Eight Ways I’m A Not A “Real” Writer (And One Way I Am)

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?

15 thoughts on “Eight Ways I’m A Not A “Real” Writer (And One Way I Am)

  1. I can relate to many of these. I don’t like writing in public; I never hang out in coffee shops; I don’t like prompts. Another hip trend I think gets over-propagated is the notion of writers’ block. I think a good percentage of writers’ block could be solved by just hunkering down and getting to work. It might not be great work we produce, but we can usually get something down. I think the block stems more from not feeling the motivation or desire, and certainly that can be crippling. I don’t mean to belittle it. But I think we sell ourselves short by saying we’re “blocked.”

    Of course, I say this now. Which means if I ever do reach a truly blocked stage, I’ll be eating my words. ;)

    • That is a good point too! A long time ago, I used to claim writer’s block. I eventually just….stopped. Most walls I’ve been able to break through simply by plowing ahead and worrying about quality later. As for scenes I don’t have defined enough in my imagination to write yet – outlining helps. Fight scenes are particularly linked to that struggle for me, so outlining the choreography helps a ton.

      But yeah, I think a lot of “writer’s block” is actually just nonwriters realizing that writing is actually hard and giving up. Or people who are burnt out on their WIP and ought to step back for a bit.

      • Yes to the outlines, for sure. I could see where one could easily get stuck without them. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been blocked yet–the outline gives me a direction to go.

  2. I don’t care much for tea or coffee either. I despise writing in public, especially because I hate when people can glance over my shoulder. I wore contacts for a while, but I’m too lazy nowadays. :P Here’s to telling even more stories in the future.

  3. Great post. I love the insight, even though some of it I knew about you. I don’t think you have to be a “real” writer to fill the cliches. I see so many articles on easy writing tips or tips to get you past writing block and I just find all of them a waste of time.

    I think the writer cliche I don’t follow is the joining a local writing group. I’ve thought about doing it, but since writing and art classes in college and all the internet writing groups I’ve been in, I feel like it’s a waste of time. Some writers will probably tell me differently, but usually I talk myself out of it when I do think about joining one. I think I’d rather be at home tapping away at my writing and submitting to betas I already know. I’m sure I could gather more betas, but I prefer online groups to in person ones. I don’t know about anyone else…

    • So many of those articles on writing are just….ugh, same stuff different day, you know? Sure, it could be useful to someone finding it for the first time. But for those of us who’ve been through all that, I wish there was some more specific advice. Not to mention, so many advice articles rely on the clichés I talked about defying here ;)

      I think I’m with you on the writing groups. I keep saying I will but….eh. Maybe if I could find one *just* for sci-fi/fantasy, but then I’m afraid I’d have to slug through too many Game of Thrones knock offs. I did not enjoy critique groups in college either, as it was a lot of bad writers explaining to each other why they were geniuses and everyone else just ‘didn’t get it.’

      Like you, I find that the beta/editing/critique process is MUCH nicer to do online. That way, you can get a feel for a person’s interests, what their WIPs are about, and their skill level before you enter a beta relationship with them. There are a couple people here on WordPress who have expressed interest in beta-reading Paradisa, and I’m glad to see that their WIPs sound interesting to me too. So it wouldn’t be a chore to cross-beta with them – it would actually be fun!

  4. I heard this a few days ago, if you’re writing, then you’re a writer. I think the whole coffee shop thing is a waste of time and money for gas. The.use of mythical creatures falling in love with humans is boring and overused. I also wonder how people write in parks, like really? I tried once and I froze my ass off/sweated enough to soak the pages. Depends on the season.
    I also find it ridiculous when people say books can help with inspiration. Okay? I read books and I have yet to write something close to any. I read to learn different styles for myself but movies and games really inspire me. I think it’s just visually I can see what I want to write about.
    Also, I hate marketing!!!!!!!! The idea of it just makes me want to swallow a bullet. I want to write and enjoy writing without sending messages on social media to every one and their mother about my book. Honestly, I love my novel but I am a nobody. If people find me interesting even when I’m an asshole then I’m sure they’ll find my book through my posts or simply ask me lol
    With the query letter to agents. Honestly, I think I gave up after five rejections because I felt Horizon still needed work. Even now I’m kicking my but about it but I’m too focused on my new novel.
    Anyways, if you have a pencil in your hand, and have an idea you are a writer. It doesn’t matter what the quality is that’s why people are editor’s cause either they lack the creativity to write but love the English language, or writing is not part of their enjoyment. I’d say for anyone who claims writer’s block, that’s a poor excuse for I’m too Damn lazy to sit on my butt and work on my book. I’m that way too though. I have days where I don’t want to write because I’m burnt out from writing 11 chapters in 7 days.
    Sorry for the long comment. I’ve been a little open with my thoughts lately lol. I liked the post though. You are a writer

    • I think reading other books inspires me more from a style point of view than anything else. I read a lot in high school, and I strongly feel that it helped with my vocabulary and the overall elegance of my writing. But yeah, I find reading more informative than it is inspirational. It helps me become a better writer, but it doesn’t really give me ideas. In fact, I avoid content that’s similar to my WIPs while I’m writing them (during Paradisa, I’m avoiding American Gods and Supernatural, for example) because I don’t want to be influenced.

      Marketing is a necessary evil, but I 100% understand why people dislike it. It’s so much mind-numbing effort and I don’t like self-promotion. Either you find my blog in the tags or through another person’s recommendation and you follow it. Or not. I don’t think I could ever be like “look at me! Follow me! I’m so talented and awesome! Oh, and follow me on three other platforms too!”

      Agreed with you on writer’s block too! I think lack of motivation is more common than lack of inspiration. But I’m willing to own that, at least :P I think I can admit when I’m simply unmotivated.

  5. Ha! I got a kick out of this list, since many of them apply to me. Especially #8. As soon as something is published, the writer no longer owns the work. Somebody is bound to remix it and, occasionally, produce a better version of it.

    The assumption people make about me is that since I write I must be introverted and love working in isolation, when the opposite is true. Just because you make things up and write them down doesn’t mean you’re a hermit.

    • I love that perspective and I strongly agree with it – once an author publishes something, it belongs to the world. I love the idea of my work inspiring other people to remix it, fanfic it, adapt it, etc. Writers like George R.R. Martin who are insanely possessive of their stuff are such curmudgeons. You don’t get to give the world something amazing and then tell everyone they aren’t allowed to be inspired by it. It baffles me how mean and belittling some people can be towards their own fans.

      Ha, I actually do fit the introverted hermit cliché, but it sucks that people assume it’s true for all writers. It almost makes more sense for someone who writes about people for a living to enjoy the company of them!

  6. It’s so funny how many preconceived ideas we have about what writers are supposed to be and even – ugh – what we’re supposed to look like. I happen to be the Paying Too Much For An Apartment Big City type, but I promise I don’t wear glasses or dress like a hipster, and I can’t stand writing in cafes. Why in the world would I allow some barista to dictate what kind of music I’m going to listen to when I’m writing? (Hint: it won’t be jazz) I don’t get the people-watching thing either. What exactly is it that we’re supposed to learn from watching strangers argue? That’s what reality shows are for.

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