Ways in Which I Am Not a Proper Writer

The following are a list of reasons my fellow writers think I am mutant hellspawn who has no business being a writer:

  • I don’t care whether you spell it “okay” or “ok”.
  • In fact, I’m an indifferent speller and am not particularly bothered by that fact. That’s what spell checkers, editors and proof readers are for.
  • I don’t care either way about serial commas. It’s all fine by me.
  • I would much rather read a finished book than an ARC.
  • I can touch type. None of this two-finger nonsense.
  • Stationery shops bore me. I find hardware shops more interesting. Honestly, I’d rather watch paint dry than oooh and ahh over stationery. I don’t like paper. I don’t like pens.
  • I have zero interest in fonts. I only learnt the difference between san serif and serif very recently and I kind of don’t care. I think Helvetica is the most boring documentary ever made.
  • I hate coffee and thus can write without it quite easily thank you. Ditto for Coke or Pepsi or any of their equivalents. Caffeine does nothing for me and the stuff it’s in tastes bad. Yup, even chocolate.
  • One glass of wine and any ability I have to write is gone entirely. For me alcohol and writing do not mix. I am definitely no Dylan Thomas or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But, hey, there are many upsides to not being an alcoholic.

Go ahead, try and take my writer card away from me. You can’t have it!

I happen to know writers who don’t write in their pyjamas. Who don’t blog, who, in fact, hate blogs. There are “writers” who have zero interest in publishing gossip. There are even “writers,” and I hesitate to say this, who don’t use a computer to write.

They’re way worse writers than I am.

Just sayin’ . . .


  1. Lori S. on #

    All of this is irrelevant to being a writer. You’re just not cut out to be a *copy editor*.

  2. Merrilee Faber on #

    Oooh, you had my sympathy until the chocolate comment. I even let you go with the not liking stationary, because hardware is great fun. But now, all I can think about is what on Earth do you eat when you’re blue?

  3. El on #

    Been reading writers on writing pretty much my whole adult life and the main rule is, writers write–and sooner or later (some much sooner, some much later) they write something publishable. All those other ideas about writers are at best tendencies.

  4. Malinda Lo on #

    I love it. I am with you on the coffee and the wine!

  5. Vanessa on #

    I was strangely drawn into that ‘Helvetica’ doco, even though I’m not as passionate about the font as some of those interviewees were.

  6. Michael on #

    Dear Justine I assumed at first that your desription of what your fellow writers think of you was just a ludicrous exaggeration, but then I read that outrage you wrote about stationery!

  7. Joey-la on #

    completely agree on everything except the chocolate (yum…) and stationary shops!
    How could a writer not be able to touch type? I almost died when I had to write a 3 page essay by hand last week, I can’t imagine writing a whole novel!

  8. Sam on #

    I was on board with this post till the bit where you said chocolate tastes bad. BLASPHEMER!

  9. Nicholas Waller on #

    “O.K.”, though, looks pedantic and old-fashioned.

    I see you’re also not JG Ballard, who used to take his kids to school (he raised them single-handed when his wife died young) and then get home and have a glass of Scotch an hour while writing until it was time to pick them up. I’m not recommending it – I also lose concentration after a glass of wine.

    I like paper, but then I used to draw and paint and the texture of the surface and the way it feels with whatever medium you’re drawing and painting in is important. Drawing on a graphics tablet is not the same (I sometimes place a sheet of paper over it to give the graphics pen some resistance).

    If you have zero interest in fonts then you will be confused and irritated by this Noisy Decent Graphics blogpost playing with fonts, bands and song titles – “I Shot the Serif”, “Bat Out of Helvetica”, “Arialsmith” – so avoid.

    The Helvetica movie was fascinating, btw – Helvetica gets everywhere.

  10. veejane on #

    I find font-nerdery fairly annoying, but there are good reasons for serifs and non-serifs, each in its context. Same with fixed-width and variable-width fonts, especially if you are some poor editor someplace trying to find the right place to hyphenate a long word in a news column.

    It’s the kind of thing that is mostly invisible to most people (and ought to be) — until you publish Clarissa in Arial Narrow.

  11. Megan Crewe on #

    Writers aren’t supposed to touch-type!? I have a hard enough time typing fast enough to keep up with inspiration (on the good days) with all my fingers!

    I prefer finished books to ARCs, too, but I also prefer getting to read certain books as soon as I can get my hands on them… and sometimes the latter preference outweighs the former.

