Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Character of Writers

This has been on my mind for a couple of days and I thought I'd pose the question and see what turns up.

Last week some time, I read a rather disturbing account of 'what's wrong with writers' written by of all people, a publisher, who shall remain nameless.

The consensus of this diatribe was that writers are flighty, high strung creative types who are difficult to deal with even under the best of circumstances. That's not a verbatim account, mind you, just my impression of the long-winded complaint that I read.

While I'll happily own the 'creative' part, and being creative isn't always a blessing, mind you. It can be rather frustrating a lot of the time, I have not now, nor have I ever been [at least as far as I know] flighty or high strung. [DH might argue the latter. He thinks I'm largely insane, reactionary and easily flung off the deep end, but he's wrong.]

Flighty to me says someone who can't be trusted, is constantly fluttering from one thing to another and never quite knows where they're going to land. I'm pretty stable as far as that goes. I'm dependable and fairly focused, except when it comes to housework in which case, yes, I probably could be described as mildly flightly. Like a bee.

High strung - nah. I really don't think of myself as high strung, and of the writers I know, I can't really name anyone whom I would classify as high strung. To me that says someone who is nervous, easily upset, given to ranting [I only rant about banks mind you] and hyper-sensitive. I probably used to be hyper-sensitive, but I'm over that now.

So what I'm getting at is, as a writer, are you flighty and high strung? I tend to think flighty, high strung people will have a hard time making it in this business. You really need to be rock solid and focused to get by in a world where success is measured in weeks and months of waiting time and rejections are badges of honor. Writing a novel is a long process that takes buckets of BIC [butt in chair] and grueling attention to detail. High strung people will fall to pieces over ignored submissions, year-long waits, rewrite and revision requests that don't amount to a sale, rejections, tedious edits, the minutiae [sp?] of going over galleys for typos and the endless drag of promotions and marketing strategies. The high strung, flighty types are going to fall out of the writer's rat race pretty early in the game and end up gibbering on the sidelines.

What do you think? Is being flighty and high strung all part and parcel of being a 'creative writer type'? Or is that just a symptom of those who ultimately won't be able to cut the mustard?


Jen said...

Hmmmm....I read your post yesterday and decided to think on it for a day before replying.

I think that SOME writers are flighty. So are some secretaries, teachers, book store employees, baristas, waitresses, engineers, and astronauts. I think the flighty ones are the squeaky wheels who get all the attention (and give others in their field bad reputations).

I agree that it takes hard work and a pretty stable personality for most writers to find any measure of success in this crazy business.

This was a thought-provoking post...and now I have a headache.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I know I'M not flighty or high strung. Unless high strung refers to being a control freak. Then, yes. I'm that. LOL!

That publisher probably has a case of "a few bad apples spoil the rest" kind of thing.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Hey, this is the Jennifer thread! Sorry to give you a headache. It sort of gave me one too. I think I'll flutter off now and have a hissy fit somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like it's the publisher who's high strung and flighty! And completely unprofessional if they posted this somewhere!

In all of my experience, I've met some doozies of "off the wall authors," but in thinking back, I'd make a good guess and say it was a mere handful among dozens and dozens. Probably less than 5% of them. Again I think it's the publisher who is having a major meltdown and shouldn't be calling the kettle black when they've publically painted themselves into an ebony corner!