What Kind Of Writer Are You

two women speakingRather than sit inside at my desk or the local library, writing, I opted to spend a couple of hours at the local Starbucks. I ordered a Very Berry Hibiscus, and copped-a-squat on one of chairs outside of the local caffeine hole and dove into the story in-progress.

The sun warmed my recently manicured toes and melted the ice in my slightly over-priced refresher. I was hovering in and out of consciousness as only writers do when adrift on the page. I was dimply aware of the hum of conversations swirling overhead at neighboring tables but not enough to drop in uninvited, listen and borrow snippets of private discussions for future works.  My head was in the game.  Clicking-clack my neatly painted finger nails went across the keyboard as they labored tirelessly on the shitty first draft.

The continuous scraping of wrought iron chairs over cement every twenty plus minutes told me there had been at last five sets of customers to have come and gone since I sat down. My tepid berry drink, half finished, was quietly losing its allure. The chapter was finished but I was pondering titles and deep in a ravine of thought when a voice from overhead intruded on my own private Idaho.

“Do you mind if I sit here? All the other tables are occupied,” a forty-something asked. I must have looked visibly taken aback because she apologized for disturbing me. “I’ll look—”

“—It’s okay, have a seat,” I said and went about combing my mind for a chapter title.

“What are you doing?”  I felt my concentration slipping taking with it the little patience I have when I am in the well of words. I reminded myself it wasn’t her fault for not understanding a writer’s space and a quietly swallowed my annoyance.


“What do you write?”

I pondered, as I always do, when asked this question.

I write fiction.
I write love stories.
I write of passion and romance but not of ever after.
I write stories
I write non-fiction.
I write of the past, the now, and what I think I know about.
I write of family, of love and loss, of failure and successes.
I write to amuse.
I dabble with blogging.
I write letters to dead poets.
I write poems, although true poets, who have mastered all forms, including Quatrains and the occasional Villanelle, might cringe at my vers libre.
I write for discovery.
I write to entertain.

“I write stories,” seemed the easiest answer.

“What kind of stories?”  I gave her question consideration and against the advice of my inner voice, who was shouting at the top of her lungs. Stop talking.  NOW.  But feeling devil-may-care-ish, I went for it. “All kinds, but today I am writing a story with a romantic twist.”

“Oh, like Harlequin novels.”

“Not exactly.”

And on went the exchange for several minutes. She wanted an exact definition of my writing. I didn’t have one I told her. I write what I write, sometimes this, sometimes and that.  Stories, I maintained, with heart and hope.  All the while, the little voice in my head saying, you sound like a lunatic, woman, put a sock in it, and get a move on.  I don’t know why I resisted my alter ego, she was right, but I didn’t want a label. I am not a one size fits all, writer, I wanted to shout. It wouldn’t have mattered, my guest wasn’t  listening. She was determined to help me define myself.

In that moment, egged on by the righteous writer in me, I wanted to explain to the stranger that labels can be deceiving and once attached to one you’re tossed into a bin and will stay there forever more unless you lead the revolution and break free from a definition you didn’t select. I didn’t though, knowing how insane this would sound to a civilian. We volleyed for a while longer before I gave into my inner voice and packed up. I was hoping to slip away before engaging in further banter but I wasn’t fast enough.

“Why do you write?” Even though my inner diva was smoking an unfiltered Camel and swigging Jack Daniels at this point, I responded to her question.

“I don’t know, probably because the little voices in my head would throw a fit if I didn’t give them their day in the sun.” Of course, her look said everything. I’d bet the cost of sugary drink she’ll think twice before sitting down next to a writer the next time she’s at Starbucks.

How about you, what kind of writer are you?  Do you write without borders and beyond?

