Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Mythical Writer

Recently, I watched a few episodes of the Showtime television series, Californication. If you've never heard of it, the show revolves around the life of Hank Moody, a writer, philanderer and all-around basket case.

I'll say flat out that I wasn't impressed (and I apologize to anyone who may enjoy the series - taste is so subjective, isn't it?) But it wasn't the strong language that turned me off. Or the depiction of drug use. Or even the nudie scenes. No, my beef with the show was that Hank Moody was such a stereotypical writer.

For some reason, there seems to be a kind of mystique surrounding the persona of writer..the brooding, lonely, morbidly-self obsessed lout who keeps himself locked away from humanity and longs so desperately for just the right soul mate to understand his angst....


Writers aren't a special breed. Certainly no more special than anyone else. We're just regular people. And just like any other group (clergy, pre-teen girls, lawyers, people who live in Ohio), writers are made up of people many different backgrounds, lifestyles, and personality types.

Just so that everyone knows what I'm talking about, I've listed a few of the typical writer stereotypes here:

1) All writers are hostile, arrogant, ego-centric people.
Sure, there are some writers who think they are God's gift to humanity, but the vast majority are very nice people. Writers love their families and friends and enjoy getting out. Some are religious; many do charity work. Writers drive their kids to soccer practice and go to coffee with their friends where they listen patiently to stories about financial worries or love interests or whatever. Generally, writers don't throw tantrums in public or go around alienating every one who crosses their paths.

2) All writers are drug (alcohol, sex, whatever) addicts.
The lives of writers like Egdar Allen Poe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Hunter S. Thompson stand out because, let's face it, bad behavior is always more interesting than good behavior. But not every writer is a drug addict. One prime example would be Stephanie Meyer (author of the Twilight Series) who is a Mormon. As far as I understand Mormonism, this means Ms. Meyer would not so much as drink a cup of caffeinated coffee. Yes, many writers have struggled with addiction, but it is certainly not a prerequisite.

3) All writers are best friends with their agents/editors/publishers.
In case that wasn't clear, let me say that again: NO!
When it comes to agents/editors/publishers, writers are not friends; they're clients. And as such, the writer and her agent/editor/publisher have a business relationship.

4) All writers have terrible family lives.
Personally, if it weren't for my terrific family, I'd never have the courage and determination to keep writing. My family is my own little cheering squad, and I can't thank them enough for their support. Sure, writers have painful childhoods or horrible ex-husbands or friends who betray them. But so does everyone else. The only difference is that writers use that material to fuel their writing.

I understand that a hard-drinking, womanizing, misanthrope like Hank Moody might make for a much more interesting character to watch on television than say, someone like me (boring suburban soccer mom). However, I just want to set the record straight...

...not all writers are alike.


Lady Euphoria Deathwatch said...

Hi Elle,

You hit the nail on the head. Most are just regular folk. And despite that I am a romantigoth, I'm one boring woman. I spent the day cleaning my house for the weekend.

Hugs, Euphoria

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