Thursday, 27 August 2009

Misconceptions about Writers


1) Writers are extraordinary. I don’t think so - most of the writers I know have ordinary jobs, have a mortgage and/or kids and spouse. I read Heat, I watch lots of telly and I do the school run. I like Pizza, I don’t hoover behind the sofa and I worry about the Credit Crunch. I’m just like anyone else. In fact if I ever get published, that will have to be my hook!

2) Everyone has a book in them and therefore the potential to be a writer. Erm, correct! I’d agree that everyone does. But if this book is to be publishable, is to be page-turnable, then no, not everyone has the where-with-all to produce such a tale. We each have our own unique story, some narrative that defines our lives, and this autobiographical prose is often what a virgin writer puts on paper. But whether this should be made public in all its self-indulgent glory is quite another matter. Mine was written 4 years ago, a novel set in Paris, in the Eighties - Cue Monet, Metro stations and Merlot. Cue unimaginative characters based on people I once knew, speaking with Carry-on style French accents.


3) Writers earn a lot of money. Not unless their name is JK Rowling or Dan Brown. That is, writers who just happen to catch the public’s imagination on a grand scale. For the rest of us the financial prospects are a little more sobering. Advances are relatively small, as are royalties once the bookseller, wholesaler and publisher have taken their cut… In other words, if you’re lucky, you might earn enough to pay for a newish car, but forget those dreams of world cruises, shopping at Tiffany’s or giving up the day job.

4) Writers are sexy, interesting people. Don’t make me laugh! We all have writer’s arse and moan constantly about rejection. And we’ve got spots from too many keyboard chocolate fests and a red nose from too much comforting booze. What's more, we're self-obsessed and fixated with checking the post and emails.

5) Writers are born. No. I’d disagree with this. Yet I believe readers are and that often a childhood love of books, an adult writer will spawn.

6) Writers are the best observers of human nature. I think not - they are simply the ones to note it down. Point in fact is the builder presently working on my house - salt of the earth who took just a few days to suss me out: how to make me smile with his banter, how to explain things to someone who is as practical as a piece of fluff; how to ask for a cup of tea whilst making me feel it was no bother; how to get me to allay my irrational fears about fittings and dust. Anyone who works with the public has to understand and manipulate the diversity of human nature to get their job done. Writers are no more gifted at understanding what makes people tick, they are simply the ones to present those observations as the written word.

Come on folks, I'm sure you can think of some more!

19 comments:

Mandy said...

Thanks for the sobering reality check! I'll just go have a beer and color in my daughter's book now. LOL!

Kidding, mostly....

Samantha Tonge said...

Lol, Mandy!

Yes, i used to have this romantic idea of what a writer was, before i became one - mainly someone sitting outside a cafe in Paris, pondering the meaning of life...it ain't quite like that, i found:)

Julie P said...

It's quite a shock when you first realise that writers are they same as you - all having stresses and strains and rejections. All having other commitments and financial worries.

Julie

Dan Holloway said...

Very interesting. I think the "everyone has a book in them" syndrome is one of the reasons why so many more people attempt to make a living as a writer than would do so with other passions (most golfers never imagine they could be Tiger Woods; most people who set pen to paper at some stage think they'll be the next Jilly Cooper). You're right that it's to do with the readability of that book. but it's more than that. Most people have A book in them. To make a living as a writer you need to have a book a year in you - at least, whcih is a very different proposition.

I'm glad you made the point about observing human nature. There are many people who are much better at it. some choose to do things other than write. But my intuition is that many would be writers if they were allowed to have the opportunity and the expectation - there is a lot of social exclusion perpetuated by the literary world. If more people were given real access to readers I think we'd have a richer literary canon as a result.

Very thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you

Susie Nott-Bower said...

So true, Sam. I like what you say about us not being the only ones who can 'suss' humanity out.
Susiex

Samantha Tonge said...

So, true, Julie - I remember feeling very intimidated when i first got to know other writers, and was always surprised to find they had ordinary 'real' lives, just like me.

Some very interesting points, Dan. In fact, an excellent point that every writer needs 'a book a year in them', i'm going to save that nugget up for the next time someone tells me they've always thought about writing a book - although, and this is connected to your second point, i usually tell people to go ahead and try, they might surprise themselves (ie manage it and do a good job).

Sue Houghton said...

I think we have the same builder!
Interesting observations.Liked it.

Derek said...

Another misconception is that writers love to write. As opposed to it being an obsession!

Samantha Tonge said...

LOL, Sue!

Good one, Derek!

Elizabeth McKay said...

'fixated with checking the post and emails' - now I really did think that was just me. Better go - I shouldn't be here, I should be writing!

Samantha Tonge said...

Shouldn't we all, Elizabeth?!

Jenzarina said...

Great post!
Although I think we are all brilliant and sexy and interesting... if only in our own heads. The reality of 'writers' bottom' is so much closer to the truth.

Caroline R said...

I've encountered all of these too, Sam - especially no. 3!

Another one is that writers are too highbrow/busy/famous to use Google, so we will never even notice a blog review or a discussion about our books on some little-known forum. Oh yes we will!

Samantha Tonge said...

LOL, Jenzarina! I have to admit when i first started out (before the rejections piled in) i thought i was a bit special. Soon had a reality check,though!

Oh Caroline, yes, i'm sure there's a whole load of misconceptions i still don't know about cos i'm not published (yet:)) - something to look forward to:)

Olivia Ryan said...

Great post, Sam! And so true. In fact one of the first things I often say when I give talks is that I've probably got one of the most ordinary and boring lives of anyone I know - so if I could become a writer, so could anyone who has enough ability and determination! And No.3 ... if I had a quid for everyone who asked why I was still working at my day job back then, I'd have really been able to give it up! The average UK author's annual income is £4000. Your analogy about people who play sport or paint, not expecting to become famous and/or millionaires, is spot on.

Could I add to the list: Writers are people who are lucky enough to have time on their hands to do their writing.
Grrrrr! That one really gets me!

xx

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks, Olivia - and ooh yes, that last point of yours really gets me as well. I mean, i actually do have more time than some writers i know, but it doesn't mean i'm not busy and having to reschedule and time-manage to fit it in, all the same.

Grrr!

Olivia Ryan said...

I agree. I have more time too, now I've given up my other job. But I still work hard at my writing! I suppose we shouldn't be too cross with people who have these misconceptions, though. Perhaps I had the same ideas before I became a writer ... it was too long ago to remember, though!

J.E. Seymour said...

I think everyone has the potential to become a great writer...

But I think only a handful have what it takes to be a great storytelling.

Writing is nothing. Storytelling is what really sells a book.

Rosy T said...

The one about writers being keen observers of human nature is the one that amuses me. Writers (and I speak personally here) are intensely self-absorbed people who wouldn't usually notice anything beyond their computer keyboard if it jumped up and but them!