The Writer Is a Social Construct

first of all, we don't all get pretty desks like this
Rachel covered some of the typical author stereotypes and how she thoroughly fails to conform to them, which was all very relieving and hilarious.  Since I am continually baffled by the elusive creature Pinterest purports the writer to be (a writer which seems to have little time between one bout of brooding and the next to get any writing done), I have yoinked Rachel's blog post and will address these stereotypes as I, also, fail to conform without really trying...

writers never sleep

This one is hilarious.  Sure, my husband and I tend to stay up late.  For now.  But we like our sleep, and while I have the luxury of sleeping in of a morning (for now), we like to be together in bed at night.  Only rarely does a literary whimsy carry me past bedtime.  When I do come up with a pithy one-liner or a sparkling scene while I am awake in bed at night, as one is wont to do, I lie to myself, as one is wont to do: "That was awesome.  I will remember it.  It is too awesome to forget.  I don't need to get up.  Bed is so comfortable.  I will remember it in the morning."  And I never do.

writers are exotic creatures

I don't know about you, but when I'm in a social setting (already awkward, especially if I don't know the people present), one of the last things that will make me relax at once is to parade me around as a "writer," a curio of tea-temples and castles in the sky.  Being treated as a wild animal from another planet is just the sort of reception a shy personality wishes to receive.

Actually, writers are typically pretty normal.  I may get odd looks (these are generally due to my literary and historical references, not in reference to my writing), but I am in desperate demand of the comforts of life: security, love, acceptance, warm food, hot showers, caffeine in the morning, an opening in traffic so I can make the damned left turn.  All in all, I'm pretty normal.

writing is depressing, grueling work, full of angst and inner turmoil and an imbalance of the humours and an overabundance of alcoholic beverages

Contrary to what people may think of writers, I am not constantly on the edge of losing my sanity.  I am definitely an emotional, sensitive personality, but honestly, I am most sane and stable when I am comfortably following the plot of a novel.  Contrary to what people may think, writing a novel can be no more difficult than any other form of work.  I certainly find the maplessness of it trying, and I have plenty of fears and concerns, but I'm not a blithering alcoholic with a jaded view of the world, stared out at from beneath the shabby remains of a half-burnt writing-desk.  I like writing.  Writing is awesome.
(I'm also pregnant, so I avoid alcohol for the sake of la petite renarde.)

writers are obsessed with death and pain and killing characters

Thanks, G.R.R. Martin.  Thanks for perpetuating this twisted view of ordinary, sane, well-adjusted writers.  We all appreciate that. 

Once upon a Sunday, very recently, we were discussing true Christianity and the sad fact that true Christianity and merely outward Christianity often, to the casual observer, look identical.  How does one tell if the mint is true?  One tests it.  And the testing (as James points out) is very rarely pleasant.  It looks like trials and temptations.  It looks like forty years in a wilderness and sounds like God's silence.  It burns like fire.  But at the end, when the foundations are shaken and the chaff is threshed out, the true and the false will be clear.  In my opinion, this is the greater point of trials and temptations in my writing.  Unpleasantness and hard providences are equally reflective of actual human experience, and I do not put any of these things in the way of my characters because I get a sadistic thrill out of it.  All things have their purpose - although the characters, like ourselves, cannot and may not ever know why their author has done these things to them. 

writers spend all their time at Starbucks

How - how - how you can sit in a noisy coffee shop full of people babbling and yelling broken snatches of a foreign, coffee-related language, appended by the names of people who are not actually present, and write anything cohesive, is beyond me.   I need calm, I need pattern.  Inconveniently, I need them badly, which means any upset is liable to make it hard for me to write anything.  

writers obsess over the mechanics of making up character names

Nope.  My characters come quickly with names, and only rarely do I test-run one name only to give it up for another, better one.  Something - my characters or my subconsciousness - usually knows what it is about when it assigns names.  I almost never look names up: I wait until a name comes to me.  And they do just come, like Little Bo Peep's lambs.  Sometimes I don't like them, but they suit.  Trivia: I actually hated the names "Margaret" and "Simon" prior to working with characters by those names, I was indifferent to "Philip," and I had a grudge against "Skander."  True beans.

writers consider their characters to be their babies

As a writer who has made characters whom she loves, and as a human being who is making a baby which she loves, I can tell you this mental mix-up is not appreciated.  There is no comparison between characters and babies.

writers spend all their time on Pinterest

(Okay, that one is true.)

