What do Writers Do When They’re Not Writing? [Shady Characters by Keith Houston]

What do Writers Do When They’re Not Writing?  [Shady Characters by Keith Houston]

What do Writers Do When They’re Not Writing? [Shady Characters by Keith Houston]

Posted on 11/21/2013 by

We know that what writers and authors do, most of the time, is write. But what do they do when they’re not writing?

 There are the ordinary parts of life—time with family, mowing the lawn or shoveling show, or washing the dishes. Somewhere I read that Agatha Christie used her time washing the dishes to mentally go over plot points. Admittedly, this sometimes led to absent-mindedness on the home front, but her books are all excellent.

Sometimes writers and authors take workshops and classes on writing, or give workshops and classes on writing.

And sometimes, just for fun, they read about writing. Or words, and where they come from.

But how many take the time to read about punctuation? Above and beyond figuring out how many commas you really need in a sentence, or where the quotation marks go, that kind of writer’s workday reading.

What do you really know about those punctuation marks? Where did they come from?

Keith Houston has researched and written a book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks.

From the ancient Greeks, who had no spacing between their all-capital letter words, to the effect of Christianity on writing and its punctuation, and the creation of lower case letters that were finally given to a grateful world by order of the emperor Charlemagne, Houston has researched it all.

So, when you’re not busy writing, you might want to take a break with Shady Characters, and learn things most other writers won’t know. Fascinating things about punctuation that you can drop into conversations at conferences and workshops.

Such as just who it was who got the hash mark onto telephone keypads.

You’ve taken enough of a break for now. Back to writing!

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Keep in touch,

Evan Swensen

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