Johnny Depp portrayed many of the typical writer stereotypes in The Secret Window

Dispelling Writer Sterotypes

Any job/profession/vocation has its own lore and stereotypes attached to it. Artists have paint in their hair, car mechanics are all men, scientists wear glasses, scientists are often mad. Writers are no exception, but I’m afraid I’m hear to dispel some of the most popular writer stereotypes out there.

We Eschew Technology

The first writer stereotype is that we’re antediluvian and eccentric, preferring to write everything with a beautiful fountain pen on scraps of paper that litter our homes and our pockets. But there’s plenty of us who are quite happy with a word processor and a smartphone. Fountain pens leak and scraps of paper go missing. And with writers flocking to networks like Twitter, I sometimes wonder how this stereotype is still alive.

We’re Loveably Untidy and Unkempt

Ah, those scraps of paper again. We leave them everywhere. Along with our socks and keys and other important things. Our minds are so busy, you see, we can’t remember things like our wallets or shaving or combing our hair. But we’re so terribly cute when we do it.

Nonsense. Yes, there’s plenty of us absent-minded writers (I’m one of them), but there’s nothing charming or loveable about it. We’re a complete pain in the rear and our loved ones are forever having to put up with our mess.

We Read Everything

Not necessarily. I know some writers who don’t range much further from their favourite genre or even their favourite authors. Some read nothing but non-fiction, and some barely read at all.

Having said that, I wish this writer stereotype was true. A polymathic reader usually makes a better writer, or I think they do anyway. That’s why I always read the cereal box.

We’ve Read Everything

Ah, the look of confusion and even judgement when a writer hasn’t read that book you’re talking about. And that look goes into overdrive if that book is a “classic”. But hey, there’s only so many hours in the day. We can’t read everything and, to be honest, sometimes we want to do other things. Sleeping, eating, being with our friends and family or, hey, writing our own books!

We Know the Spelling and Definition of Every Word

Some of us are terrible spellers and rely on spellchecks, beta readers and editors. Plenty of us are good with words. But we don’t know them all. So try not to be surprised when we don’t turn out to be walking dictionaries and thesauruses. Thesauri. Whatever.

We’re Always Broke

If I had a penny for every film, book and short story that depicts the penniless writer I could put paid to this writer stereotype all by myself. Most of us have day jobs. We write when we can, between earning a living and paying for things.

Ideas are the Hard Part

Ideas are easy. Sentient chipmunks in space. A man’s ashes are scattered in a park and his consciousness transfers into the plants. A woman gets away with the perfect murder but becomes depressed because she wants recognition for it. See, I just thought of those as I was writing (I think the chipmunks are my favourite).

Everyone’s got ideas. But the writing is the hard part. Turning an idea into a plot, crafting good prose, creating believable characters that the reader will love/hate/worry about/root for/etc. That’s not easy. Not at all. Which leads me to:

We Write in a Bright, Hot Flash of Inspiration

Sure, sometimes we feel like we’re tapping into something beautiful and pure and the words seem to flow from our fingertips like we’re recording dictation from the God of Prose herself. But most of the time? It’s hard work. Every writer you know has been through something like this.

Tom walked into the room

Hmm, I have a sudden and violent dislike of the name ‘Tom’.

Tom Andrew walked into the room

No, wait, it should be a woman

Tom Andrew Andrea walked into the room

Too bland. We need more insight into the character.

Trying her best to hide her nerves, Tom Andrew Andrea walked sauntered into the room

You know, I think I like Tom after all…

Trying her his best to hide her his nerves, Tom Andrew Andrea Tom walked sauntered into the room

I hate it all and I suck as a writer.

Trying her his best to hide her his nerves, Tom Andrew Andrea Tom walked sauntered into the room

And you know what? Writing is more often like this than we care to admit.

There are plenty of other writer stereotypes, but these are my favourites. What are yours? Let me know in the comments!

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