A few things writers and superheroes have in common

image As I’m sure you’ve already gathered from the title of this post, yes: I look really great in tights and a cape. At least on paper. In fact, all writers do. However, the power writers wield with words (such as four “w” words in a row) — whether (make that five) for inspiration, contemplation or revulsion — got me thinking about the things writers and superheroes have in common. And I don’t just mean how often people confuse me for Chris Hemsworth. At least on paper.

To begin with, like any superhero, every writer experiences a transformation process before going into action. Sure, it doesn’t involve hastily peeling your clothes off to reveal a fancy costume (depending on your genre and dedication to research), or a blinding flash that changes you from street clothes to colorful tights — something for which reporters in my newsroom are extremely thankful. However, while not as dramatic, there is a transformation that takes place as a writer’s body language, facial expression and overall focus shifts from “earthbound” to “alternate universe.” Ever see a photo of yourself immersed deep in writer mode? It’s like looking at someone else. Which, in my case, is often mistaken for Chris Hemsworth. I mentioned the alternate universe part, right?

Speaking of which, like Thor’s mighty hammer, Spiderman’s web-shooters, Green Lantern’s ring or Hulk’s endless supply of purple pants, writers wield their own super-powered tool for getting the job done. I’m talking, of course, about a cranky editor. Haha! Just kidding! That will be next week’s NWOW topic: Things Editors and Super Villains Have in Common. Naturally, the super-powered tool I was referring to is the computer or tablet a writer wields as a defender of the written word. I realize some of you might be saying:

“I don’t write on a computer, so that’s not entirely accurate.”

And I suppose you’re right. The again, Moses was technically the first person to use a tablet, but let’s not split hairs.

Another characteristic that writers and superheroes share is having their powers thrust upon them. Like any superhero, a writer discovers their gift and realizes “With great power comes great responsibility to pick up a second job.” There’s no avoiding who your are, the powers you have been given, or finding the best way to use them. Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Jean Grey, Bruce Banner, Clark Kent — they all tried to deny their powers and the responsibilities they carried as a result of what fate had bestowed upon them. In each case, they came to realize they were only living within a shadow of who they were meant to be. The same goes for writers; they return to action because they can’t stop being writers.

So, does all of this mean you should should expect a call from The Justice League or S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Probably not. But as a writer, rest assured you are in the company of some really super friends.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

79 thoughts on “A few things writers and superheroes have in common”

                1. Maybe you just need to skip the cups and go right to the wine glass.

                  (Just kidding. I joke about drinking because I don’t actually much. Not now that the kids are older lol!)

  1. Hey, I got a mention – well, my alter ego did.

    Ned, I tried your suggestion of writing at 7pm each evening. It’s not working. I dump a pile of food in front of the teenagers, saying I’m off to write. They want their dinner lovingly cooked by SuperMum. They don’t appreciate that I have sentences to form not vegetables to arrange in the shape of a smiley face…

    1. Depending on the age of your teenagers, they should be cooking YOU dinner 😉 However, if that is out of the question, it’s really a matter of finding and establishing the time — 8 p.m. or 6 a.m. or Saturdays from 9 to noon — that works for your lifestyle. Keep in mind: As a mom, I’m sure you make a lot of sacrifices. To make this work, you may need to have a sit-down and tell the people in your life that 1) this is important to you, and 2) you need them to be willing to make some small sacrifices for you as well. Maybe that sacrifice is cooking dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays for you so that you can spend that time writing? Sometimes enlisting your family to play an active role in what’s important to you can help them feel more vested in your success.

      Or they may just come to resent you.

      Either way, more writing time! (Just kidding)

  2. good to know and what was wonder woman’s second job? i suppose being an amazon kept her pretty busy. ps – i love my men in tights and perfect if he can write too )

  3. Great post. I think I understand my problem now. See, you’re supposed to BE a superhero, not keep falling in love with them. I could probably write more if I’d just stop stalking the Green Lantern and Speed Racer.

  4. I like that you said that writers transform when they begin to write. I know this feeling now that you have said it. It doesn’t matter how many times I sit down at the computer, I don’t get that feeling until it hits me, and sometimes it just doesn’t. Can’t force it – can only wait for it. Loved this post.

    1. So true; it’s definitely a tangible feeling when the writing mode begins. It’s like falling asleep. Which is something most people who read my posts are familiar with… 😉

  5. Once I got past thinking about Thor’s “mighty hammer” I was able to simmer down and pay attention. The shower helped, too.

    As always, your posts make me smile and this one helped me accept the realization that I keep coming back to writing because I just HAVE to. My favorite part was the confirmation that it’s completely awesome to be hanging out in the company of really super friends.
    Thanks Ned!

    1. Thanks so much, Michelle.
      I was going to say thanks for being a member, but I’m afraid “member” will bring us back to Thor’s hammer again. So instead, let me just say I’m very happy to have you as a super friend.

      1. Oh my goodness…just blew my morning energy drink all over the keyboard. I look forward to your comment/replies almost as much as the post itself,
        Have a happy Easter weekend!

