Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mythbuster: Are Real Writers Glamorous?

I was scrubbing our bathroom when I got a case of the giggles. I was amused by the lofty impressions I used to have of real writers. While vacuuming dust bunnies, I compared myths vs. realities.

Myth: for real writers, words come out perfectly the first time around.
Reality: blog posts by writers, agents, and editors reinforce the truth that there's no such thing as a perfect first draft, or even a perfect finished product.

Myth: real writers make enough money to hire nannies and maids.
Reality: it's true that some writers are rich, but most are not. There are plenty of writers who clean their own houses and mow their own lawns. It's clear we don't write for the money.

Myth: real writers are snooty and unapproachable.
Reality: from what I've seen, writers from all stages of publication are regular people who are generous with their time, information, and encouragement.

Myth: real writers wear black turtlenecks and berets, and sip espressos while spouting big words.
Reality: real writers--they're US. They're hard workers who toil at the day job, then come home and add words to the wip. They write while the baby's asleep. They shuttle kids to and from school. They coach little league and soccer. They work on manuscripts during their kid's volleyball or track practice. They're passionate people who show up at the page, whether they're inspired or not.

Did you think real writers were glamorous? Which writer's myths have you debunked?

64 comments:

  1. I love this Julie. There are so many things about authors and their lifestyles that are misrepresented or simply misunderstood. Like you said - most are down to earth, approachable, kind and generous with their encouragement.

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  2. These are smack on! Yeah, I did think writers were glamorous. My biggest myth was that I thought they sat down, wrote and story, and then saw it in print. Umm...I think differently after two years of writing. lol

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  3. Tell the truth, Julie - you were in it for the beret! :D KIDDING! Great post as always, and I love the picture. Do you smile when you clean? Cuz I don't!!

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  4. Hi, Julie,

    I've written over 30 novels, every one of them with a major publishing house, and frankly, no truer words were ever written. I've got a pile of dishes in the sink that need washing, a dog that needs walking, blog posts waiting to be written--and a novel that's late! Oh, and I'm worried about finances, too. Maid? What maid?

    Jeanne

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  5. I must admit, there was a time when I was young that I had romantic notions of what writers were like. Now I know the truth and it's just as you said! LOL! But the best part is, they're kind and approachable, and are quick to support one another. They make up the most amazing community on the net. You're right about that too. ;)

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  6. David Foster Wallace said in interview that "the beret wearing fools" he went to MFA with, all ended up writing copy in a Publicity Agency. BAM.

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  7. Hah! This is great. I don't know how long I'd be able to stand the black turtleneck, but I could certainly do with a mythological maid... especially when it comes time to scrub the toilets!

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  8. Too funny, Julie. I signed with my agent last week and have been riding high. But dh and dd still want dinner. I mean, they're happy for me. But not at the expense of dinner. Does that glamorous life come with a cook, too? :)

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  9. I love this! Yes, as a kid, I subscribed to all these myths. I thought writers lived on a higher level than regular people and sat around in Gertrude Stein-type literary salons all the time and drank wine. It sounded wonderful. But somehow I ended up with dishes and toilets and a day job.

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  10. Considering that some days I never change out of my pj's, I don't think writers are glamorous, lol.

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  11. Haha... I almost never get out of my PJs during the day (or evening... unless I have to go somewhere), some weeks I don't shower for days, and my house is a perpetual disaster. Glamorous, my bum!

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  12. Very true. I liked the way you said "they show up at the page." That's what we do!

    Amy

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  13. I always pictured them writing in their own private offices/rooms/houses, etc - not the kitchen table or room where every kids has access every time they're hungry.

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  14. Well the espresso part is true anyway. And ramshackle is a long word, right? ;)

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  15. darnit! And here I was SO looking forward to sitting around all day sipping espresso in my black beret and turtleneck... :D

    this is great, Julie! It's true. Regardless, if you're a writer, it's still your JOB just like everybody else who works~ xoxo

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  16. Oh wow. This is kind of like my post today (about agent myths -- or, the way I see them in my head, at least)! Thanks for the laugh, and for debunking those myths. (Though I do try to use large words in casual conversation, but most of the time my brain is so tired from reading/writing, I can't come up with the one I want, and usually end up looking like I've lost my mind.) ;)

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  17. Are you kidding? If I could hire someone to mow my grass, I would. In the meantime, the dude you see on my lawn drenched in sweat and about to pass out from the humidity is ME.

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  18. Ha ha... I love it. My idea of a writer was Joan Wilder. She was my hero as a girl. lol

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  19. I follow a few "real" writers on Twitter and Facebook and their lives are definitely not glamorous.

