What Kind of Writer are You?

How knowing your writer-type may help you steer the direction of your work

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

Nobody wants to get stuck in a box. We’re creatives. We run our freak-flags up the flagpole each morning before the coffee is done. We’re the innovators, the do-ers. The starters of trends, and the finishers of great stories. We build worlds where none existed last week, and we tell stories that have yet to be told.

So, what’s with putting writers in categories?

Because we’re as different as we are the same. In my quest to uncover the secrets of writing I’ve only uncovered more ways to practice the same craft. No two writers attack the same story with the same methods.

I used to do this myself. I tried to mimic the style of a completely-different writer-type. This got me in all kinds of trouble. I set unobtainable deadlines for myself and beat myself up when I didn’t hit them.

Once I understood my writer-type I was able to arrange my best writing process around me (I’m a Grinder, if you are curious).

Of course these little names don’t describe every writer. Maybe you’re the exception. But they’ll give you a generalized direction at which you can point your approach to writing. Plus, it’s fun. Go on, try to figure out which writer you are. Let me know in the comments. Plus, if I missed a category, invent a good name and share it with the rest of us. I’m sure you’re not alone.

The five types of writers:

The Grinder —

You write every day. You work no matter what, 24/7/365. You’re not fast, but you’re consistent. If your goal is 1,000 words per day, you hit your words no matter what. The speed demons make you look over the top of your glasses, as you lift your head from the keyboard. You roll your eyes and get back to work. You’re like a moving van. The weather doesn’t matter. Your mood doesn’t matter. You get the writing done — a little at a time..

Your optimal work process: Give yourself reasonable writing deadlines, but don’t push them too far. You need the runway. Your daily work allows you to hit predictable timelines, but it’s not in your nature to hurry through your writing. Push yourself a little, but not enough that your writing quality suffers. Give yourself room during each day away from your work to recharge. Grinder will work all day if left unattended. You revel in daily routine.

The Rainbow-Coated Unicorn —

You don’t write until you get a sign from the universe. You’re obsessed with the idea of the muse. Once your muse speaks, it’s like hot lighting through your body. But you won’t write a word until you feel it — until you know the right words to use. When you do work it’s animal-like — even pulling some all-nighters. You refuse to let any inspiration-juice to leave your body. Your writing desk looks ‘inspired.’ What others make think is a disaster zone, you surround yourself with objects and materials that keep your creativity at peak levels. You’ve got little quotes on the walls, and maybe some writing talismans on your desk. Once the inspiration is gone, you crash — giving yourself plenty of downtime to recover between creative intervals.

Your work process: Collect data on your writing schedule (how often, how long, and how much you write in a given month). This will give a reasonable way to estimate your output, so you can schedule deadlines appropriately. If you write an average of two projects per year, don’t lie to yourself and schedule seven. The muse won’t show up when you need him. Only when we’re open and available.

The Mountain Dew Maniac —

When you write you work like your face is on fire and there’s an alligator clamped to your butt cheeks — like you’re hopped-up on Mountain Dew [Chip] and jet fuel mixed-together. You write a bit here. A story over there. You’ve got twenty-seven writing irons in the fire and five projects get finished by year’s-end. Your brain runs in overdrive, all the time, even while you’re sleeping. Speaking of sleep — you operate on little, but when you do sleep you crash — hard. You tame your creative beast by writing a little on everything, all the time. If anyone watched you write they’d run screaming, but you operate perfectly at a level-ten all the time. Until you pause — and take crash-breaks.

Your work process: You need a loose structure, but if you try to build too much structure for yourself, the process will likely fall-apart. Find big milestones to hit. Don’t worry about crossing the Ts every day. You’re still very much a craftsman and your output is impeccable, but be careful not to let your wild-style become too public. You’ll get nothing but advice on how to work differently — more efficiently. And you’re anything but efficient.

The Bean Counter —

Everything has a spot. No writing project is started without a step-by-step, color-coded outline. You’ve got Post-its, planners, and outlines backing up your outlines — Post-its reminding you to check your Post-its. Your organization habits would make a Swiss watch jealous. Nuclear physicists want a slice of your brain to make their particle accelerator more accurate. You’re a walking checklist. You know everything you’re going to write before you sit and write it. The act of writing is not about discovery for you. Writing is little more than typing what you already know.

Your work process: If your writing-space or outline is out of order you don’t operate well. Ensure you’ve got everything you need before you start. You don’t want your writing environment to derail your work. Set reasonable deadlines based on past publishing successes. Push yourself, but within the bounds of your tight system. Give yourself a little unscripted, creative time every day to help your writing grow, but unscripted time may feel uneasy, so schedule this lightly.

The Easter Egg Hunter —

You’re really good at what you do, but you’ve got no interest in writing all the time. When you do write you create amazing stories that inspire others around you. You hear a constant “hey, you should really write for a living,”but you worry it will take the magic out of the process. You’re happy and content writing on rare occasions — as if writing’s a holiday for you. But you don’t have intentions of writing full time. You need a lot of room to decompress after writing. Full-time writing may take too much out of you, so you prefer to create on your schedule.

Your work process: Don’t promise any deadlines to your readers. Don’t even tell them you’ve got a book in-progress. If they ask, say you’re working on something, but have no idea where it’s going. Avoid all timelines and expectations on your writing. Let it come as you’re ready. Create your work on your time and sell what you’ve written when it’s done.

The Hemingway —

You’ve got the creator’s gene — a rare breed. You can do it all and never run out of energy. You’ve got the daily work ethic of the Grinder, the inspired genius of the Rainbow-Coated Unicorn, the ability to pump out books like the Mountain Dew Maniac, the attention to detail of the Bean Counter, and the ideals of the Easter Egg Hunter. All writers want to be you, deep-down, most won’t admit it. If you hope, or think you might be a Hemingway you probably aren’t one. Most Hemingways won’t spend the time to read this. They’ll be too busy being awesome.

Your work process: Your personal Achilles heel will be writing yourself to the point of exhaustion — becoming so competitive with yourself the work suffers in the end. Know your limits but push yourself hard. The Hemingway gets bored easily and needs a constant writing challenge to keep the torch lit.

Which writer are you?

We spend so much time adoring other writers, sometimes it’s best to slow down and appreciate our own working process. Sure, we can learn tricks and techniques from the giants before us, but odd are, they aren’t sharing the whole picture either.

I’m sure your favorite author is a hot-mess when no one’s watching.

Give yourself permission to be you. Let your freak flag fly. Now get your ass off this page and back to your writing, because that book won’t write itself — no matter what type of writer you are.

We’re waiting for you.

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August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. A self-proclaimed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indie authors how to write books that sell and how to sell more of those books once they’re written. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.

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