5 Things You Shouldn’t Assume about Your Friend Who’s a Writer

Common writer stereotypes range from funny to ridiculous to downright sad. Here are a few of my favorites with my commentary on why you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.

1. Everything they write stems from personal experience

It’s true, writers sometimes create stories based on things that really happened to them. But, most writers I know are very good at using their imagination with tiny pieces of their experiences, thoughts, and feelings woven in.

Do you know how boring my stories would be if each one was about a girl living in a small Pennsylvania city who works as a copywriter and hangs out with her friends on the weekends? Well I do.

It reminds me of Gillian Flynn’s acknowledgements at the end of her novel, Dark Places (yes, I actually read those things): “Mom, you are the most gracious, generous person I know and someday I will write a book in which the mother is not a) evil or b) killed. You deserve better!”

2. They’re antisocial

There’s a difference between being antisocial and being an introvert. Don’t believe me? Check out Susan Cain’s TED talk on the value of introverts.

Writers are observers. They notice things like body language, group dynamics, and sensory details that the average person misses. So, don’t be surprised if you find them hanging out along the wall sipping whiskey on the rocks and mentally cataloging the scene to revisit later.

They also like stories, which means they’re very good at listening, but not great at carrying a conversation. Thus, writers might not engage in a crowded room, but they will to talk to strangers. Especially ones that have something interesting to say.

3. They’re an expert in all things Shakespeare

There’s this moment during barroom trivia every week when a literature question comes up, and suddenly, all eyes are on me. Cue me reminding everyone that I was a writing major.

There are certain classics I’ve read and some obscure books that I’ve enjoyed. But, on the whole, my knowledge of literature (and Shakespeare in particular) is average at best.

4. They were researching how to hide a body because they actually killed someone

Writers have the weirdest browsing history. I don’t even feel the need to qualify that.

In a single day, I looked up:

  • What does meth smell like when it’s cooked?
  • What are the warning signs of schizophrenia?
  • Jumping from what height into water will kill you?
  • Stages of a pregnancy
  • Common allergies
  • Synonym for twinkling

Someday when the police show up at my door, I’ll simply shrug and say, “I’m a writer.”

5. They do their best work when they’re drunk, stoned, or otherwise intoxicated

Not true. I’ll concede that those experiences can lead to good stories. But, any time I’ve tried to write after drinking, all I manage to do is type out a few nonsensical words and fall asleep to the repetitive blinking of the cursor.

I do my best writing mid-morning when I have an open day ahead of me. Too late in the day and I feel rushed by the waning daylight. And mornings? Fuggetaboutit.

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