Can’t talk. Brooding.

1 Nov

NaNoWriMo Starts Today!!!

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by Biljana Likic

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Allow me to introduce myself. I am….a Writer. You look at me and you see literary brilliance ready to burst out of my fingers like the morning sun. Yes, this is a coffee in my right hand, and yes, that’s a lit cigarette in my left. The amber liquid you saw me sneaking into my cup was, in fact, whiskey, and now that you know, you must pity me and think I’m truly tortured. Just that you see me out of my natural habitat of a cave filled with paper and pens means you’re fortunate indeed, and my speaking to you must mean that I’ve had enough to drink to release my natural inhibitions and shyness.

A part of you wants to leave, that’s how intimidated you are by the phantom conversations going on in my head that I will later write down after I feed my two cats. Another part stays out of kindness; I don’t get out much, you see, and so people speaking to me is a rare occurrence.

Even so, you know that I don’t mind because I am used to it. I have lived my entire life in misunderstood solitude, and no mere mortal will ever be able to compare their knowledge of human truths to mine.

Now excuse me while I walk off holding on to my black beret lest it blow away in the chill wind that only I feel.

Shit.

Deep, right?

Wrong!

Total stereotypes! For the most part, at least. I don’t doubt that there are writers who are very reserved, or have drinking problems, or live secluded lives. Just like there are normal people who are very reserved, have drinking problems, or live secluded lives. What annoys me is when people think that all writers are like this.

This is directly the reason why I hold off mentioning to people that I’m a writer until they have a solid first impression of me. It only happened once that it was one of the first things I said, and the difference in attitude I got from this person was huge. Immediately, she went “Oh…” and I could just see the thoughts going through her mind:

“Damn pretentious writers. Think they’re special. Think they know shit.”

Well yes. I do think I know shit.

But it’s not because I’m an alcoholic, or I smoke, or I own cats, or wear black berets, or because I’m quiet. In fact none of those things can be applied to me.

I know shit because I talk to people. I observe real characters before creating my own.

Which is what I wanted to bring up in this article.

One of a writer’s biggest stereotypes is how secluded they are. I think this is true to a point. I think most writers are secluded because they’re too busy writing. But once in a while, you have to go out. You have to meet a variety of people so you can draw from them consciously or unconsciously. And here’s why.

Say these are some of the only people you have in your life that you see consistently: your mother, your father, your brother, your best friend, and your husband.

Now say you write a book. Say it’s about a woman who’s married, has a brother, living parents, and a best friend.

Guess who those people are going to be based off of.

This is totally fine. Until you get to your next book. Which is perhaps about a woman who has a boyfriend, a best friend, and one parent.

Well the boyfriend is going to be of similar character to the husband in the first one, the best friend is going to become the token girlfriend in all your books, and whenever the one parent mentions their missing counterpart, they’ll probably have a similar personality to the parent in the previous book.

They’re going to become your stock characters. If that’s all you know, that’s all you know. If your husband is reserved, your heroes will be reserved, because in your life those are the only heroes you can understand. You’re at risk of having these stock characters become story constants.

Which is why I implore you. Go out and talk to people. You don’t have to make friends, you just have to make judgments. Approach somebody you think you know because of their appearance and find out if they’ll break the stereotype. And if they do, how do they break it? Store the information somewhere. Start studying people. Because if all you really know is five characters, that’s going to come through. And though you may try breaking the pattern, putting in new things, it’s very possible that the new characters you create will be caricatures; too big or too one-dimensional.

I already know that there will be some of you who don’t agree with anything I’m saying. You will say that I’m wrong because there are so many writers who were secluded and reserved and had fabulous career lives.

Yeah, but a lot of them also went crazy or killed themselves or wrote themselves into depression.

Basically, what I’m saying is, even if you are socially impaired and find it really hard to make friends and meet new people, the outcome has the potential to vastly improve your writing. Not to mention, your life. And you might think it’s easy for me to say this, because I’m not like that, but the thing is I am. I don’t like meeting new people. It makes me feel vulnerable, and I don’t like the feeling of judgment I get when I go up to someone and say hello, even if it’s imagined. Especially when it’s imagined. At least if it’s real I can call them a bitch and move on. But if it’s imagined, I’m left with a feeling of invalidated insecurity that can linger for ages.

