Upon first sight, writers appear frazzled, distracted and jumpy. This would be very inconsistent with the image of a writer at work on their current project. Suddenly, they are focused and determined. Nothing short of their hair catching on fire and a cat using their back as a scratching post will drag their attention from their life altering purpose: to form words into sentences.
Yes, writers are animals based on contradiction. Within one conversation this breed may both complain about the characters keeping them awake at night, and state that other characters aren't talking enough and they just don't know what they'll do in the next chapter if these ungrateful creations don't start voicing some opinions--and soon.
You may also find them complaining about the many things that keep them so very busy--and in the next sentence exclaim how excited they are that they just figured out how to use Twitter, started a new blog and decided that Facebook needed to be updated a minimum of twice per hour.
Some will stick book after book away on a shelf without ever submitting them to anyone, while still others will submit every sentence they can get to sit still on a paper to any man, woman or dog that might be walking past. They will then request and expect immediate positive feedback. If the feedback is not given or if it is not positive, the consequences may be dire. (may Rover rest in peace.)
With careful observation, you may come to see a direct correlation between the size of the ego and how long they survive in the business. It appears at least a moderate ego is necessary to continue through rejection after rejection but also, if the ego appears too big it is another problem altogether. In this situation it is very probable they will give up on the industry and become a hermit in the mountains, self-publishing every word they write, from the 700,000 word epic to the grocery list.
There also is often a great incongruence between the way writers respond to positive and negative feedback. One negative comment and many writers spend hours considering placing their laptop in the microwave or possibly just becoming a mute and forgoing all forms of communication from this point forward. However, to elicit such a dramatic response from positive feedback it takes approximately 7,482.3 positive comments that will bring about dancing in the streets and unbridled revelry for at least several minutes.
The absolute best approach when trying to strike up a conversation with a writer is to become or claim to be an agent or an editor. They will immediately snap out of their frazzled state and become the most attentive listener on record. This tactic has been abused in the past, as writers have been abundantly willing to throw gobs of money at anyone that says they are an agent, or know an agent, or have a cousin whose ex-wife's, uncle's, brother-in-law's, nephew's, cousin's, best friend is an agent. (You know who you are Ted)
Please do not take advantage of these poor writers like this,
~ they hear voices in their heads (and none of them are polite!)
~ they find themselves inexplicably typing at all hours of the day
~ they consider it a success if they have both a shower and find a comb before it's time to go to sleep
~ and they are responsible for reliably completing entire worlds, complete with governments, religions, people, rules, and relationships.
In fact, no wonder we look so frazzled... Excuse me, I have to go rethink becoming a mute for the fourteenth time today.