Writing Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction?
This paints the picture of a common stereotype that Hollywood uses to portray a writer. Writers are shown as being disorganized, brooding, and cynical individuals, but how many of these stereotypes are really true?
As a rule, stereotypes are just an overgeneralization, and there are exceptions to all of them. But do many writers really fit their stereotype?
1. We are Grammar Nazi’s
Okay, this is probably mostly true.
Writers almost have to be a little obsessive about grammar, although not unreasonably so since their craft involves word use on a constant basis.
Knowing how to use “they’re, their, and there” as well as knowing the difference between “farther and further” is important knowledge to have – and every writer has one rule of grammar that drives them crazy to see misused.
However, writers are people too and have their own grammatical weaknesses. I’ll admit I still have issues with using “who and that” correctly, and writing in a passive voice. However, I’d still say this stereotype is mostly true.
2. We are Alcoholics
Hemmingway, Joyce, Faulkner, Cheever, and Thompson are all great writers and also notable alcoholics. There seems to be a link between the creative mind and the addicted mind with many notable cases proving this theory in the writing community as well as other creative people in the musical community and the acting community.
The reasons for alcoholism and addiction affecting some and not others have been debated, but the more likely source seems to have a link with family as well as lifestyle and creativity.
Some writers have said that alcohol helps their creative process; others have utilized it as a way to escape.
Despite their being so many writers with issues with the bottle, there are also many notable writers who didn’t use booze as their muse such as Nietzsche, J.K. Rowling, and Tolstoy.
I do love a glass of wine with my writing on occasion, but I’d say this is mostly false. Alcoholism may have a connection to the creative mind, but it doesn’t seem to be true for a good portion writers.
3. We Run on Coffee
Don’t most adults run on coffee?
People tend to have too much to do with not enough time to do it in. We are busy, we have a ton of things to do, and our lives are spent in a rush.
Just like any other career, writers have to be awake and coherent, so they may need coffee in order to accomplish that. So why do writers have a stereotype for drinking coffee and frequenting coffee shops?
Possibly because you never know when your muse will strike, and sometimes it’s early in the morning, sometimes it’s late at night and we have to accommodate for the time of day our creative juices start flowing.
I’d say this one is true, but mostly because many adults run on coffee in general.
4. We Crave Seclusion
Many creative and intellectual people have shared views on the importance of being alone in order to gather their thoughts and be alone with their creativity. Mozart, Einstein, Picaso, and Sandburg are all quoted discussing the importance of creative solitude.
Writers need time alone in order to complete their work and be alone with their characters. They need to keep themselves within the world they’ve created, keep their tone consistent, and to focus –being alone is a vital part of completing this process.
Creativity in any medium is such a mental workout that any distractions can really take away from the process.
Do writers crave seclusion? Writers sometimes need seclusion in order to produce their work, but many writers are extremely social people – so this is only half true.
5. We Prefer the Classics
Ah the debate between classic and contemporary literature. This is another stereotype I’d say is probably mostly true.
Classic literature is timeless for a reason and it’s inspirational to read such great writing that transcends the time that it was created in.
However, writers read a lot, so we have a love for all types of writing whether it be classic or modern.
I’d say writers as a group hold classic literature on a higher pedestal and refer to it more regularly. But in the same sense that we’d sometimes prefer hot wings over steak or Die Hard over Citizen Kane, sometimes we’d prefer some popular fiction over Shakespeare.
6. We are Emotional
Writing is a creative process and it requires a deep understanding of the emotions of people.
Writers utilize their own emotions but, similar to actors, have the ability to write emotions that they may have never experienced personally.
Writers are seen as being brooding, moody, and depressed individuals. Writers probably have a wider emotional range than most with emotions sitting at the surface readily available to use, but I don’t think that most writers are dark and brooding; maybe introspective, but not depressed.
Many popular writers do happen to suffer from mental illness or depression, and many of them are the same ones who battled with substance abuse.
And, similar to the “writers are alcoholics” stereotype, the emotional stereotype is different for every writer.
I do think that many writers have fast access to their emotions, but not that all writers suffer from emotional turmoil like depression. Let's call this one mostly false.
And, on Balance...?
Our stereotypes say we are obsessed with classic literature and grammar, that we are brooding drunks, and that we crave seclusion with a cup of coffee.
Some of these stereotypes seem to be true, others seem to be false, and some seem to be somewhere in the middle.
Overall, however, stereotypes aren’t helpful generalizations and detract from each writer’s personality no matter how much Hollywood and the lives of famous authors might tell us otherwise.
But don’t feel bad if you find yourself correcting grammar as you browse the newspaper accompanied by your cup of coffee...
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She loves reading autobiographies, can be found throwing a Frisbee for her dog, and prefers her coffee cold. Follow her on Twitter.