There are four perceptions of writers.
1. They are masters of their art, continuously pumping out fantastic works of genius
2. They are looney recluses who should be avoided at all time, if you get a chance to before they go ahead and avoid you
3. They are awesomely quirky and eccentric; wearing their hair in messy buns, donning geeky glasses and fingerless gloves, and possibly smoking pipes
4. They are lazy bums who do nothing but sit at their computer all day moving their fingers as their butts get wider, never bothering to contribute something of worth to the world (the writers, not their butts)
The facts are, each of these stereotypes are quite real, in most senses. And, yes, all at once. Here is the key:
New friends believe stereotype #1:
New Friend: “What’cha doin’?”
Writer: “Just writing a book.”
New Friend: “What, really?? What kind of book?”
Writer: “A novel.”
New Friend: “That is SO COOL! Can I be in it?? Can I read it?? When are you going to PUBLISH IT????”
New Friend: “I’ll bet it is amazing. This is so awesome.”
People who don’t know any writers believe stereotype #2:
Typically, these people are afraid of me and we do not carry on conversations. I also try as hard as I possibly can to affirm their stereotype. That is the extent of our interactions.
People who are very good friends of writers believe stereotype #3 (and will not stop, much to the ego enlargement of those writers):
Old, Dear Friend: “How is your novel coming?”
Writer: “Oh, it’s coming alright. I had a pretty good writing session last night.”
Old, Dear Friend: “Did you write by candlelight?”
Writer: “What? Oh, yes, definitely. Just one, solitary candle. I wrote with my quill pen till the candle had burned down to a mere pool of wax, and even then I kept writing a bit to finish my thoughts for the night, albeit my fingers were terrifyingly cramped and frigid.”
Old, Dear Friend: “Do you not have heating? Or can you not afford coal for the fire this time of the year?”
Writer: “Yes, I am afraid that coal is just too expensive for me; I am already living off of one meal a day of bread and cheese.”
Old, Dear Friend: “Oh, my dear! Here, have my red scarf, that will at least help warm you up a bit. And, there! You look like such an inspirational writer! I wish I was you.”
Writer: “Oh, thank you, my old, dear friend. I don’t know how I will ever repay you for a kind favor for a poor soul such as myself.”
Old, Dear Friend: “Think nothing of it! You live such a tragically romantic life…”
Last, but not least, the family and/or people whom you live with believe stereotype #4:
Writer sleeps late. Writer gets up and fixes coffee. Writer returns to bedroom. Writer emerges an hour later with an empty coffee mug. Writer makes an egg and cheese sandwich and returns to room. Writer emerges with empty plate… scratch that. Writer lets plates and cups pile up on desk and then on bookshelves when the desk is full. Perhaps this is Writer’s monthly Dish Day. Writer tries to sneak out all the dishes and wash them while People of the House are distracted. Succeeds 25% of the time; the other 75%, is ridiculed by People of the House until Writer retreats back to room. Writer emerges at about 4pm to fix some canned soup, which is eaten in room. Writer comes back out half an hour later and, taking laptop, goes down to local coffee joint to eat, drink, and sit in a dark corner and write. Writer returns; People of the House are busy watching television, so do not notice. People of the House offer Writer tea later. Writer accepts absentmindedly; Writer remembers the offer of tea at about 11pm, at which time Writer eats spaghetti at the dining room table while reading a book, and actually puts dishes in the dishwasher. Writer pours cold tea and then goes and drinks it while writing into the night. Repeat.
This is performed with various levels of questions and “constructive criticism” from the People of the House. Writer wonders why the argument, “what if I were a college student??” never works and only seems to anger the People of the House further.
But what does the Writer think of the Writer?
The Writer is intimidated by the Writer who is more accomplished.
The Writer gets higher self-esteem from the Writer who can’t write as well.
But as for the opinion of the Writer: she feels a little bit of all four stereotypes at the same time as well. The Writer feels like what she is writing is frivolously about everyone she has ever met and definitely worth publishing; like she is weird and reclusive; like she is quirky and writerly; like she is a bum. This is somewhat of her own accord, for sure, but 99% influenced by the people who believe in those stereotypes.
Other than that, she doesn’t really think much of herself, actually; more only on what she is doing. Is she producing the thing she intended to? Does it sound right? Is it entertaining? Will others like to read this? When they do like reading it, she wonders, will people like the next thing I write? Can I really write something as good as what I wrote before? What if it’s better? What if it is relatively the worst thing ever? Should I keep writing in this genre? Am I really telling the truth; do I really know what I am talking about?
Why do I like writing again???
And I leave you with that.