Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading October 10, 2011 - 3:01am

... that suffering, heavy-drinking, truth-spouting, hyper-aware, soon-to-be-hailed-as-a-genius-but-only-when-he-dies, uncompromizing soldier of solitude. Let's kill him.

But really, let's kill him; let's take out all that romantic bullshit. Why is it so appealing to play the role of the writer? Why is it so easy to hide behind the stereotype and get away with it?

The idea that being a writer is difficult, frustrating and lonely may very well be true, but why glorify it? Why collect rejection slips in a little box as mementos? Why do all that cute and coy "writing is an expression of the soul" shit? And the flipside of that: Why pretend writing needs to be dark and somehow raw for it to matter?

Yes, writing's harder than people who don't write tend to think. It's not just sitting down and typing. But it also is sitting down and typing, and I don't see the use in acting as if there's a kind of secret beauty to "being a writer" — is it just a way of getting off?

Rant over for a second.

lyndonriggall's picture
lyndonriggall from Tasmania is reading Going Bovine by Libba Bray October 10, 2011 - 3:42am

Bingo Phil. Historically that stereotype has worked, but these days I actually think the best writers are a world away from it.  It's okay to drink, it's okay to truth-spout, its okay to be hyper-aware - but to do so because it makes you feel more like a writer is sad.  Cliché doesn't just happen in the books my friends.  They happen to you too if you let them.

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian October 10, 2011 - 5:26am

I hate all that tortured artist bullshit.  I've got big balls and I drink because I like it.  Write because you're good at it and it's your passion, not because you like the way it sounds or because you want to take your laptop to Starbucks so you can impress that German chick who always smiles when she hands you your skinny double-shot cinnamon latte.

I worked with a guy who was the kind of writer I've just described.  On nights out, he'd talk about his ideas, about how he's feeling down because the emotional depths he's reaching are too much for him to handle.  He'd bore people.  They'd avoid him.  Then I'd get people asking, 'You're a writer.... Why don't you ever talk about it?' It's because there's nothing more boring than a writer always talking about his craft.  In here it's fine.  It's what we're here for.  Out there, in the open, with the normal folks, it's just indecent exposure, masturbation with your pants on.

In short, I agree.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break October 10, 2011 - 5:43am

I like how the chick in the scenario is German.

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian October 10, 2011 - 5:47am

Based on a girl I know.  Jenny the German.  I impressed her with my words per minutes skills.

missesdash's picture
missesdash from Paris is reading The Informers October 10, 2011 - 6:14am

That stereotype, for me, is kind of narrow in that you see it most in middle class white guys.
There's an entirely different set of expectations for a "writer of color" or "female writer" or writer from any marginalized group.
Still, they're all equally obnoxious.

I've definitely grown bored with people more interested in being a writer than actually writing anything. When someone says they spent ten years writing a book, I like to point out that they probably spent ten years not writing the goddamn book.

Ben's picture
Ben from Australia is reading My Booky Wook by Russell Brand October 10, 2011 - 6:17am

Don't take all the romantic bullshit out of it...  Let me hang onto that one magical thing; the fact that simple text on a page/screen can transport readers to another world, inspire thoughts/feelings, bring characters to life, and leave a lasting impact.

But yes, I'm all for killing the pretentious twats that hack on this craft I've come to know and love.  Wait here, I'm going to get my pitchfork...

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 10, 2011 - 8:33am

"I've definitely grown bored with people more interested in being a writer than actually writing anything. When someone says they spent ten years writing a book, I like to point out that they probably spent ten years not writing the goddamn book."

Yes! So true.

@Ben: Enjoy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas! Have you ever read it before? Thompson is brilliant, and more fun than a pint of ether.

Nighty Nite's picture
Nighty Nite from NJ is reading Grimscribe: His Lives and Works October 10, 2011 - 9:39am

I know several people like this. And living in the Starbucks capital of the world is pretty awful when there's a few in every coffee shop you walk in to. Dr. Gonzo is right, nobody likes that guy. I talk about writing with other writers, not because they "get it" or some pseudo-intellectual ego-stroking notion like that. Because if I talk about it with other people, it will come to a point where I feel like I sound like a tool.

