There are a lot of clichés about how similarly writers behave, and I’m not sure I respond to all of them positively. Every “You Know You’re A Writer If You Do This Stuff!” list never seems to resound with me. Sometimes it actually makes me wonder if I am a “real” writer, or if my personality isn’t actually suited to this craft. How can I be so disconnected from something I’ve done literally all my life?
1. I don’t care about strangers. You know the image of a writer on a park bench, eyes flitting around and observing people, scribbling character ideas and dialogue in her notebook? It’s not me. At all. It’s so incredibly unlike me that I wonder if such people actually exist. Sorry, I may be a writer since birth but that isn’t going to overcome misanthropy and social anxiety. I don’t like strangers. I definitely don’t want to spend 100,000 words worth of headspace with them, nor do I want to pay any more than passing attention to them. I tend to only find people interesting once I actually know them. Most of my characters are based on things that are familiar to me and that I already care about.
2. I don’t care about tea. Or coffee. Aside from a daily latte to get my butt out of bed at 6:00 AM and awake enough to do chemistry, I have no interest in hot caffeinated drinks. There is no correlation between drinking caffeine and writing/creativity to me. I tried, but I just found it distracting. I was trying too hard to down the coffee before it went cold, which led to about twenty minutes of coffee drinking and zero minutes of actual writing.
3. I can’t write in public. This combines 1 and 2! How can anyone write in a coffee shop when you have both coffee AND strangers to distract you? :P Even with headphones, I can’t help but look over my shoulder, hoping no one is spying on my laptop. This extends to airports, airplanes, lobbies, etc.
4. I don’t like prompts. I’ve actually written a whole post about that one before. I understand that a flash fiction writer will need prompts in order to be prolific. But the whole “writing exercise prompt” thing always felt inorganic to me. If it’s not my idea – something that I elected voluntarily to write about – I’m not going to care. And if I don’t care, the writing will appear forced. My post about prompts offers a pretty decent hypothesis for why I am this way – I’m a plotter and a stewer, and prompts simply don’t give me enough time to build a convincing piece.
5. I don’t take rejection personally. Many of you have submitted queries to agents or publishers and you became disheartened after 5 or 10 of them sent you form rejections. Darlings, do not stop there: you’re just getting warmed up. Maybe it was a really extensive and frustrating job hunt that hardened me up, but I see any response as positive response. I’d rather cross an avenue off my list than have it sitting open on a spreadsheet, waiting to be confirmed or denied. Plus, I think many writers discount the sheer volume of queries one must make in order to pitch a novel successfully. It took me 60 applications just to find a job in a STEM field – and only 5 of those got ANY response, positive or negative – so I expect it’ll take at least double that to convince an agent to sign me. I can certainly imagine frustration that you’ll never get published after a couple hundred failed submissions – and I’ve felt the sting of beta readers’ comments directly – but I don’t know why a handful of form letters has such a way of hurting writer feelings.
6. I’m not an avid reader. Out of all these, I’m the least proud to admit this. I do enjoy reading, and I find it informative/inspirational as a writer, but it isn’t like oxygen to me. I don’t need to read a book every week to survive. I’m usually too busy writing to have much time reading. I hope to find a better balance between the two in time, but I will never be the introspective bookworm who’s always curled up with some tea and a blanket. I’m more of a film person, actually – an admission which often earns offended gasps in the writing community.
7. I hate wearing glasses. They may look cute on you, but they don’t on me. They don’t make me look smart or creative. They’re just a veil over a face that needs all the help it can get. Especially because my prescription is so bad that I can’t buy cute frames. And because of my job, I don’t have the option to wear contacts to work. I’m going to a LASIK surgeon as soon as I can afford it.
8. I don’t believe the book is always better than the movie. Sometimes it isn’t.
And the one way I am a real writer?
I love telling stories. That’s it. That’s all the romanticism and reason I need. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a filmmaker in a novelist’s world, or maybe it’s that I have the emotional range of Ron Weasley (aka, a teaspoon). But even if I’m not the stereotypical hipster in a sweater and glasses, with no desires outside of writing and living in a city apartment I can’t afford, the muse for telling stories and creating worlds has burned within me all my life. At the end of it all, I don’t care that I’m not the writer people think I should be – and you shouldn’t care about what people expect of you either. Honestly, I’d say the person that actually is all eight of the above probably doesn’t exist. Or if she does, somehow she’s been made an industry standard :P
What other clichés about writers do you reject? What romanticism would you like to see vanish? What assumptions do people make about you as a writer?