10 ripostes:

  1. When I do come up with a pithy one-liner or a sparkling scene while I am awake in bed at night, as one is wont to do, I lie to myself, as one is wont to do: "That was awesome. I will remember it. It is too awesome to forget. I don't need to get up. Bed is so comfortable. I will remember it in the morning." And I never do.

    Rofl. Me too. And what's even more daunting to late night inspiration is the fear of keeping others awake when I'm scrabbling around in the middle of the night for pen and paper. :) Thus, the stuff of gold and silver is generally lost in oblivion...

    I've often thought of going to Starbucks to cut out interruptions...but our house is so quiet with several introverts living together, and when you've got something going for you, why change it? Besides, I never got into coffee. I told someone once that Celtic music was my form of chocolate/caffeine, and she laughed uproariously. But it's true. Whenever the energy is low, out comes all things Celtic and Andrew Peterson and other songs with a bit of a beat.

    And Pinterest. Oh yes. I get so much inspiration from your Pinterest boards, by the way! You find beautiful things and pithy quotes, and I repin them like mad onto my private story boards. :)


  2. Aren't the things you come up with in the middle of the night just gold? I don't know why I continue to believe that I will remember them, but I do. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, as Alexander Pope put it - probably with a heavy leakage of scorn and ridicule in his tone.

  3. Schuyler, "Celtic music was my form of chocolate/caffeine." That is the first time I have ever heard anybody say it but it is so true!!!!!

    Jenny, awesome post and you made me laugh. :)

  4. Coming up with golden quotes used to happen to me too, until I strategically placed a pen and pad on my nightstand next to my lamp. Sigh

  5. Yes, people tell me to put a pad of paper and a pen by my bedside. Turns out, it's one of the surest ways to bring on writer's block. XD

  6. That quote that Schuyler picked out—that ought to be the writer stereotype. So true.

    I've had exactly the same thing happen to me with names: coming to like some that I downright disliked after I used them for characters and grew fond of the characters. Isn't that odd? "Philip" is one I used to dislike, but now it's actually a favorite.

    It took me a little while to warm up to Pinterest, but I really like using it for storyboards now. And I love that they let you have unlimited secret boards now; it's a great way to play with a project before you're ready to show it to the world.

  7. Pinterest, when not dumb and full of airy, untenable philosophical quips straight out of Portland, can be a wonderful asset. It's almost frightening how quickly one can wrack up boards. I used to scorn people who had a billion and one boards (I still think you don't need a board specifically dedicated to cupcakes, unless you make cupcakes), but now look on self-askance as I wind up making a board for each of my stories. Considering how many stories I have now and may come up with in the future, I begin to hear the infrastructure of Pinterest groaning under the weight. And of course I am breathtakingly erudite and could not possibly stoop to get a Facebook or Twitter account. Those are for plebeians. Not. XD

    I went looking for a "Lamblight" document on my USB drive and panicked because I couldn't find it under "Talldogs."


    Sophy, it is too much.

  8. That first one--that is why I've taken to making notes on my phone at night. If I have a line in my head, I can just grab my phone and type it up quickly and then go back to sleep. No scrabbling for paper and pen or knocking things over trying to find the light switch. XD

    Although I have on occasion actually gotten up and turned my computer of there's a particularly scrumptious scene demanding to be written. I do my best writing around 1 or 2 a.m. I think, which is an unfortunate fact as I, too, like my sleep. :P

    Pinterest wasn't true for me until about a month ago... >.>
    And I hate writing in public places, unless it's a NaNoWriMo write-in in which case I make exceptions.

    Amen to Schyler--Celtic music is much more important than coffee! XD

  9. I love it when people stereotype. Not. I like this post, though - and I like disproving myths.

    Strangely enough, I get more work done out of the house than at home. Starbucks is the closest (and because I don't have a car, walking distance is a necessary) and I find it works well for me. Something about the business and the productivity of everything makes me want to work. I do use earbuds to plug out the noise with music, and it works very well.

    Writers never sleep? HA. You should see me at 10:30. Unless something out of the ordinary is happening, or my brain is taking longer than usual to shut off, I'm on my way to being out dead until 6:30 the next morning. It's just how I work, and if I don't get that sleep, nothing of worth will happen the following day. Like Rachel said, I get my best writing done during the day. (Even though the best ideas come right before I sleep. Keeping a notebook & pen by my bed was the best decision I ever made: I don't have to leave the covers & I don't have to sacrifice the brilliance. ;)

  10. @bound and freed and Deborah O'Carroll--Kindred spirits! The most economical way to go...