Relationships take time to build but it’s something I get over for the sake of a new friendship, connection, or, frankly, a template for a new character.

It wouldn’t kill anybody to try the same.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

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29 Responses to “Can’t talk. Brooding.”

  1. NLMars November 1, 2010 at 12:07 AM #

    On the tiny topic of writer stereotypes, when I came out to my friends that I was a writer, they all said the same thing: “But Mars! You don’t drink coffee! You don’t even LIKE caffeine! How can you be a writer?!”
    To which I replied with a scowl and killed them all (in the stories I wrote them into…)

    But yeah, I’ve found that if I hole myself up and just write, yeah, I do tend to write a lot more, but I also slwoly get more and more depressed as the lonliness sinks in.

    Good article. :D

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 12:19 AM #

      LOL yeah okay. In the “stories” ;).

      And yes, exactly. After a while I want to just go up to randoms and hug them. It’s not just talking to people that I start missing but human contact in general.

  2. Marina November 1, 2010 at 12:09 AM #

    “Damn pretentious writers. Think they’re special. Think they know shit.” —- I can’t breath!! LOL!!! That is so true!!!
    I just used triple exclamation points, I’m so ashamed of myself.
    But it’s true! Once in awhile we have to climb out of our Caves of Seclusion to research and observe real people. And then write little parts of them into our novels.
    Okay, maybe I’m laying it on a little thick there, but I just got really amused by this article. Because it’s so true!!! (!)

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 12:20 AM #

      Hahahahaha I’m glad you found it so funny!!! (< there, I'm making you feel better :D)

      • Marina November 1, 2010 at 8:43 AM #

        Awww. Thanks. :D

  3. Olga November 1, 2010 at 12:41 AM #

    Funny, no one’s ever tried those stereotypes on me. :P Maybe because I say “I’m a writer” in the same exact tone I say “I have an exam this week” or “Your fly is open” or “No thanks, I don’t like pickles.” It’s just a fact.

    Or maybe I’m just weird. Really do hate pickles, though. True story.

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 12:47 AM #

      That’s a good point. I probably just have a “tone”, and it’s likely something a little challenging like “Dare rebuke me and you die” because I’m still getting used to telling people :P. Maybe one day I’ll have your confidence in that fact and won’t have to deal with the stereotypes anymore :).

      And lol when I read “I have an exam this week” I thought you meant that you say “I’m a writer” in a morose tone with a hint of denial.

      • Olga November 1, 2010 at 8:40 AM #

        Oh goodness no. For one thing, I love exams. Tests in general make me really happy. The only time my tone is morose with a hint of denial is when I get a burger and they put pickles on it. :(

        • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 8:48 AM #

          A truly terrible realization indeed!

      • Caitlin November 1, 2010 at 8:51 AM #

        When I read “I have an exam this week” I thought she meant it in that “That’s why I can’t fulfill any of these obligations despite knowing the exam was coming up for weeks now” tone of voice. Which is a mark of my own particular neuroses, but also entertaining that we all read it with a different tone.

        • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 11:10 PM #

          I believe it’s called projection :P.

  4. Armith-Greenleaf November 1, 2010 at 1:52 AM #

    Grrreeeeeat post! This is true, people’s interactions can be the best form of inspiration. Sometimes even TV will do the trick. Stepping away from the laptop/computer/typewriter/notebook/paper pile is good too, to let the ideas sink or swim (or both!)

    And the one big writer stereotype I fit, aside from being mostly a hermit, is my hurricane-swept desk/room. It makes me feel bohemian. :P

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 8:50 AM #

      Omg my room is always a mess! But I can always find everything. Organized chaos is how I roll.

      And there is the bohemian thing :D.

  5. TymCon November 1, 2010 at 5:53 AM #

    Oh crap…I mostly wear black. At least I don’t drink coffee (I drink tea). For some strange reason ever since I said I liked writing (See, not callign myself a writer) my freinds have been askign me if i’m writing a book. Which is nice, but makes me feel incredibly bad since I haven’tXD
    Oh there were books for 2.99 in the shop yesterday:O And they were books like Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind (which I can’t tell whether I like or not), James Herbert etc. I think they got a bit damp because the paper looked a bit…darker. But they were readable.
    And I left my money at homeXD

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 9:29 AM #

      Haha yeah a lot of short story writers get pissed off at that question. Frankly, I get offended when people assume I’d like writing short stories :P. Works both ways I guess.

