Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet many writers – from really famous types to amazingly talented unknowns. The thing that has always stood out to me is that most writers are totally normal. You get an idea, an image in your head as to what this writer will be like in real life, how they might talk and act. That image is almost universally incorrect, most of them are the most normal, down-to-earth types you’re ever gonna’ meet. Award-winners to day-dreamers, the majority of writers I’ve met have been open, friendly and utterly normal folk.
But there have been some exceptions.
I have noted a few ‘types’ in my travels, a couple of categories of writers, stereotypical personalities that have been replicated amongst the storytellers I’ve met. There are a few, you’ve probably met them yourself. Some of the stereotype writers I’ve met along my journey are:
Super Normal, Super Controversial Content
I’ve met a few writers that have written, or do write, hard core sex and/or violence, and, surprisingly, they were totally normal. Almost uncomfortably so. Like, that dark element must be hiding someplace, you start to wonder when it’s going to come out. I met a female writer once who was totally normal, easy to talk to, funny. She wrote hardcore erotica, like, full-on stuff. I’ve also met super opinionated writers who seem almost intimidating in print form. But in real-life – normal. You’d never even know of their extreme stances if you hadn’t read their work. Everyone has layers and you can never judge a book by its cover, but this one is definitely a common stereotype. They’re actually pretty fun, you should hang with them, but maybe don’t go back to their place. At least not on the first date.
Super Quiet, Super Talented
I’ve met quite a few of these, those quiet bookish types who take everything in, listen to the world around them. They often have an acute understanding of what it takes to be great. They are their own strongest critics, which makes them more resilient to the harsh realities of the writing world, and they are constantly reading and researching, adapting their style. Sonya Hartnett is a bit like this – fairly quiet, fairly reserved, not interested in the hype of promotion and literary fame. Just loves writing great stories. And she’s super good at what she does. Not all the quiet ones are super talented, but often, if you get to see their work, they’re way better than they’d project. It’s worth getting to know them, understanding their perspective on the world. It might change your own viewpoint.
Super Confident, Super Sensitive
You know the ones. They’ve been told all their lives that their writing is amazing. All the way through primary school and high school – ‘amazing’. Nothing else. This is the only feedback they’ve ever had, and they come out self-assured, convinced they’ll be the next literary luminary, destined for greatness. And then comes the pain. They’ve never experienced criticism before, everyone told them they were great. No-one’s ever picked out an error or suggested a possible issue. It hurts – you can see it dragging down their face. I feel for these guys – they’ve not been hardened enough in the developmental stages and, unfortunately, many of them fade away. It’s a shame, alot of them are good writers, but you’ll never advance if you can’t absorb criticism and translate it into improvement. Tread carefully, hope they don’t ask for feedback, and make sure you tell them about any criticism you’ve received (at first, they’ll nod, thinking you are different from them, but in time they’ll understand – everyone cops a critical beating every now and then).
Super Serious, Super Pretentious Content
These ones are the worst. There are some people who adopt a persona when they are publicising their work, a way of supporting their message, communicating in a certain way. Then there are others who just are that way. Everything is super-serious, you can’t have a conversation that doesn’t have geo-political implications and headache inducing verbosity. When they do a reading it gets worse, as you’re subjected to a sort of self-gratification through language. It’s like seeing someone do a strip show for themself in front of a full length mirror. These ones usually write for the social status it gives them, being a writer is critically engrained into who they perceive themself to be. I try to steer clear of these types – whatever makes them happy is fine, but I’ll just be over here, minding my own business. You have fun.
Super Confident, Super Talented
And then there’s these. The best writers I’ve ever met are super talented, of course, but also super fascinating in real life. They are so open to the world, so fascinated by everyday life that they absorb all these amazing stories and experiences. Most of them aren’t especially confident types, but they’re so into what they’re doing that they can talk about it with no ego or self-conscious restriction. Writing is their passion, and they love nothing more than absorbing themselves in it, discussing it. And it’s totally fascinating. Maybe it’s because I love to see them express their passion, maybe it’s because I would love to imagine I’m somehow like them, but the greatest writers have always been able to hold my attention. Even writers I’ve never heard of, if I’ve heard them talking passionately, telling stories that drag me in – nine times out of ten I’ll love their writing. That correlation probably makes perfect sense, but there’s something infectious about the greats. They can talk in a way that makes you tune in to every word – not because it’s part of a show, not because they’ve learned to engage an audience. But because they love what they do. Actually love it. If you ever get a chance to catch a talk by a great writer, I highly recommend you take it.
As I say, most writers are totally normal, but these are the most common stereotypes I’ve come across. What about you, what types of writers have you met along your own writing path?