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I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

49 thoughts on “What Kind Of Writer Are You

  1. I think your visiter was rude. As soon as she realized you were trying to write, not make conversation, she should have left or been quiet. Which means she was just looking to make trouble, perhaps drive you out of your seat. But that aside, it is difficult to answer questions like that on the fly. I’m not sure what I would have said–literary fiction, perhaps? That seems general enough to capture what I am trying to do at least. Why I write? Yes, those voices. And also becauseit’s the only way I know to really express parts of myself that would otherwise never be expressed.

    Why people ask questions they want no answer to? Because they are nosy, or want to annoy, or just want to fill up the quiet with noise because they haven’t learned how to enjoy silence. Just guessing.

    BTW-I loved your unspoken thoughts to the lady, really hit a chord with me, how my inner thoughts do not match my polite responses to people sometimes. I love the way you write–so humorous, and interesting, and REAL!
    Deborah J. Brasket recently posted….Some Silly Little Love Poems, Unloosed at LastMy Profile

    • Deborah – I don’t think my inner thoughts ever match what’s going on inside of my head. It’s a wonder to me I don’t trip up. I don’t know is she was being rude intentionally, perhaps just a little to curious, and I did encourage the conversation when I felt the need to explain the label thing..:-)

  2. I guess Starbucks is better for a blog post than for writing stories then :)

    I think we are all fair game if we write in public, there are a bunch of well-intended curious people out there and if we don’t want them to engage us – which I usually don’t – then the library is the better place to hang out.

    Think of it as training for those audiences you will inevitably face once you are published, you now have advance notice and can polish your responses :)

    Where I live, even in public, people would never, ever ask a personal question. Come on over Brenda, no Starbucks here though.
    Claire ‘Word by Word’ recently posted….Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist & Pulitzer Prize 2013My Profile

    • Claire I’m with you about the library, but the benefit of writing in different surroundings is the opportunity to observer, although maybe it’s not a combined event. I would love visiting. I’m in Paris for a couple of days next month. Looking forward to seating a cafe and writing in my journal.

  3. Loved your out of the box definitions, parameters with no parameters, inner voice/outer courtesy. It’s why I often put in earplugs and feign listening to music when writing in a public place. And I love that you referred to non-writers as civilians. You’re so right. If you don’t write – you don’t get it.
    Barbara recently posted….The Scent of your GeniusMy Profile

  4. What do I write? I write whatever is burning in my soul. Sometimes it’s a semi-autobiographical essay about my angst over losing my sex appeal for foot fetishists. Perhaps it’s a naughty (and knotty) novel about knitting. Perhaps it’s a lyrical poem about my lover’s hands treating me like precious crystal, delicate and treasured. Perhaps a short Tweet about how my cat has puked on the carpet yet again. Sometimes it’s a book review or six.

    Perhaps we should develop a standard reply for the intrusive coffee shop peeps… “I’m writing about a serial murderer. She looks like an innocent writer, sitting in Starbucks with her laptop, minding her own business, but when other customers aren’t paying attention, she secretly drops something poisonous in their drinks. They don’t suspect her for a long, long time.”
    Beverly Diehl recently posted….Welcome to Cat DisneylandMy Profile

  5. You were much nicer than I would have been.
    I have no idea what kind of writer I am. A few months ago, I’d have told the woman, “non-fiction.” Today, having a fiction project in the works, I could only say, “I write to amuse.” Beyond that, I”m stumped.
    I wonder why that woman needed to define your writing so.
    Given the Harlequin comment, I think it’s worth restating: You were much nicer than I would have been.
    Wonderful post, Brenda.

  6. I’ve often fantasized about sitting in a coffee shop and writing – now I know how difficult it might be to do so! So thank you!
    “Even though my inner diva was smoking an unfiltered Camel and swigging Jack Daniels …” – Love this!!! My inner diva would probably be sipping my champagne and twirling my pearls!
    I hope I’m not yet labelled but I think/hope I’m the kind of writer who gets people through some difficult days ….
    Great post!
    Astra recently posted….The finish line …My Profile

    • Astra – You should try it. It isn’t always like this. Mostly people leave you alone to do what you do- write. It’s also a great place to stalk and borrow fodder from other people’s lives. Your inner diva and mine are quite the pain. Mine would’t be caught dead in pearls, four inch stilettos, damn straight.

