Ya know what I hate? Telling people, I’m a writer, only to have them ask me if I have a drinking problem. HA HA HA, yes, very funny.
If you consider yourself a writer, chances are that you’ve seen lists online such as this one – Top 10 Author Stereotypes. Everyone has the obligatory blog, YouTube video, or article listing all sorts of stereotypes associated with being an author/writer. Most are benign; some are insulting. Here’s the thing, I consider myself a writer…and I don’t meet hardly any of these stereotypical qualities!! The problem with stereotypes is that they lump a group of people together, ignoring their individuality, and then paint them all with the same brush. Which is the crux of the problem when dealing with ANY form of stereotyping.
God dammit, Hemingway, you are NOT helping!
Now, let me just preface this by saying, not all of these stereotypes are inherently negative, and if you so happen to actually identify with some, most, or all of these, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that either. I know quite a few people who take pride in exhibiting some or all of these behaviors, and if that’s who they really are, more power to them. This article is for those of us who express frustration with always being lumped in with the idea that all writers are the same. With that in mind, these are all the most common writer stereotypes that I’ve encountered.
1. We’re alcoholics: Now, I won’t deny that I don’t enjoy a drink once in a while, but I actually dislike the feeling of intoxication, and I have never once been drunk while writing.
2. Introverts/Reclusive/Antisocial: Ah yes, we’re all anitsocial weirdos that avoid sunlight and social situations. Nope, sorry. I love being outdoors, and I love spending quality time with friends, even large groups of friends, and going out to new and exciting places. I used to host game nights (D&D FTW) at my house before moving to the seclusion of the desert (man, I miss my social life!). Now, don’t get me wrong; I like my quiet time and my private spaces, especially when writing, but I’m also up for any chance at social interaction I can get. I don’t consider myself to be introverted or extroverted (and being introverted is not the same as being antisocial) as I don’t get exhausted from too much of eaither. I’m one of those 50/50s where I can have it either way and be just fine.
3. We have ALL the cats: I might be somewhat guilty of this stereotype, in that I am more of a cat person than a dog person. I used to own cats, and I do adore them, but I do not currently own any cats. I am the proud owner of an adorable Chameleon named Max though.
4. Caffeine Addiction: I like the occasional cup of coffee as much as the next person, but I also have a bad reaction to drinking too much caffeine over prolonged periods of time. Eventually, I grow less susceptible to it as I drink more and more, and when I don’t drink it, I develop withdrawals. Due to this, I avoid drinking more than one cup of coffee within a whole week (maybe two if there’s a particularly rough time to get through). Any more coffee than that and I’m instantly sick on the stuff.
5. Depressed and Melancholy: To be fair, quite a lot of people who are not writers suffer from depression, it’s not exclusively a writer’s affliction, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, writing is very theraputic for those who deal with mental illness and it can be a great emotional outlet. But there is that brooding/tortured writer/poet sterotype that I’ve never been able to identify with. I’ve never personally suffered from any form of mental illness and unless there’s an extrnal factor causing stress in my life, I pretty much feel good all the time. Writing for me is all joy and I’m never happier than when I’m writing (and horribly murdering my characters).
6. Eccentric: Alright, look, I said I wasn’t most of these. I didn’t say I wasn’t ALL of these!
7. The God Complex: Some people say this is an author thinking too highly of their work, others think this refers to an author’s ability to play God with the lives of their characters. Am I proud of my work? Mostly yes, sometimes no. I’m not about to compare myself to the great authors of history, or even dare to believe that anyone will remember me after I die, but at least I enjoy my own work, and I know a few of my readers do as well. Do I play God with character’s lives? Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
8. Slovenly: We don’t shower. We roll in filth. Our homes are nothing but trash piles consisting of wadded up papers from antiquated typewriters, and empty liquor bottles. Right? Nope. Not this writer. I like me a daily shower and a tidy house. I know there are days when I’m so busy writing I take my shower far later at night than I should and end up going to bed with wet hair. Or, days, when I’m so busy things get a little untidy, but it’s never the utter bedlam that people come to expect from stereotypical writers. Authors are also often portrayed as disheveled and ungroomed, but one of my other interests is style and makeup, so believe it or not I enjoy keeping up my appearances at most times. At home, sure, baggy t-shirt, and may or may not be wearing pants, but you can bet your butt when I step outside, I am ready to face the world.
9. Poverty: Well, this one is mostly true. I have worked jobs that have paid decently, but they were not writing related. So far, my writing has not been financially lucrative, and if you intend to write without a day job, unless you get super famous overnight, you’ll fall into this category as well.
10. Chain smokers: Smoking was certainly the thing to do 40+ years ago, but these days most people are aware of the major health risks associated with this habit and avoid it for those reasons. Perhaps you vape instead, and maybe that counts, but as someone who has no nicotine dependencies, I cannot fit into this category either.
11. We complain about writer’s block: Now this one I am proud to say has NEVER been a problem with me. Some people categorize writer’s block as a lack of motivation, and for that, I don’t have much of an issue. I find having feedback from my readers really helps with this. Then there is the writer’s block when you’re motivated, but you don’t know what to do next with your story. Perhaps you’ve written a situation that you can’t resolve. Or you started writing without an outline or direction and then stalled because you don’t know how to conclude the work. Now I’ve had a few tight spots, but I’ve never been blocked because when I come up with an idea for a story, I always know exactly how I want it to end. I always sit down and write a point by point plot outline for every story I make, ensuring that every event I want to happen in the story happens along a specific timeline and all leads towards the ultimate conclusion. As long as I have this outline (which I am never without) I never experience writer’s block. There are occasions where nitty gritty details can stall me a little, but I’m usually pretty good at finding creative ways to make the story flow in the direction I need.
12. Bohemians and Hipsters: Ah yes, bearded, vintage clothing clad, wine drinking, vinyl record buying, beret wearing, coffee shop loiterers. No lie, my social circle mainly consists of artists and teachers. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did. And, yes, I was an English major in college. I enjoy art, a good glass of wine, and unconventional settings as much as the next person, but I also like Marvel movies, Heavy Metal, and trap shooting. We’re not all the same, trust me.
13. We all love flowery language: When I was very young, I made the mistake of going overboard with the purple prose. I’d like to believe I’ve grown as a writer since then (because trust me, that shit was embarrassing). Sometimes I still catch myself avoiding contractions like I’m writing one of Tolkien’s elves, and I have to snap myself out of it, but for the most part, my writing style has settled into a more down to earth vernacular. (And yes, that last sentence is a bit ironic).
Which stereotypes describe you as a writer? Which ones don’t and how would you consider yourself different from the stereotype?