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  20. Oh yeah, definitely not a myth…today I wore my black t-shirt and Chicago White Sox baseball cap while cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the toilet, and picking up the dog doo in the back yard. My fancy Folgers coffee got cold in the mug, but I sipped it anyway. Funny, I did manage to spout one large word today…it was while I sang with my neighbor’s little girl – Supercalifragilisticexppialidocious. Now I can’t get that silly song out of my head! I’m doomed for the rest of the day…so goes the life of a writer. Julie, I loved this post!

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  21. A long long time ago I thought of writers as these cool deep people. And then I became one. Not cool. Not deep.

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  22. Um, I'm a writer and I barely clean. But that's just because I'm way too messy! :P

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  23. I never thought it would be glamorous, but yeah, the idea of Nora Roberts cleaning toilets or Stephen King washing dishes... well, I guess I just never pictured it. When I think of 'future successful writer me', I always picture myself sitting by the pool telling some cabana boy to fetch me a fruity drink. LOL

    I guess this means I need to get rid of my berets and turtlenecks. LOL

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  24. Thanks for the laugh, I always pictured authors (not writers) working in private studies while all around them trembled and kept well out of the way ;)

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  25. How funny! I sure could go for that maid, though!

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  26. That is great...one day I'll afford a maid perhaps, until then, ah well, I'll stick with my husband!

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  27. Hehe. Very true. As much as I love writing and plan on making it my career, I have put aside the notion that I will be rich, live in a mansion, and have people to do all my non-writing work for me. lol. Actually, I'm not even sure I would enjoy that...I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I wasn't stressing out about the bajillion things I have to get done everyday.

    <3 Gina Blechman

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  28. When I was young I used to believe the first myth. I'd read books and just assumed that an author would sit down, write the book from beginning to end, and then publish it. I got very frustrated when I tried to write and nothing was perfect right away. Later on, when I became more serious about writing and learning about the craft, I was relieved to find that wasn't true!

    But too bad that maid myth isn't true... :)

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  29. I still find real writers glamorous ... but not in a fame and fortune kind of way. I like the idea of the struggling artist, the critical success making trying to make his or her life in a world of reality TV and high-budget action films. I like the idea of living in a small apartment covered floor to ceiling with used books, no TV, no maid, a cat and an old typewriter for decoration. That's glamorous for me!

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  30. What? I'm not headed for my second house which is a charming bungalow in a quaint New England town outside of Boston as my writing escape? Okay, that I can handle, but I'll NEVER give up my black turtlenecks.

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  31. I love this post. I do occasionally wear a black beret and black turtle neck, but I am not snooty or any of that. I love learning and helping other writers. I don't write for the money but for the love of it.

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  32. If only the bit about the cleaner were true *dreams*

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  33. Love it! If I could earn enough money to hire someone to clean my house, all my dreams would be achieved. :)

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  34. I loved this. It made me smile.

    Also, I'm passing the Stylish Blogger Award your way. You can check out the details here.

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  35. When I was a kid I thought writers lived a glamorous life! i didn't watch television. My favorite movies were Disney animations and the music I listened to was the soundtracks to those movies. So to me authors were the only celebrities I knew of!

    While it'd be cool to meet one of my favorite singers, actors, or athletes, I know I'd be more starstruck if I met a favorite author from my childhood. It gives me chills just thinking about it!

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  36. Even more than that - I pictured the words flowing out seamlessly, perfectly - the first time 'round. What a relief to realize that even published authors work hard!

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  37. This post made me giggle! :)

    As a kid I had this romantic ideas about writers, like them being all aloof as they walked the streets, handing out signatures and saying profound things for instance.

    The thing I love about the internet is that my childhood fantasies are debunked like mad, as I get to read blogs of my favorite writers, and even get to communicate with them :) Even got to meet my favorite writers in a signing.

    And they turned out to be quite the opposite of what I thought :)

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  38. Well I know I'm glamourous... *deadpans* teehee. It is funny how we see it all. I guess it's because the authors we see the most of are those who've made it really big, and of the rest, we see author photos for books, which look either professional or glamourous, depending on the genre. I've been amazed though, at how wonderful writers really ARE when you talk to them one-on-one. They are far less lofty that I would have expected.

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  39. Fabulous post! Even J K Rowling bakes her children's birthday cakes. I used to imagine the writer's life being like the film 'Romancing the Stone! LOL! I do posess a beret, drink espresso and wear lippy, but glamourous? Nah!

