Thoughtful Thursday is my own little meme in which I share my thoughts on a certain topic relating to writing, reading, and (on very special occasions) random things.
I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people have, at one point or another, bought into certain stereotypes given to writers. When you tell people you write, it’s probably a good bet that the person you’re telling will assume a few things about you. Now, those things may not necessarily be negative, but they’re likely at least a smidge inaccurate.
Why? Well, all stereotypes are inaccurate. As mind-boggling as it is to think about, despite Earth’s massive population, no two people are exactly alike. Everybody is different, so fitting completely into a stereotype is like trying to fit the feet an entire population of people into one shoe size. Even writers, who actually do tend to lean in a certain direction, are all unique in their writing, their personalities, and their methods. That’s why it’s so unfortunate that the writer stereotypes we’ve created are often what makes us so self-conscious about ourselves as writers.
And the truth is, no writer can be put in a box. Even “bad writer” and “good writer” are entirely subjective terms that don’t really mean anything, so just because you as a writer don’t fit a certain standard or perception doesn’t mean you’re not authentic.
Now, if you’re tilting your head and asking, “What on earth is she talking about?” then you, my lucky bug, are already refusing to stick yourself in a category and call it a day, so kudos to you. But I think it’s important to realize what stereotypes writers are given, and make sure we’re not unconsciously limiting ourselves by trying to fit into a preconceived idea of what a writer is and/or should be.
- Moody Artist: Shuns society and spends weeks upon weeks shut up in a tiny room punching out thousands of words and having emotional breakdowns every five minutes. Misunderstood. Refuses to listen to advice or do any sort of cleaning at all.
- Alcoholic/Drug Addict: Think Edgar Allan Poe. Can’t write for shit unless they have a glass or joint in hand. Does strange things and writes weird, beautiful stuff that makes no sense but sounds great.
- Dreamer: Can’t concentrate. Needs a muse. Incapable of being productive.
- Bum in the Basement: 30-something loser living in your mom’s basement chasing after that elusive idea while everyone you know harangues you about getting an actual job and an actual apartment and an actual life.
- Old-Fashioned Classicist: Loathes modern technology. Still writes with a typewriter and only reads first editions and classics. Despises writers who are just starting out and wears more cashmere than should reasonably fit on a human body. Must have cats, a vintage hairstick, horn-rimmed glasses, and ballpoint pens to feel complete.
I mean, do you know how many people have told me I should be a journalist if I like writing? Or how many have told me that maybe if I didn’t spend so much time writing, I would have more time to actually do something productive? It’s actually ridiculous. And you probably know what I’m talking about.
People will assume some really stupid things about you as soon as you mention writing. They’ll assume you have no idea what you want to do with your life, or you don’t know what hard work is, or you’re unrealistic, or you worship Satan (don’t even ask). Does any of that fit who you are? Does it matter?
The thing about stereotypes is they don’t have to mean anything to you. Stereotyping is just another way of labeling and dismissing, and you don’t have to take the bait. You don’t need to try to conform to a certain perception of writers. You don’t have to adopt five cats, move to Paris, and swear off every beverage except red wine. You don’t have to become an insomniac and quit your day job.
Your task as a writer and as a person is to find who you are. If you’re allergic to cats or you love people, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it as a writer. Hell, I’m allergic to cats. I hate red wine. My mom doesn’t even have a basement. But I’m still a writer. You are too.