But sure, kill 'em.

They all want to be Hemingway.

Let's give them a shotgun.

Ben's picture
Ben from Australia is reading My Booky Wook by Russell Brand October 10, 2011 - 4:22pm

@Alex: Thanks, I will (if I ever get to it!).  I haven't read it, no.  I saw the movie a few years ago, and I enjoyed that - and in my experience, books are always better than their film adaptations, so I have high expectations.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 10, 2011 - 4:29pm

If I thought being that guy would remotely help me in a) getting laid b) getting free drinks, I would totally be that guy.

.'s picture
. October 10, 2011 - 4:36pm

Yes well now the idea of books to the average person (who doesn't normally read) is Twilight, Harry Potter and The Girl With the Dragon herpes. I see the ideal image of the writer being bent over and rammed by publishers or lynch mob of writers toting kindles and about to publish they're own stuff. I like the Hemingway image of the old generation of writers but I know that isn't realistic so we have to conform to the times. No more stereotypes, it just doesn't work any more. Were creating our own image as writers every day. Not to sound too pretentious or anything. Needed a positive rant.

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 10, 2011 - 4:40pm

the idea of being a writer, and being known as a writer are different. i AM a writer. i produce fiction, albeit slowly. i think the image people are after is that of hemmingway or kafka, who people only see AS writers. tortured, tormented, misunderstood geniuses. no one really wants to do the work, or put in the time or tour, but they want to go down in history as being to literature what kurt cobain was to the fender guitar.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 10, 2011 - 5:28pm

The romantic writer image has never been the realistic norm.  The fact is that there are plenty of self-destructive, self-important turds who can barely write their own name, but nobody makes an archetype of them.

But yeah, I generally don't talk with anybody about my writing.  And I'm an old-school-coffee-shop-loser -- 19 times out of 20 I'm just reading.  Write at home.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 10, 2011 - 5:30pm

Kurt Cobain sucks for twenty years.

Daniel Crenna's picture
Daniel Crenna from Canada is reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane October 10, 2011 - 5:36pm

The bottom line is don't be a genius. I mean the tortured loner whose special writing ability is inextricably linked to alcohol abuse, rage, despondency, or whatever's trending in self-destruction. This isn't new to writing, it happens to other creatives, just ask the jazz musician who insists on smoking because all the greats did it. Or Kobain as Charles points out.

You don't win by being more uncomfortable than your competition. Or more dead.

I think this trend took root when people started believing the line about how there's equal parts genius and madness in a creative person. That's a well-established yet thoroughly debunked myth. I am amazed how many great writers succeeded in spite of their afflictions. The truth is being clear and sober makes you better, not worse, at everything.

J.S. Wright's picture
J.S. Wright from Milwaukee is reading Black Spring October 10, 2011 - 8:07pm

I think Showtime's Californication is partially to blame, at least within recent years.  The idea of the bad boy/womanizer writer that's always hungover is the new cliche.  

I can't tell you how many times I've seen some guy at a bar, donning the Hank Moody uniform and blurting out, "Yeah, I'm a writer..." to every woman he stands next to.  It's as if it only takes a cigarette, black shirt and five 'o' clock shadow to fill the shoes of a contemporary writer.  That's if the guy really is one... which he usually isnt.

It drives me up a wall, especially when I don't even call myself a writer.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2011 - 8:09pm

I once told a group of people that the "tortured starving artist" is only romantic when you are neither tortured or starving. It is a weird goal, and I see it in music, visual arts and writing more than I would like to. Having been through a very dark, very medicated, very drunk, very poor period of life, really, I'd rather be happy, sober and have a roof over my head than fit any archetype.

And the truth is, it is much easier to write when you don't have a few hundred pressing life issues on your mind.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2011 - 8:12pm

Dr. Gonzo--you reminded me of an article I read on Cracked.com about writers, the gist was no one wants to hear about your "ideas for books" they want to read the fucking book, stop talking and start writing!