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  40. I love this! Well done, Julie!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  41. I never thought writers were glamorous in the affluent sense (maids and gardeners, etc.) but I did think all writers were hauntingly mysterious and poetically sad -- until I started writing seriously and realized I am not hauntingly mysterious, and am basically an optimist. So much for images. :-)

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  42. Haha, no, I never thought writers were glamorous--just quirky and introverted. Which may actually be true. LOL

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  43. Awww now you've done it! Now you've gone and blown my cover - huhn.... "rips off beret and stomps off to sip an espresso while wiping my mouth with 100 bills. . ."

    (laughing)

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  44. Hey there fellow crusader- I loved this post- I used to think some of these- from all my literature classes I know that writers way back like Byron used to be snobbish and believed any poet or artist who sold their work for money- were sell outs. Obviously alot of this has changed- but it shows where some of the myths come from

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  45. I sorta thought we all got to be tortured romantic drunks with little out buildings turned writers studio - we could be acidic to people and they would torture us more for our dear craft - hehehe

    I do drink a gallon of coffee a day - but my writing is not pretty with bourbon - it's sorta bourbony and my words get spelled funny.

    My computer doesn't like the horse barn - no internet signal and no new fangled electric there.

    I have not found any six toed cats either so I will have to assume I am just unpublishable - grin.

    Alas, the dream - sigh. Hey it's not all bad so long as there is coffee!

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  46. I knew the answer right away from just reading the title :)

    Glamorous, we are not. I was at a convention where one of the speakers was a well known, multi-book author who spoke of this very thing. She said people were surprised when they came to her house and she actually opened the door. They expected a butler. Now, she's doing well enough she has people to clean her home, but for the most part, she said, she did it all.

    But some day, I do want to be glamorous. Can't I dream a little? :)

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  47. I do think the world of publishing has been inundated with people wishing to write because they think it will make them rich. They see J.K. and Stephenie Meyer and think that is the norm. So not true!

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  48. You've covered the one myth I used to have...the one about writers being snobbish....definitely not, for sure.

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  49. I've always been more familiar with the chain smoking guzzling whiskey bleeding into the typewriter and selling your teeth for rent money stereotypes. All things considered I'm happy enough to have fallen somewhere in between the two!

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  50. I loved this entry - thanks for sharing! :D

    Love the beret/espresso thing.

    But I actually do hire a cleaner. :P I go without other stuff so I can do it. lol. I hate housework.

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  51. Yes that sounds about right we all have strange illusions of what real writers are like. Great stuff! :O)

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  52. Hee hee, so true! Though I do like my lattes... But I only own one turtleneck and it's green!

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  53. Wow, this was a popular post! Thanks for debunking the myths.

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  54. This is great! I think some would assume published writers are fab, typing at Starbuck all day...the rest of us are in our pajamas, no can see me!

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  55. I always thought that one book published would set me for life. That won't be the case, I'm sure :)

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  56. real writers wear black turtlenecks and berets, and sip espressos while spouting big words--love this! I think I'll get out of my pajamas now.

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  57. thanks for this Julie- It's great to be reminded these are just myths. I don't look good in turtlenecks, but I wouldn't mind having a housekeeper (can I keep that fantasy?)

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  58. This is perfect. In six months I've almost shattered every lifelong preconception I had about writers (thankfully). This post had me giggling too. Thank you.

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  59. When I was a teenager, I thought I would get a huge advance for my first draft. Obviously, that didn't happen.

    One strange (and insulting) comment I received not too long ago was that "it should only take a few days to write a book).

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  60. They are spot on, Julie. As a kid I was under the impression that my first draft would be perfect and I would be flooded with royalty cheques and publishers would be waiting to pick my manuscripts. If only my pipe dreams were true.

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  61. like you, in between chapters, i scrubbed the bathroom this morning -- all in the day's work of a - glamorous - writer ;-)

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  62. Ooh, you forgot to add that we all have hunched-over necks and upper backs, as well as RSI from keyboarding all day.

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  63. I wish I got the giggles while scrubbing the bathroom floor--I usually just get a case of the "ick"s. Loved this post! It's a good reminder that we're not doing this for riches or fame, and our lives really won't change that much upon publication. Our kids will still think of us as "Mom," and that's really my favorite job title anyway :)

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  64. I really appreciate this blog entry. Thank you for being lighthearted and humorous about it without losing the truth. Indeed, writers are just regular folks who are generous with their encouragement, and who are just as generous in showing appreciation for the encouragement we give them.

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