Friday, 26 March 2010

Addicted, depressed, glamorous

This post's title sounds like a song by Lady Gaga, no? Beautiful, dirty, rich and all that.

So, I thought I might blog today about common stereotypes and misconceptions I've heard attached to the figure of the writer. Now I daresay there may be a difference between writers and authors re. these stereotypes (maybe if you're published and wildly successful, you do spend your time sipping champagne at Oscar ceremonies), but for the most part, we can't be all that different, can we? So here are some funny, oft-heard and occasionally outrageous stereotypes, peppered with my two bits about whether or not I fall into said particular stereotype.

1. Writers spend a lot of their time going to fashionable parties in Hollywood and drinking champagne at the Oscars. False. At least for me, and, I expect, for ninety percent of writers. Such public glamour probably doesn't have a place in your life unless you're JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman (the latter of whom does go to the Oscars). 

2. Writers have a strange and erratic routine that involves drinking enormous amounts of coffee, working late into the night, and existing with perpetual dark circles and bleary eyes. Meh. This depends. Some writers do have strange and erratic routines and work late into the night (me). I don't particularly like drinking coffee much, though (call it a result of growing up the daughter of a coffee planter. You out-coffee yourself pretty quick), and I'd like to think dark circles and bleary eyes only ail me occasionally. Many successful and popular authors, however, insist on a steady routine: Philip Pullman wakes up at half past seven to work, and Holly Lisle believes in outlining and a disciplined approach.

3. Writers are hopeless alcoholics. Apparently, Truman Capote was an alcoholic (if Wikipedia, the love of my life, is to believed) and died of liver disease and drugs. Needless to say, the legendary addiction to drinking attached to several iconic writers does not imply the rest of us take to our whiskey the moment things get tough (or good). Yes, I'll admit I do like my vodka and Bailey's before a night out (not necessarily together). But I don't think I've ever sat alone in my room, hunched over the laptop, with a glass of neat vodka beside me. That would be a worrying sign.

4. Writers get depressed when things don't work out. They throw things, break things and generally make life hell for their wives/husbands. This one makes me laugh. It's the typical scenario, isn't it? Hollywood loves that image of the lonely writer writing his masterpiece by the sea, and growing steadily more dependent on drink and anti-depressants as things go down the toilet. It's only partly true. I think it's very easy to get discouraged and dejected if, after putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into a book you've loved writing, you discover no one really wants to read it. But I don't throw or break things and I try to be nice to the people I love. I have to confess, if I threw violent tantrums and made life hell for everybody (all the time), no one would be remotely indulgent of it. My exceedingly sensible mother, my friends with little patience, and my tolerant and clever boyfriend would have me shipped off to the nearest psychiatric facility pronto. Or prison, if they weren't feeling particularly kind.

5. Writers are addicted to something to keep them going. This is true for me. I'm addicted, as appallingly cliched as this sounds, to how much I actually love writing. In fact, I told Steve just yesterday that I can see myself being very happy even if I don't ever get published, and that whatever happened, I would write anyway. I love doing it, even on days when it's difficult and irritating and I want to reach into the laptop and tear every last unattractive word to pieces. On a more prosaic level, I'm also addicted to encouragement. I wouldn't have been able to finish ECHOES if Steve hadn't read it while I was writing it, helping, encouraging me, and generally making me feel like it was something worthy.

6. Writers are lonely, shy, solitary, antisocial and generally every other similar word you can think of. Gosh, this would really depend, wouldn't it? For me, it's a mixture. I'm quite shy and quiet with strangers, but you can't shut me up once I get to know people. I've inherited a certain talent both of my parents have: the ability to be by myself and not get antsy, miserable or desperately lonely. However, I do love spending time with other people. The truth is, if you were antisocial and solitary, you wouldn't get much writing done. As hugely important as the imagination is, it's very difficult to imagine things without inspiration from the real world.

Any other popular stereotypes or misconceptions you can think of?


  1. But I don't think I've ever sat alone in my room, hunched over the laptop, with a glass of neat vodka beside me. That would be a worrying sign.

    *Cough Katy Cough*

  2. my tolerant and clever boyfriend

    ooooh yeah...

    love you, should be leaving imminently!