If you know a writer or are a writer, you know we have a reputation for being weird, maybe a bit reclusive, and caffeine addicted. Writers are beloved by readers, though for the characters, plotting, and setting but mostly because we can tell one heck of a story. Our work is analyzed, criticized, and cherished. It’s a complicated reputation.
But why are writers viewed as weird? Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m weird. I’ve researched how to store blood for vampire fiction, how many bones you can break for a doctor character, and even about electrocution for torture purposes. No sane person researches these things, I’m certain. And writers often talk about our characters like they are real people. You may have seen this quote:
Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.
~ Margaret Chittenden
Maybe writers are viewed as weird because of our current society. Yet if we look at history, artists and writers had patrons at different points in time. Someone who paid you to create works of art. Who valued the written word more than say a doctor. Now, we are seen as odd and some people don’t see writing as a job. You aren’t a true writer or author until you are published and on the bestseller list. Then you aren’t so much seen as weird anymore, you’re accomplished. So why isn’t that any different for say the writer who is trying to get published? Or has been published but hasn’t hit it big so to speak?
I believe something changed after the World Wars and technology advanced. Now film, television and the internet take up most of our time (not that it’s a bad thing – I’m a pop and geek culture fan). The arts don’t get the funding in North America like they should. I think the lack of funding is part of the blame for artists and writers not being taken seriously in the beginning of their career. Our society prizes more traditional careers. If you ask a child to name careers or jobs, they will name police officer, firefighter, doctor, and teacher. Sometimes they will name nurse, lawyer, or another career that they’ve encountered but rarely do children name author, illustrator, artist, or dancer. We are passionate about what we do but our occupation is seen as more of something you do as a hobby while working at something more prestigious. So we are seen as weird and unusual when we choose that occupation as our plan A and aren’t seen as successful until we reach commercial success.
Praises are reserved for high achieving writers and suddenly the weird factor disappears
but the writer hasn’t changed. But don’t tell me that JK Rowling or Stephen King or George RR Martin aren’t weird? Have you not read their novels? Have you not watched their interviews or seen quotes from them? Only brilliantly weird people could spin stories like theirs that capture people’s attention and transport them somewhere else. How about Margaret Atwood? That woman is so fun to watch in interviews. She’s what I’d call eccentric. Bottom line all writers are weird, whether just starting out or commercially successful.
Our weirdness is what makes you love our characters, our adventures, and our stories. If we weren’t up at 2AM pulling our hair out because our characters aren’t listening to what we’ve planned and are taking the story in another direction, you may never get a character with depth or feeling, that you love or despise at the same time. Yes, if you aren’t a writer, the idea of characters talking to us harkens back to the quote above. It makes us weird, quirky, and eccentric. It makes us challenge ourselves to write better, create better! So you can get an awesome story.
So if you know a writer, let us be weird. Let us ask the crazy questions that pop into our heads while working. Let us be writers because it’s the only thing we know how to be. It’s our calling and it has called us to be weird.