  7. Hee hee, I love your distinction between writers and civilians!!!! :) And yes, there is no need to lock ourselves into some rigid definition. This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to explore and try to understand the various genres of writing. It does mean that, like you, I shall engage with as many as call to me! Love this post! xxx
    Edith recently posted….Why I Blog, or peering into the rabbit-holeMy Profile

    • Edith – Well. We are separated by a degree of two. I admire your exploration and how you ask and seek. I should do that more often.

  8. When asked that question I say I’m a novelist, though I dabble in other creative writing formats such as poetry and short stories. What gets on my nerve is someone insisting that if I can write novels, I can write_____ fill in with whatever more productive writerly pursuit they deem more profitable. I am not a journalist, I don’t write magazine articles, and I don’t write technical manuals.
    Lynne Favreau recently posted….Letter to my Daughters: Real and ImaginedMy Profile

    • Lynne – I wish I could write magazine articles. I’m sure I could earn a living, maybe even afford a box of mac and cheese! The hardest part of saying you are a writer is being prepared for the next question, “so are you published?” Oye day!

  9. I write Interracial Romance and erotica(IR) so I like having that designation. to me it’s a subset of the larger romance genera like historical, or contemporary. I do think when I say I write “romance” people assume 1. It’s Harlequin (like the lady in Starbucks) 2. It’s all about sex and 3. It’s a trivial pursuit.
    All three assumptions chap my hide. I write romance but there’s so much more content then just sex. To me it’s about relationship building, there’s a psychological component in my stories which I think readers appreciate. There are love/sex scenes however, that’s not the focus, it’s like a by product. I work hard to provide accurate information and details which teach readers new things. I research my subjects so I can be authentic with respects to environment, customs and dialogue. It’s not just “a Harlequin” novel (No disrespect to Harlequin).
    So, what do I write…I write stories about people…That’s what I write.

    • Gynger – First, thanks for stopping by. I write romantic stories, but they don’t have happily ever after endings because I don’t think life is like that, and as you said, it’s not just about the pursuit. Anyho, I think you’re right, readers like the mix, but the story has to be have more ( at least for me) I like it when something in the character changes, even if it’s just acceptance of change.

  10. It’s quite common for a stranger to sit at a table with you in Europe but they would seldom initiate a conversation. What a pushy broad! I admire your courteous response to her … and loved that your inner diva was hovering “Even though my inner diva was smoking an unfiltered Camel and swigging Jack Daniels at this point, I responded to her question.”
    I feel I am a simple storyteller who would love to be a deeper thinker and purveyor of literary brilliance … in another life, perchance!
    Patricia Sands recently posted….Welcome back, Anneli!My Profile

    • Patricia – I know – about Europe. It’s more common to see people sitting at Cafes sipping espresso or wine, writing in a journal and NOT necessarily for publication. Sometimes people write to write.

  11. Goodness, Brenda, your sense of humor and your witty phrasing had me rolling with this one; at the same time, my writer self was “smoking the unfiltered Camel and swigging the Jack Daniels” at the ludicrous questions this woman was asking you. However, it’s so true – people who don’t write don’t understand those who do. We just have to get used to it and keep on writing, no matter what.
    Oh, and I could so identify with your phrase “adrift on the page.” Describes the experience to a “T”!
    Blessings and love, my friend!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….Where is Your Hope?My Profile

  12. Ack, I would have been stumped if someone asked me that last question, too. (‘What do you write’ is relatively easier for me to explain.) Honestly, I don’t like answering these questions either, even though the people who asked had kind intentions of making conversation. {I love Beverly’s answer!}
    Claudine Gueh recently posted….The Tear ThiefMy Profile

  13. –I don’t think your visitor was rude; just curious. Not too many people understand writers. I think you were sweet to answer her questions, dear B.

