A demented figure hunched over a laptop or pen and paper. A desk littered with dirty coffee mugs. A person staring working at a coffee shop. A bottle of poison in the form of whiskey or rum sitting on a table. A cigarette still burning in an ash tray. A figure clad all in black refusing to smile. These are some of the images associated with writers. These are stereotypes, of course, and don’t apply to most writers. Or at least the ones I know, including myself. The only thing I’ll admit to is being hunched over my work and the occasional coffee mug on the desk that I’ve forgotten to take down to the kitchen. Alcohol problem? Nope. Drug problem? Nope. Cigarettes? Nope. Only caffeine for me, please.
There are other clichés about writers that people have that are much more positive. One is this fairy tale image that we just sit down and bang out brilliance in the first draft, pop it off to a publishing company, and sit back waiting for the money to roll in. Um, no. Not even close. Some, a very small and maddening few, can crank out a nearly finished product the first draft or two but most of us need several drafts. As far as getting published, it can take years unless you self-publish but either way doesn’t guarantee financial success.
When I first realized writing was my path in life, I started read lots of advice on how to deal with people when you tell them you’re a writer. Be prepared for people to tell me they had a great idea for a story that either a) they want to write but don’t have the time, or b) I should write. That hasn’t happened to me except maybe for a couple of times in conversations with one of my brother-in-laws.
These books and articles also warned others would give me a judgmental look or make a negative comment about my chosen career path. Not even when I put in my two week notice at my last ‘real’ job did I get any negative comments or looks. If anything, people were happy and excited for me. I’ve been lucky to have overwhelming support in this endeavor from family, friends, and former co-workers. If anything, I’m my biggest obstacle, not the rest of the world.
These are just some of the few clichés about writers and the writing life I’ve observed which are simply not correct. Sure there are some writers who fit some of these, stereotypes exist partially based on the reality of a few, but I truly believe most of us don’t fit this.