      Unless you write both…heh.

      I only ever read Wizard’s First Rule and adored it, but I never checked out any other stuff by Goodkind. And I have to admit I picked it up at a bookstore….for $2.

      • TymCon November 1, 2010 at 3:23 PM #

        It was good and not so good. The literal writing was clunky, but the plotting and worldbuildign was good. The whole Kahlan and Richard thing just annoyed me. Although I kidn of hated Darken Rahl. Well I hated him, but I liked him as a villian. An all whit robe is pretty sylish:O
        (shrugs) Maybe I’m just traumatised by what happened Denna/Richard or (shudders) Demmin Ness. Although admitedly Demmin was a B******

        • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 5:53 PM #

          Yeah the actual storytelling was a bit off, but like you said, the worldbuilding was awesome.

          Okay. I don’t like the name Richard!!! Kahlan is a sweet-ass name and he got stuck with Richard! And the evil people’s names were a little too transparently evil :P.

          But I’m also a touch neurotic when it comes to names…so it’s probably not something most care about haha.

      • TymCon November 1, 2010 at 3:30 PM #

        (Facepalm) Double reply.
        If you liked Goodkind you’ll definetly like George RR Martin (kind of graphic and dark, but definitely no more than WFR)
        And Robert Jordan (Very good. tolkien imitator, but for once that’s a compliment. Good imagery and description)
        Brent Weeks (good plot, iffy literal writing)

        (stops tryign to convert people to epic fantasy)

        • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 5:56 PM #

          Lol I’ve read some Robert Jordan but found him a bit weird. And the trouble with epic fantasy is how much you wish it were real after you’ve read it….for the most part lol.

          Another thing I’ve noticed is that they answer so many questions about the world, and while that’s awesome, I like me some mystery.

    • savannahjfoley November 1, 2010 at 1:40 PM #

      Lol I wear a lot of black too, but it’s all office clothing. I’m not good with color-coordinating.

  6. authorguy November 1, 2010 at 5:55 AM #

    Spot on. I have always said that the best and perhaps only way to have success as a writer is to pay attention to your life, so it helps to have a life to which you can pay attention.

    Marc Vun Kannon

    http://authorguy.wordpress.com

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 9:30 AM #

      Very true, very true. Too bad so many things get in the way of having a life :P.

  7. Jess November 1, 2010 at 6:59 AM #

    Fantastic post, Billy! This is so true. I have to be told to go out during the week, but that’s when I’m writing. I’m cool with living in a cave all week – because my weekends are always booked up. :)

    My best friend and I went into Philly this weekend to see a play (about writing :snicker:) and it was wonderful. We came outside and I surveyed all the other attendees – a fun exercise in itself. One young woman looked like an utter bimbo in expensive dress. And then I got close enough to hear her discussing how much worse emotional adultery is to physical adultery, one of the central ideas in the play. She was kinda impassioned. It was a nice surprise, I guess, and totally illustrates your post, not just in the getting out and experiencing things, but in the unique character templates.

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 9:42 AM #

      Yeah, it makes you wonder what experience they’re speaking from! There’s so much to work with that it forces you to look past appearances.

  8. 秋月 キサキ November 1, 2010 at 10:51 PM #

    Funny how people go “Oh, look that person is a ______! How ________!!!”

    It’s not just writers. D:

    • Biljana November 1, 2010 at 11:11 PM #

      Ugh it’s true… :(.

  9. Renate December 4, 2010 at 8:18 PM #

    umm…haha I don’t know how to take that. I wear a lot of black because it’s easy, I think berets are adorable, and I love the smell (and sometimes the taste) of coffee. At least I don’t smoke.
    Of course, writing is a hobby for me, nothing more, so I would never introduce myself as a writer. Although no profession is without its stereotypes; when I tell people “I’m a nurse,” what they hear is, “Please, tell me about that weird rash your aunt has and seek my advice regarding your child’s chronic illness and ask me all about the weird bowel movement you had yesterday.” lol. fun post

    • Biljana December 4, 2010 at 8:38 PM #

      Take it with a grain of salt! :D

      And ugh…that’s gross lol. You have my sympathies :).

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Can’t talk. Brooding. Edition 1 – Health [...]

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