    I’ve been asked several times WHY I WRITE? I always give the same answer:
    To Breathe.

    Love to you, darling.
    My Inner Chick recently posted….For Kay On Your BirthdayMy Profile

    • Kim – you’re probably right, but these days everybody is writing. Soon we writers won’t be such a mystery, which makes me sad. I kind of like be misunderstood. :-) xox to you too.

    • Hi Michele – thanks much for good words. I like your description, especially ‘literary bent’, it works perfectly with ‘speculative. I am neither, at least not today.

  14. Bronwyn Gordon

    Your intruder seems all too familiar. I’m not sure what people like that are aiming for exactly other than to drive you nuts. Great piece. I could feel my irritation mounting by the second.

    • Bronwyn, thanks for stopping by. Thanks. I’m not certain she was trying to be a pain, but then again, some people are not aware.

  15. Brenda,
    Sometimes I think people make comments just because they don’t want to deal with the silence. I love your response. I once had to write at a Starbucks because for the 100th time that week my internet was down and I was furious with my carrier(since have changed will never go back…take that AT&T!) Anyway, I was writing a post about how inconvenienced I was and a guy behind my table actually came up to me and said the graphic caught his eye and he wondered if my internet was down and commented his was too. He asked if I “was a REAL blogger” or just posting because I was angry! I know he meant well, but I said.” Well I am alive, so I must be real and I write despite my mood and not just a blog, in fact I often write posts about people who cross my path any given day.”
    He smiled, grabbed his drink and left. I was just being honest.
    Thanks for sharing the post. What kind of writer am I….One who loves words.
    Kathy Brunner recently posted….This is a test postMy Profile

    • Hello Kathy, thanks kind for visiting. What a question? What are the requirements, I wonder, to be considered real? I would imagine he thought your response not the one he wanted to hear, but I would have liked to know what he thought later, after his pride subsided. I like words when the come together and place nicely on the page.

  16. OMG Brenda, I love your last response. It was perfect. But me thinks you were way too gracious and entertained her questions much too long. I would’ve nipped it in the bud after question one. Enough said lady, now I must get back to work or my editor will kill me. That’s what I would have said. As for how I write, either on my home computer or on my iPad, which I almost prefer because if a thought sparks, I can write it down wherever I am. And even if there’s a lot of people around, I get lost in my own little world of words.

    • Monica – I’m with you about getting lost. Not exactly the same way all the time, often I am in phase of what is a good ending. I have the story but then I think, what will be a good enough ending for the reader? Lost in that place for a long while.

  17. Hi Brenda! I’m with Kim on this one. The idealist in me wants to believe that people are fascinated with writers and perhaps this lady was in awe, sitting next to one! I do love your retort though. And to think that J K Rowling sat in a cafe to write the Harry Potter story! How in the world did you do that? :)

    • Bella, long time. I don’t think she was being rude and she appeared to be genuinely interested, but I did get a bit flustered when she wanted to define myself. You know, sometimes one size all isn’t an exact fit.

  18. Kim

    I’ve tried to define myself as a writer but it never quite works how I want it to. Although I often write reflective posts about things that have happened, I am also a journalist. I write about facts and people. Okay, granted I’m technically a student journalist but it’s only one little word.

    I write when inspired. I write out of boredom. What I write is whatever happens to spawn from my ideas and random thoughts. Occasionally it’s just babble. And these days, I don’t care. Haha. As long as I am writing, I’m happy.
    Kim recently posted….From A Different PerspectiveMy Profile

    • Kim – thanks for stoping by. I am not a journalist, even the student kind. Facts and me don’t get along. I’m with you tho, as long as I am writing I am in my own private Idaho having a blast.

    • Kim – We share the same reasons for writing. There isn’t always a reason to write, which is usually a good reason to be writing as the magic is found in the in between places.

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