Thursday, May 23, 2013

Writerly Stereotypes

You all know what I'm talking about. When you think of writers, you think of this.

Johnny Depp in Secret Window

Or this.

c/o http://www.coopernundrums.com/a-nerd-in-1950/

There are lots of writerly stereotypes out there. Allow me to bust a few. (Or not...)

We're all crazy.

At least, not all of the time.

We're not all crazy.

Aren't all artists a little bit crazy? We live in our heads most of the time. I think you have to be at least a little crazy to voluntarily spend your life living in fake worlds talking to fake people that you not-fake love.

Sitting on the couch staring into space isn't work.

Writing involves extreme aerobics of the mental kind. Which means that what you see as vegging out could really be cranial acrobatics. Give us the benefit of the doubt and don't interrupt. Even if it looks like we're sleeping. We're really working. Usually. I promise.

We're pretentious/stuck-up/conceited/self-aggrandizing/(insert negative adjective here).

Some of us are, but those of us who are usually get rejected by those of us who aren't. And then the dejected few fade into oblivion, never to be read again. Most of us are just shy or introverted. But we don't blame you; we're easy to misconstrue. 

We're socially awkward.

Depends on who you're asking. And what we're drinking. 

We're unhappy.

Still waters run deep. Which can sometimes look like unhappiness. Or can sometimes actually be unhappiness. But give a sistah a chance to show you.

We think we wrote the Great American Novel.

Hmm, not sure I can dispute this one. It's definitely a dream for most of us. Otherwise, why bother writing? But hopefully most of us aren't so dense that we think we're the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. The odds just aren't in our favor. It's good enough just to be good. We don't always have to be the best. Most of don't need the world to love us. If we can affect one person, just one single being, then we've succeeded.

We all want to be famous...

We're introverts. We don't want to be in the spotlight. We just want our characters there.

...but we love working for free.

Maybe we're not motivated by fame and fortune, but we still have to support our addictions to coffee and the internet and Apple.

We don't care about anything but writing.

For true writers, the kind that are born not just wanting to write but needing to write, writing is the most cathartic thing out there. It's something we simply have to do. We have no choice. Even if we suck at it. But it's not the only thing we care about. We have spouses. We have kids. We have friends. We have Twitter. Writing may even be at the top of the list, but it's not the only thing in life.

Rejections don't hurt.

Even the best of us spend 99% of our time getting rejected. So much time, in fact, that even the "good" rejections--the ones that don't rip out your heart and toss it in a blender--are worth celebrating. Writers are people too. We chip a little bit of our souls into everything that we write. It hurts when that soul isn't good enough.

Criticism doesn't hurt.

So what if the critiquer isn't a publishing professional? We want our readers and peers to like us too. But the simple fact is that not all of them will. Negative reviews are a necessary evil in the writing world. It's impossible to please everyone all the time, but even though we know that, the words can still hurt. After all, we live by our words.

You will be in our novel.

Please. Who's pretentious now? If you do something really awesome--or really crappy, for that matter--you might earn yourself a character or two. But don't hold your breath; it doesn't happen often. But do be nice to us, if you don't wanna be a verbal kewpie doll. 

What stereotypes have I missed?

TJ