Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Stereotypical Writer

For the past month or so, I've been training for my first triathlon. I've never been much of a biker or a runner, but somehow I got it in my head that if I can swim, I can do a tri. In addition to my usual swims, I've been biking close to 50 miles per week and running about 10, determined not to be the last person to cross that finish line.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, at a party this weekend, my girlfriend tells me I'm not athletic. True, I'm clumsy, lazy, and have no coordination whatsoever, but I'd think with all my recent training I would gain some type of athleticism. When I defend my position, she replies with a laugh, "Come on! You're a writer! How athletic can you be?"

Her comment got me thinking about the stereotypes regarding writers: the overweight, anti-social, chain-smoking, alcoholic, recluse who hasn't seen anything but his typewriter in months. I picture Kafka or Tennessee Williams or Jack Kerouac. But contemporary writers aren't like that. They're extremely social, although they can definitely hold their liquor, I wouldn't say that most writers are alcoholics, only about half the writers I know smoke and most of them are in pretty good shape.
Writing is my passion, no doubt about it, but I think most will agree with me when I say that it's not the only thing I enjoy. I like visiting with friends, going on a long bike ride, seeing the light of day once in a while. Even though I love writing and can do it for hours, often losing track of time, I don't think I would be happy if that was all there was to me. I wouldn't be happy if I was a pale, overweight, chain-smoking alcoholic, but is that what people assume I am when I say that I'm a writer?
I thought most of these stereotypes were dead, ideas of the past only to be joked about among writers at conferences. But are these stereotypes alive and well? And do they stem from some truth? As writers, what stereotypes do you fit or defy?


Anonymous said...

Uhhhh... Isn't she an accountant?


Becky C. said...


Sorry this is off topic--but I just read your piece about being the world's worst lesbian--and I had to immediately let you know that I already hold this title.

Seriously, though in many ways I am quite undykey, it was so good as another chip in stereotypes.