I've written before on the human need for identification with a specific group. Nerds love to be associated with their own kind, Jeff Foxworthy has made millions uniting rednecks, and we've all watched VH1's I Love the [insert decade] while nodding our heads and saying, "Yes, I remember the Monchhichi!" Well, writers have their own funny little ways, too, and after a week and a half of hanging out with my own kind, I have compiled a short list of "You know you're talking to a bunch of writers when..." (Jeff Foxworthy, eat your heart out.)
1. You correct someone's grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., and they don't get mad.
If a writer is reading this blog entry, right now they are probably saying to themselves, "She really should have used angry since mad technically means crazy, and you know what? I'm okay with that. Nothing like a bunch of writers to keep you honest, at least from a language perspective.
2. You sit around discussing the finer points of your personal language/writing pet peeves.
Mine include people who say, "I could care less" instead of "I couldn't care less" and people who misuse the word "nauseous" (which includes almost everyone these days.) Nauseous means causing nausea, as in "these gas fumes are nauseous." It does not mean "to feel nausea." So when someone says, "I feel nauseous," I can only agree. Their abuse of the King's English is making me queasy.
On the final night of residency, several members of the fiction group (including some faculty) sat around a lovely dinner at Spartanburg's Inn on Main discussing their own language obsessions. One woman was on a personal vendetta against the use of "alright" in writing since technically it should be written as two words, all right. Another woman crawls out of her skin whenever someone says the non-word, irregardless. (I have to say, I'm right there with her on that one.) The best part of the evening? No one thought we were being nit-picky language snobs. Everyone at the table "got it." No judgements were made...except of those violating our grammatical code of conduct.
3. You make stupid writing puns, and everyone thinks they're hilarious.
There's always the classic, "Avoid cliches like the plague." (Yes, Martha, it's funny every time you say it.) Then there's the one I made up the other day, "She abuses adverbs horribly." (The best part? Steve, my non-writer husband, thought that one was amusing.) Basically, any play on words gets us chuckling. What can I say? We love the language.
4. You begin every shared anecdote with the phrase, "Okay, I'm going to tell you something, but you can't use this."
Writers are fiercely protective of their ideas for future work, and rightfully so. Writing is hard work, and you just can't make some things up. Cow-milking Dalmatians and possessed bedside lamps are like gold in the writing world, and a writer must store up these little gems like a squirrel storing nuts for winter. You never know when an idea draught is coming. And no, you can't steal either the lamp or the Dalmatian. They're all mine.
This list is, of course, not exhaustive. There are as many writerly tics as there are writers, and it is wonderful to be with a group of people who understand the shorthand that all us writing nerds speak. So if you're ever at a cocktail party and you walk into a small group scoffing at some author's multiple point of view shifts or debating the use of the frame story, you'll know you're in the company of writers. (And that you better watch what you say since they'll certainly be judging you by it.) You probably don't have much to worry about, though. We don't get invited to too many parties.
***Due to time constraints, there are probably typos in this blog. Feel free to alert the author to any mistakes you find, but beware: she is a writer, so be sure you know what you're talking about!