        1. Sorry about the keyboard. Which reminds me, I need to have my son clean his out. He has one of the clear kind, and it looks like it has Mrs. Dash salad topping sprinkled in it. Ech!

          You and your family have a very happy Easter weekend as well!

  6. Ned, as one of my “really super friends”, I think you’ve just helped me with a breakthrough, and I’m not talking about just the firm control top of my tights. I’m not sure where I will run with this renewed understanding of my compulsions, but I think I can start by throwing out a lot of self-restriction when it comes to what or when I can write.

    P.S. Oddly, the post I wrote for this weekend is also about heroic efforts, but not anywhere near your topic.

    Cheers to you Super Ned!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! I really do think of writing as a kind of super power, with a certain level of responsibility attached. I look forward to reading you post. And not just because we’re Super Friends.

      Cheers to you, too 😉

  7. There is no doubt that every superhero writer also needs his/her nefarious foils – the super-villan characters – for instance, Skippy the Rabid Squirrel, The Evil Editor (often pictured in a witch’s hat), The First Wife or the Wooden Lion (a misunderstood tortured soul). Then there are the co-conspirators; Alicia the ever cheerful (even when it hurts) wife, the daughters (can that beast be eaten?), The Hook, and Yoda. And then there are the hapless bystanders who get dragged into the action: the kindergarten teacher, Stanley the chocolate Lab, the Volunteer Firefighters, Nemo the fish, etc. It is indeed a richly woven tapestry.

    And reigning over it all is the fertile (not in the stinky way) mind of Ned, “The Investigative Jurnalist”, a man who leaves a much larger imprint upon the world than his small-town, humble, mustachioed image would ever suggest. A superhero by any definition of the word, whose influence reaches across countries, continents and oceans to infiltrate every tiny corner of the wired universe (from the small jungle village to even potentially the space station in orbit), bringing a smile to faces of all skin-colors just when life seems grim.

    And it is Ned’s ability to become this supehero that makes all of our lives a little better every day.

    Thank You Ned.

    1. Wow, Paul. That’s one of nicest and most thoughtful comments I’ve ever received — on this blog or otherwise. Thank you so much for those kind words, and for letting me know that the laughs I’m trying to spread aren’t just all in my head.

      Truly, thank you, Paul

  8. I found a picture of you and some friends in tights and I think the Ethics Committee may have an issue with your statement about looking good in tights on paper. Whether it’s on a screen, or printed on paper, it is a sight only for trained medical professionals. All others need to avert their eyes.

            1. Click on my name, lisa. It will shock you beyond belief. A picture of Ned and his buddies in tights. If you try to imagine all of that, doing the downward (or even upward, for that matter) dog, you will want to lobotomize that part of your brain with a rusty nail.

              The Ontario censor board would have a heyday if that was posted here.

              1. You told me you’d never share those photos from my bachelor party, Chris. By the way, if I’d known you’d lost the ring down your tights, I never would have put it on my wife’s finger.

  9. You do have a super heroic profile buddy…
    (That sounded a little strange, but you get the point, right?)
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make love… TO MY WIFE…

  10. I always knew tights and a cape would look good on you! Should I ever be in need of an Oregon fireman, I would like it to be you, wearing a cape and tights.
    In theory, of course.
    Anyway, I for one am totally behind the comparison between writers and superheroes. If only I knew what keeps us writers living so modestly…but maybe I’ll find out next week when I read about them evil editors!

    1. Ha! Trust me when I say capes and fighting fires is a really bad combination! As for writers/superheroes living modestly, aside from millionaire Bruce Wayne, most superheroes live just above the poverty level. Oh wait, that’s writers! As you can see, it’s easy to get the two mixed up…

      1. Then again…whenever I see writers in movie they do just about anything, except write! And most fictional writers can afford more fancy lattes than I can…
        Must be doing something wrong:S
        Thanks for the cape and fire advice. We build a little campfire in our back yard from time to time, so I’ll take your words in consideration;)

          1. Haha…no worries, I’m not a gay stereotype when it comes to tights (I can’t imagine any kind of vacuum effect ever feeling comfortable, or sexy for that matter)…our campfires are quite innocent, as the youngest person there is my two year old niece;)

            1. Lol! I figured as much. On all counts. Sounds like a great time to spend with family. Here on the Oregon coast, we light a lot of driftwood for campfires on the beach. You may have seen some of them…

    1. Sometimes I think we writers need a less subtle reminder of the power we wield, and responsibility that goes with it — to ourselves and those who read our words. Plus I liked the idea of Thor with a typewriter hammer…

  11. For many of my blog posts, I enjoy using pen and paper, old school. I find the words flow much easier than when using a computer. I have no explanation as for why. Also thanks for the cape and tights vision, really next time that should be left for your wife. ;-D

    1. There is something about putting pen to paper, I agree. My problem is that my handwritting is so horrible I can’t read what I wrote, especially when I write fast so I can keep up with my thoughts. It ends up looking like a death note written by someone having a stroke.

      And yes, only my wife knows what superhero costume I keep under the bed…

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