    And agreed on caffeine and alcohol! Actually, I’m not much interested in alcohol in any situation… I am occasionally afraid someone try to take away my “adult” card. 😉

    Thankfully writing seems to be one of those endeavors where the main point of having rules is figuring out how to break them.

  12. Patrick on #

    I AM OFFENDED! What next? Are you going to tell us you hate LOLcats, too? I don’t know what to say…

  13. Brynne on #

    I’m glad you posted this list. I now feel like less of a bad person. 😉

  14. Kelly McCullough on #

    With the exceptions of the touch typing and the caffeine, I’m with you on this list. I suppose I make up for those two with not caring that much about the exact words at the sentence level—I’m much more focused on overarching story—and having zero interest in pens.

  15. Karen on #

    I didn’t even know there was a documentary called Helvetica. Good thing I’m hiding up in Canada where no one can even FIND me to take away my writer card.

    I love dark chocolate, but really don’t care if you despise it. More for me. 🙂

  16. Julia Rios on #

    I don’t hate paper and pens, and I do drink a cup of coffee in the morning, but I fail to see how any of the stuff mentioned makes someone more or less a writer. Isn’t writing (or typing, or whatever) stories or poems or articles or essays or what have you what makes a person a writer? Obviously you’re a proper writer as you have several books out. The rest is trivia.

  17. Lauren McLaughlin on #

    With you all the way. And I’m proud to say I type 120 words a minute. Properly.

  18. Ellen on #

    Well crap! I don’t like caffeine and can’t write drunk either… I do like pens though. I very much like pens. I never seem to have enough pens. Or paper. Or mini portable bright red laptops to write with. Err… >.>

  19. Nicholas Waller on #

    @ 16 Julia Rios – JL may have several books out, but clearly they cannot be proper books.

  20. Aimee on #

    I am with you on the inability to write after a glass of wine. I used to send emails home from Canada when I was on exchange after a few beers and they were actually indecipherable, except for a few choice phrases.

  21. Liana Brooks on #

    Stationary store??? That took me a minute, I thought you meant a store that wasn’t moving (which, in my experience, is most of them).

    I’ll agree with the coffee and alcohol bits. I write with a glass of ice water or lemonade and I do fine.

    I spell the word “okay” because that’s what mother taught me.

    I’m a touch-typer? I guess? I use all ten fingers, I didn’t realize there was another way to type.

    But I do know about fonts! And despite all the beauties out there I use TNR size 12 for manuscripts. But I really prefer Garamound.

  22. Natalie on #

    I hate the game the game Scrabble and my writer friends tend to love it. I think it’s boring, to start. But I don’t care if words are spelled correctly either and that is sort of a big deal in that game. If there was a version of Scrabble where one could make up the words … I could get into that. Otherwise, meh.

  23. Justine on #

    Liana: Huh? I spelled it “stationery” which is how it’s spelled.

    Natalie: I hate Scrabble. World’s most boring game. I hate all games that are mostly about memorising things. Dull, dull, dull.

  24. Kelly McCullough on #

    Of course, if I’d been reading more closely, I’d have noticed that you already had the pens thing covered. Sigh.

  25. Ellen on #

    Natalie – Try playing Literati on Yahoo if you want to make up words in Scrabble. It’s wonderful. It lets you use words like “xi”, and occasionally even allows random proper names.

  26. Rachel on #

    I have to disagree on the stationery and especially the pens, but for me that goes in the “I like pretty things” category, not the “writer-y things” category.

    And my jaw dropped the first time I realized there were full time writers who couldn’t type properly. Que horror!

  27. J on #

    1. it drives me crazy when people spell it ok, especially when they make it OK.
    2.i agree here. this is why they invented spellcheck. not my problem
    3.i’m indifferent to this
    4. i totally agree here. i want to know the entire story. i want to read the brilliant ending sentence. because it kills me to reread so i get the ending because the i read something uncompleted. i can’t stand it.
    5.i simply can’t type with two fingers. too slow and frustrating.
    6. I love looking at stationary. but i can’t stand writing in notebooks. quite frankly, i am starting to get over that, considering i have started to write in a notebook so i will write without getting distracted. (doesn’t work as well as i hoped.) i can stand for hours looking at stationary.
    7. I freak out over fonts. if it’s not the font, i can’t write. in one of my works-in-progresses, i need to type in one font and read over in another. it gets annoying.
    8.I hate coffee. i like chocolate. i can’t write when i am hyper.
    9. i have never tried wine so i cannot say.

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