Oh, to be a writer! To waft dreamily through life and to drink it in like lukewarm tea. To feel emotions with edges like swords and flavors of honey! To taste the world with words and to see stories in every crack, in every stone. To be part of an art that consumes you, that breathes fire into your soul. To be a writer is the very essence of romance and of passion.
Yeah. Right. To be a writer is more like trudging through life, dragging a boulder of ideas behind you. To feel emotions like any other human being, but to have the gift (or curse) of being able to articulate them precisely. To experience life just like every other human out there, meeting both struggles and luck on the way through.
How often do we see the life of a writer romanticized? On TV, in books, and in every day life. To be a writer is this strange thing where others view you both as a starving artist and as one of the luckiest people alive. It’s an art that is both respected and scorned at the same time. Often, we are put into this box in which we are labeled as passionate, fiery, and sometimes reactive individuals. We are seen as people who feel things much differently than everyone else.
But do we? I don’t think so. As much as I would like to think that, as a writer, I have some magical gift that allows me to experience life differently than anyone who doesn’t write, I recognize that that is an unreasonable and rather self-absorbed assumption. Think about all of the fictional writers that you see portrayed: Johnny Depp in Secret Window, Hank in Californication, Hannah in Girls, any number of journalists in The Newsroom–they are either mentally unstable, entirely selfish and irresponsible, or they simply use being a writer as an excuse for bad emotional behaviour.
They treat writing, and the life of being a writer, like any other stereotype, and they make the rest of us look bad.
To be a writer is hard work, but not any harder than anything else out there. Anyone can write, just as anyone can paint or sing or dance. How good we are at it aside, it doesn’t really make us different than anyone else. Perhaps we find it easier to describe our emotions, or to relate our ideas to others. Maybe we have bigger vocabularies. But we don’t all behave as if we are too sensitive to be alive. And we don’t all feel like writing is as easy as breathing or as difficult as wringing water out of a dry sponge.
Writing can be romantic, but so can any number of arts and professions. And while we can make everything sound like roses and butterflies, we can also be blunt and clear and precise. We aren’t all waiting to become professional authors, and we aren’t all complaining about how difficult our lot in life is.
We don’t all drink tea and wear woolen shawls. We don’t all have cats or coffee addictions. We don’t all like red wine and folk music. Romanticizing writing is one of the things that makes it so difficult to do. When we have preemptive expectations laid on us because of misconceptions or popular culture, it slowly strips away our individuality as artists and as people. It allows people to make a first impression of us even before we meet them, which makes it hard to feel as if you are being taken seriously.
To write, and to do it for a living, is bloody hard work. But so is programming, and so is construction. Writers are no different than anyone else, and we come in a variety of shapes and sizes (emotionally, mentally, and physically!). We’ll never be “one size fits all”, and that’s ok. We don’t need to be seen through any color glasses, pink or otherwise, so be proud to be the writer that you are, and next time someone has a typical reaction to your announcement of being a writer, just take a deep breath and remember this post.
What are some misconceptions that you have encountered about writers? Do you think that the profession is overly romanticized? What fictional writer do you despise the most?
Care to join me on ?