Writing Wednesday: Our 10 Favourite Descriptions of What It is Like to Be a Writer

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One of the earliest figures of speech you are taught in school is the simile. A simple comparison using “like” or “as” to connect two seemingly different ideas, the simile may not have the apparent depth of a metaphor but is often the perfect way to concisely compare and contrast. So, what better way to ponder what it is to be a writer than to consider what the craft of writing is similar to?

This week, we have rounded up ten of our favourite similes to get you thinking about what it truly means to write.

Writing is like…Nighttime Driving

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E.L. Doctorow

Writing is like…Any Other Pursuit!

“People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.”
– Harlan Ellison

Writing is like…School Work

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
– Lawrence Kasdan

Writing is like…Being an Otter

“Somebody said that writers are like otters… Otters, if they do a trick and you give them a fish, the next time they’ll do a better trick or a different trick because they’d already done that one. And writers tend to be otters. Most of us get pretty bored doing the same trick. We’ve done it, so let’s do something different.”
— Neil Gaiman

Writing is like…Physical Exercise

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”
– Jane Yolen

Writing is like…An Illness

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
— George Orwell

Writing is like…Sharpening Your Weapon

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
— George R.R. Martin

Writing is like…Taking a Well-Planned Trip

“Writing a novel is like heading out over the open sea in a small boat. It helps if you have a plan and a course laid out.”
– John Gardner

Writing is like…Carpentry

“Writing for me is just like building a chair, making an artifact. The idea is that you build, create a story and cobble it together. If it stands up, that’s good. If it stands up, it’s comfortable, it’s a good story, a good chair.”
– Scott Smith

Writing is like…Harvesting Your Garden

“One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mold of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much personal selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mold is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

What simile would you use to describe writing?

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2 comments on “Writing Wednesday: Our 10 Favourite Descriptions of What It is Like to Be a Writer

  1. One of the most beautiful posts ever on Endpaper. I identify and understand at least 8 like these. ‘One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand’ This one especially! I’ve had so many times that I had to get up at night and write a quick idea down, then couldn’t asleep as more of the story followed in my head.

    • Hi Pon,

      Thank you! We’re so glad to hear that this post spoke to you as a writer. And, as evidenced by so many of our previous Writing Wednesday entries, we’re definitely suckers for a good George Orwell quote. Thanks for sharing.

      Best,
      The Paperblanks® Team

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