Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I've Noticed About Being a Writer

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I love being a writer. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember and there is just something so satisfying about getting a story from my imagination down on paper.

However, being a writer has changed me in some ways. For example, being a writer means I can never throw away a piece of paper, program, or napkin until I’ve checked to see if I wrote a scene or dialogue on it. I usually carry a notebook, but there are times when I don’t have it with me and have to make do with what’s available. (And no, I’ve never written on toilet paper. Just to be clear.) I used to try to tape all of the little pieces of paper etc., into my notebook to keep them all together, but it made my notebook look more like a scrapbook, so I just tuck them all into a little folder now.

Being a writer also means that when my children are late getting home from a date or something, I always think of the worst case scenario---they’ve witnessed a crime and are on the run and can’t call or they accidentally picked up movie popcorn that a government agent hid a microchip in before he died and they’re trying to hide it, or they’ve been the victim of an EMP device and their phones and/or car isn’t working---well, you get the picture. (I know, I know, my poor children. Oddly, none of those things have ever happened. It’s usually just that they lost track of time or something very normal. In case you were wondering.)

I’ve also noticed that writers generally have more people that stare at them, especially if you talk to yourself in a public place or suddenly laugh out loud when you think of some funny dialogue to put in your story. Not that I’ve ever done that.

You would be surprised where writers can get their inspiration. A lot of my scenes come to me during a relaxing bubble bath, or while I’m walking on the treadmill. Dialogue ideas get really interesting whenever I’m at the grocery store. You would be surprised what people will tell the checker/bagger/person on the phone while they’re at the grocery store. The people on cell phones are always the most funny/annoying. It’s like they think they’re in this little bubble and no one can hear them discussing how she didn’t feel like going to work today because she hates her boss, so she lied to him and is currently at the grocery store for popcorn and chocolate so she can have a Castle marathon at home. But what if she went home and her door was open, and her boss was found dead in her living room? How would she explain her lies? (Love the TV show, Castle, by the way, and Rick Riordan, the author of The Lightning Thief series tweeted last week how he loves it, too. If you haven’t seen it, you really are missing out!)

Being a writer, for me, means that I think of weird things (in case you hadn't gathered that already). Possibly one of the weirdest was when I was sitting in church and I began wondering what I would do if terrorists suddenly took over the chapel and I started making a list of the people in the room who could be an asset and who I thought would be hiding under the pew. (If anyone from my ward is reading this, I think you know which group you’d be in.)

Of course being a writer means people have weird expectations of you, too. I mean, I’m always expected to write the family Christmas letter, and not only write it, but make it sound creative and fun. Which is harder than it looks sometimes!

People also seem to think that I have read all the latest novels in every genre and can recommend great reading material for toddlers, teenagers, adults, seniors, and of course it must be appropriate for each person. If I haven’t read the latest picture books,YA novels, or newest historical or whatever, I always feel like a failure, too. What is it about writers and people pleasing tendencies?.

I've also noticed people believe that writers are innately good at public speaking and having witty remarks for every situation. Of course, since I’m a teacher I’m not too shabby at public speaking, but my brain freezes in the witty remarks department unless I have a lot of time to analyze the situation and write a few ideas down. Which doesn’t help a whole lot in the moment.

I don’t make spelling or grammar mistakes very often, but I’ve noticed that my friends gleefully point out any grammatical error in my emails, no matter how small, and they scoff at my excuses that I was trying to quickly type them something with one hand while feeding my baby so it doesn’t count.

Probably the weirdest thing I’ve noticed that people think about writers is that somehow we are more organized than normal people since we have time to write. I don’t think that’s true at all. For me, it just comes down to priorities. I make writing a priority in my life. I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t have very many hobbies. And sometimes dinner is late when I have to write just one more scene. It’s not a matter of organization, it’s just a matter of what you can make time for, in my opinion.

No matter the quirk or expectation that being a writer brings, however, I wouldn’t trade being a writer for anything. It’s the best job in the world where you can share characters, stories, world views and perspectives and if you don’t change the world, you can definitely change one person’s world, even if that one person is you. Writing is the synthesis of a person’s experience all wrapped up in beautiful words and given as a gift to the world. Accept it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Especially with all the quirks that come with it.


At 1/20/2011 2:06 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Hee hee! I love the imagery of you sitting in church deciding which half of the congregation would hide under the pews and which half would help defeat the bad guys.

At 1/20/2011 2:19 PM, Blogger Krista said...

I love this post! And I love being a writer! And I love my writer friends! Whoo, I need to calm down a little.

At 1/20/2011 2:45 PM, Blogger Daron D. Fraley said...

I will try to more readily accept my quirks. And since I refuse to hide under the pew when the terrorists come, I had better start practicing my hymnbook throwing. I wonder which would be more effective . . . throw it like a hatchet? A discus? A frisbee?

Perhaps the restroom diaper-pail (almost always full and odiferous) would be a better weapon choice.

At 1/20/2011 5:16 PM, Blogger Taffy said...

Another great post, Julie. THANKS! I consistently have dialogue running through my brain.
Hmmm...that might be why I always feel tired. Even in my sleep I dialogue.

At 1/20/2011 5:36 PM, Blogger Aubrey said...

I love this! Now I'm going to be in church this Sunday, sizing up my ward members...

At 1/20/2011 7:02 PM, Blogger Heather Justesen said...

Great post! I love being a writer, and I know people look at my funny when I grab a paper or whip out my phone to make notes for my WIP (though, admittedly, the phone is a bit of a pain, so it's notes only, there--no actual writing.). And I have to giggle to myself over some of the ideas that pop into my head.

At 1/21/2011 6:40 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Stephanie, out of all the frog bloggers why am I not surprised that you liked my post imagery? LOL

Krista, I love the enthusiasm!

Daron, I hadn't thought about hymn book throwing, but now I am. Maybe I'll do an experiment and let you know.

Taffy, do you talk to yourself in public when you dialogue? That may explain a few things.

Aubrey, just remember the quiet and reverent ones may surprise you.

Heather, you're a girl after my own heart. :)

Thanks for all the comments!

At 1/22/2011 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

I know there are some writers that do well in public speaking, but I've always thought that a lot of writers are NOT good at public speaking. There is a reason we write. We want to make sure a line is perfect (or at least as close as perfect as we can). We edit our work, move around sentences.

I feel like I can say anything and say it well with writing. Put me in front of a big group of people.... shudder. I don't know what to say. I'm working on being comfortable to speak in front of people.. but I have a ways to go.

At 1/24/2011 3:59 PM, Blogger Kim Coates said...

I can honestly say I've never imagined a terrorist attack at church. I better get my imagination going! :)

At 1/26/2011 11:54 AM, Blogger Rachelle said...

I smiled all the way through this post. My hubby especially makes fun of me when I read my WIP out loud to find mistakes. He always says, "Are you talking to me?" even though he knows exactly what I'm doing. And I think you are very witty--just sayin'.


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