to will burst into an anecdote at the drop of a hat.
We think every bad experience will make a great story.
KH: FALSE — Not every bad experience is worthy of a story.
Kyrian: TRUE, FOR THE MOST PART — I would say every experience, bad or good, can potentially make a great story. It doesn’t mean every one of these stories is worth telling. But that kind of mindset helps you get through the bad experiences and appreciate the good ones more. Life is an adventure!
Jim: DON’T KNOW — I’ve never had a really bad experience. There is always someone who has many more troubles than you, so I write about them.
People get tired of us talking about writing.
KH: FALSE — I seldom discuss my writing with anyone outside the writing community.
Kyrian: FALSE — Excluding social media where we’re trying to build a platform, I learned a long time ago not to bring up writing. I’ll talk about it if someone asks and continue as long as they keep it going.
Jim: FALSE — I don’t talk to people about writing unless they ask. I’m keeping my secrets to myself, like a Scottish Italian ice cream maker with his recipes.
Every person we meet has the potential to end up character in one of our novels.
Amy: PRETTY MUCH — More like every situation, for me. I once had a very promising thriller going in my head while eating breakfast in a London café, sparked by two “shady looking” customers (who had suspiciously arrived within seconds of each other)seated at opposite tables, both watching their phones , waiting to coordinate some kind of …bomb attack?…perhaps on the British Museum just over the road??? My husband finds this constant mental story spinning hilarious.
KH: FALSE — Same as people we hate. Few people as a whole entity make appropriate characters.
Kyrian: TRUE — There is always that possibility. 😉
Jim: TRUE — Beware!!
Thank you, James, Amy, and Karen, for participating! And to all writers reading this, please feel free to join the myth-busting conversation by posting a comment below. We welcome feedback from everyone who writes, reads, or breathes.
James Gault’s novels include the thriller Best Intelligence.
James also produces the on-line literary magazine Vox Lit with monthly notes by writers for writers and readers, news, features (short stories, poems and extracts from novels.)
Visit his author page at: https://www.facebook.com/jgaultbooks/
KH Koehler is the owner of KH Koehler Books and KH Koehler Design, which specializes in graphic design and professional copyediting. Visit her website at https://khkoehler.net
You can read a short story by Amy published in the Barcelona Review here.
That’s another quote I can agree with. 🙂
All photos courtesy of Pixabay.com except the two internet quotes.