We all have this impression of the sad, lonely and tortured writer. One who suffers rejection after rejection, who wakes up in the middle of the night, burning with a desire to write. One who is fearful of scorn, who cannot help but belittle themselves, who is wracked with envy, who feels like they are constantly struggling against themselves and against the world.
But really, is this how writers are these days? Instead of focusing on the negatives and the myth of the miserable writer, shouldn’t we try to change this perception? Writing is tough but it’s also so rewarding and brings joy and satisfaction to many.
Let's take a look at some of the common misconceptions about how writers are and what, in this day and age, the picture really looks like.
The lonely writer
The lonely writer has no time for others. Family and friends become little more than insignificant breezes that echo through their houses. They lock themselves in shadowy rooms and do not come out for days. The find it hard to communicate by any other means than via their craft. They are protective and closed, not wishing to share their work, paranoid someone might steal their precious ideas. The die alone in rags, their talent never discovered.
While some of us might like the drama that this picture paints, the truth is, most modern day writers lead fairly normal lives. I write freelance so spend a lot of my working hours alone, sure. But I also spend lots of time around other people and don’t feel lonely in any way. I dedicate myself to the craft and work hard, but I don’t think I have ever missed a meal! Writers can be bubbly, sociable, and content - and being so doesn’t make them any less brilliant at what they do.
The tortured writer
The tortured writer spends hours tearing at their hair and agonising over every single word. They are a perfectionist. They get chapters away from finishing their book and then burn it all because they know they can do better. Their talent is taken for granted, they are often misunderstood and rarely ever happy.
It’s great to care about your work and are passionate about what you do, but does this really mean your life must be wracked with heartache and misery? I think not.
It is all too easy for writers to use the notion of suffering as a trap - a trap that they themselves climb into. We can’t possibly finish this piece because it’s not perfect, we can’t possibly write anymore because our minds are too full of ideas, we can’t possibly send off this manuscript because the world is not ready for what we have to say.
In reality, most writer’s who get to the end of their novels feel proud and satisfied and excited to start the next steps to achieving their goal - and you know what? That’s more than OK.
The jealous writer
We hate all other writers - unless they are rubbish and unsuccessful like us, because, you know, misery loves company. But then they get a book deal and we want to cry and kick them in the shins. We say things like ‘well they weren’t true to themselves’ or ‘they wrote for a mainstream audience.’ We are brimmed up with jealousy and self-righteousness and we fling ourselves around spilling our misery and bitterness wherever we go.
You know what? I’m not gonna lie. If you are doing everything you can in the writing world to try and make it, it can feel a little disheartening when you hear of yet another undiscovered writer being ‘discovered.’ However, the truth is, rarely does a writer just spend a week jotting down their musings only for it to get picked up and turned into a multi-million-pound bestseller.
For most writers, success comes through perseverance and a lot of hard work. That’s why, more than anything, we need to support and encourage one another, and let each other know that we are in it together!
The terrified writer
The terrified writer is so full of self-doubt they can barely write at all. They can’t show their writing to anyone, they daren’t call themselves a writer, and if they manage to send their manuscript off the first rejection makes them scurry back into the hole of sadness and fear from whence they came.
Sure most writers have experienced moments of being a little too self-critical, of feeling uncertain and unsure, but are we really paralysed with fear? Do we really hate on ourselves so much that we can’t bear to sit down at our computer screens and write another word?
Writing isn’t some sort of blood-curdling horror show, and being rejected is so far from the worst thing that is ever going to happen to us - so if we crumble and die when it does we need a thicker skin.
It’s OK to be scared but most writers are actually incredibly brave because they battle their fears, they use them to motivate themselves, and never stop fighting to achieve their goals.
The mad writer
From sticking our heads into ovens to slowly walking into a lake, writers don’t have the best reputation for being stable and level headed creatures.
However, the truth is that we all have our quirks and eccentricities, but writing actually helps many people feel more stable, more in touch with their emotions and more able to express the way that they feel or want to say.
Being, imaginative, creative, and looking at the world from a different perspective doesn’t make someone mad, it makes them unique and interesting. So let’s embrace our weirdness - a little strangeness makes the world a more interesting and colourful place after all!
Being a writer should make us proud. Because we are strong and brave, creative, unique and strange and brilliant.
So let’s distance ourselves from this image of a miserable and lonely writer - because we are passionate, courageous and following our dreams -and how many people can really say that?
I'll admit I've considered myself more of a loner, but it doesn't necessarily mean I get lonely, though that can be true at times. It's often been said writers have suffered from depression as has been the case with me, but hasn't stopped me from trying to write about it. I do get hesitant about what details to include, but that's a decision only I can make.
Yes, I can be self-critical of what I have been working on, but that seems to be true of anyone with their own works. I've even gotten that way with some of the art work I have recently made. I mostly keep these critiques in my mind, though.
I don't know if the mad writer scenario applies to e personally, since I have never felt the desire to stick my head in an oven or slowly walk into a lake, as stated above. Id o get frustrated when trying to decided what to include and what to leave out, though I don't seem to panic as much about this as I might think I will. And I have very bad anxiety! And I have yet to try to get my story published, but I know I can expect a rejection or two or more, so I'm already prepared for that. Though I have yet to be on a writing deadline, I can see that anxiety that would come from such a thing.
So I guess I can say that I don't exactly feel misery when writing, just my usual anxiety-ridden self.