Writer Stereotypes

Writer StereotypesWe all know at least a few, and we could all probably tick off at least a box or two on the list. Many professions have them, but writing seems to be dipped, rolled, and packaged in them at times.

Writer stereotypes vary from pleasant to neutral to negative, and often people forget that, although we are indeed writers, we are still individuals. Undoubtedly, many started from popular culture; movies, books, and so on. Others were probably conceived by writers themselves, or families of writers who picked up on certain habits.

Some of the ones that I hear, and usually have to deflect, include:

Writers have cats. Now, this one I can’t personally deny as I do have one cat. But, I also have two dogs. We’re only supposed to have cats I think.

We’re addicted to coffee/tea. I do like a nice cup of tea in the mornings, but I do not need it to survive. In fact, if I miss out on it I don’t even notice. I don’t have a kettle set up next to my desk on a constant boil.

We have day jobs. When people hear “writer”, they usually think it means that we write books or that we are journalists. They forget about all of the other writing that sits in between, making them assume that we just write for fun and not for a living.

We all want to be famous. Sure, some of us do. But some of us don’t. We all have different reasons for writing, and different goals that we choose. Most of us write because it’s what we’re good at, and we’re just following wherever that path takes us.

We only write when inspiration hits. Hah. No. We write when we have to to pay the bills, to work out an issue with a story, or just because it’s comforting. Waves of inspiration are great, but those movies with writing montages are quite far from realistic.

We can write anything. Technically I suppose we can, but that doesn’t mean we’ll do it well. Some of us are really good at fiction, but not so comfortable with non-fiction. Some of us love dialogue and some of us struggle with it. Someone who can write a fantasy story might be terrible at a marketing brochure.

Writing doesn’t require an education. Sure, many many writers start from an early age. That’s true. But most who become successful still took at least a few courses in writing or editing or English at some point. Just have the desire to write doesn’t mean that you can do it well without honing your skills.

We’re broody. Yes, we all just sit around solemnly thinking to ourselves in dark rooms full of antique furniture. With our cats on our laps and ink staining our fingers. Give me a break. We’re humans. We can be broody, but no more than anyone else.

We’re mysterious. I can’t put my finger on this one, really. Are we mysterious because people don’t understand how we make a living, or are we mysterious because we are doing something that most of the world does, but better?

Aside from that, we all wear berets, we smoke a lot of cigarettes, we forget to eat, and we are devastatingly romantic. Right, guys?!

Which ones are actually true to you, and which bother you the most? Do you have any to add to the list?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time. Unless I’m too busy after I’ve downed this bottle of whiskey, two packs of smokes, and refilled my ink pot. (Kidding, just kidding).

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23 thoughts on “Writer Stereotypes

  1. Yeah, the day job one I’ve written about before. Another I love is that we all sit in cafes with like-minded people and shoot the breeze or discuss our art in-between writing brilliant paragraphs or drinking tea/coffee or smoking cigars. And apparently we’re also supposed to be quite addicted to alcohol and drugs. Crazy stuff, right?

  2. I hate coffee and tea, have no pets at the moment, am an open book to my family and friends, and am the least likely person to brood of anyone I know. Hoo-wah for breaking stereotypes!! Great post!

  3. Great post! It’s very strange, the image that people have in mind when they think “writer.” Most of them don’t apply to me, although I do love kitties!

  4. Most of the “stereotypes” you’ve listed come, I think, as a result of the many stories (most apocryphal) of the lives of the “legendary” writers of the literary canon; writers like Poe, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, et al. But you did leave out some of the more “unsavory” supposed traits of writers. We are notoriously difficult to live with, many were (and are) involved in multiple marriages or tragically failed relationships. We are often the victims of depression and other psychological problems (which probably accounts for the alcohol, drug abuse and, sadly, suicide of a number of great and not-so-great writers). But of all the traits attributed to writers, the one that stands out in my mind is the word, “broody”. I must confess I’ve never heard or seen this word used in just this way before. It must be a particularly Canadian usage. I’ve heard “moody” used to describe writers; often we tend to swing between “highs” and “lows”, depending on how the writing is or isn’t going. I most often hear or see “broody” used to describe someone who has a propensity for producing large “broods” of children (often illegitimate) and applied, most often, to writers of the the 19th and early 20th century. Speaking for myself, I’ve never been one to “brood” about anything, but simply reach for the bottomless coffeepot and another pack of Marlboro “Red”. -S-

    • I would agree with that, and would relate that to most other professions as well. Rockstars, for example, have certain reputations of their own, and I’m guessing that not all of them enjoy narcotics and adultery as much as they are said to.

      Perhaps the use of “broody” is British? I’ve often heard and read it in books and on TV, but now that I think of it, it may be British content. Though, we do use it in Canada. For example, one would define Sherlock Holmes (as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, not necessarily in the books) as broody. I can be broody, and for me, it’s a mixture of thoughtfulness and concentration, usually directed at a specific problem that I cannot solve. Thus, while attempting to solve it, I am at a “low”, and once I figure it out, I reach a “high”.

      You’re lucky to not be afflicted by it, but doesn’t all that coffee make you a bit jumpy sometimes?! 😉

      • Thanks for the clarification of “broody”. I haven’t come across it in the context you describe but I can easily envision someone in the throes of “broodiness”. As for the amount of coffee I consume, I can only say it is, to me, the most important of the 5 basic food groups; those being Caffeine, Nicotine, Alcohol, Cholesterol & Sodium. It doesn’t make me feel “jumpy” at all, rather the lack of it tends to make me a bit “testy” and, at times (especially when I’m in the throes of creativity) makes me feel a tad disorganized.

  5. I’m afraid I only fit 1,2,6, and 7. (Though if I had a choice, I might not have a cat. They’re not exactly mine, anyway.) As for 2, I’ve been drinking coffee and tea since I was 9, had nothing to do with being a writer. 🙂
    My “day job” IS writing.
    As for 6 and seven, I was taught to write well, but I never took any classes specifically FOR that. 7, I can write most of anything, but that doesn’t mean I want to. 🙂

    • You actually fit quite a few! My day job is writing as well, but often people assume that you cannot work full-time as a writer and make a living. So even when our day jobs are as writers, many of us still get some odd questions about it. Perhaps the fact that full-time writing jobs exist in the world needs to be more clearly advertised.

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