Are Writers Rude, Seclusive Addicts?

When those who don’t write think about those of us who do, many stereotypes may come to mind. They might view us as “hermits” who never leave their homes and sit in front of a typewriter (or today a computer) jamming away at the keys and cranking out words. They might think that we’re drug addicts and drink alcohol like a fish drinks water. They might think that we’re lonely, depressed, miserable souls who hate the world and live in our own. They might think that we are rude and that we are sex addicts. We as writers, know that this is far from the truth as many of us are still trying to make it; we have day jobs, we have families to take care of and we go to college. These stereotypes are as old as the written word itself as the issues of Hemmingway and others always seem to come to mind, and TV and Hollywood as of late have embraced the stereotype of the writer and used it as the basis of its plots. I will provide a couple of examples.

The FXX show You’re the Worst depicts the life of British-born writer Jimmy Shive-Overly, living in Los Angeles who wrote one semi-successful book titled, “Congratulations, You’re Dead” and hasn’t written much since, aside from pieces for various magazines at the request of his agent who is simply trying to ensure that Jimmy has an income. Jimmy drinks constantly, sleeps around, and is downright rude, he excuses his behavior by claiming that he “tells it as it is” and has a phobia of committing to relationships after his prior engagement was called off. His fear of commitment does change however when he meets Gretchen, a PR rep for a local rap group who is almost the mirror image of him with her own alcohol and drug problems and anxiety and depression issues. Together, they make each other happy in a miserable sort of way and keep their relationship going, based on the fact that they both know that they can bail out at any time. The show will be entering its fourth season later this year.

Californication aired on the Showtime network from 2007-2014 and revolved around the life of novelist Hank Moody, played by David Duchovny. After writing four successful novels, Moody is plagued by alcoholism and writer’s block. For several years Moody hasn’t written a word aside from blogs, especially one that is owned by the fiancé of his former partner, Karen. Moody also sleeps around, in some cases, with a different woman in every episode. This is do-in-part to his lack of the ability to say “no”. These and many other things, he blames for his inability to produce new material. Despite his flaws, he is a good father to his teenage daughter Becca and is still a reliable partner for Karen who has some of her own issues. Moody also holds onto the hope that one day, he and Karen will get back together.

The 2000 film, Finding Forrester starring Sean Connery, focuses on the reclusive stereotype of the writer. Connery plays William Forrester who wrote one successful novel and retires into seclusion. Living in a Bronx apartment, Forrester spends his days watching the neighborhood teenagers play basketball on the court below. When the teens take notice, they dare Jamal Wallace, sixteen-years-old to sneak into the apartment and steal something. When Jamal takes up the bet, he is surprised by Forrester and leaves his backpack behind. The next day, Forrester drops Jamal’s backpack out of the window. When Jamal retrieves it, he finds that Forrester wrote notes in his notebooks. Jamal returns and asks to read more of Forrester’s work and asks for advice on his own writing. After some hesitation and refusal, Forrester eventually agrees and the two form a relationship where Forrester helps Jamal improve his writing abilities. Eventually, Forrester does leave his home, walking into an empty Yankee Stadium with Jamal. There’s much more to the plot, but since I am focusing only on the stereotype of the writer in the story, you will have to read the plot or watch the movie for yourself.

These are just a few examples of how stereotypes of writers are ingrained into the minds of the general public, in the minds of those who themselves, are not writers. When Hollywood and TV focus on only these aspects of what a writer is and fail to look at the reality that the majority of writers are actually normally functioning people, with no addictions, healthy families, and relationships; who work days jobs because we haven’t sold the number of books that Stephen King has, people, will always have the wrong impression of what and how we truly are.

My advice for those who think all writers are rude, seclusive, drug and sex addicts, is to get to know a writer. It’s really the same as learning to understand a person of a different ethnic or religious background, you can’t judge a book by its cover (pun intended) just the same as you can’t judge a person by their appearance or by what you’ve heard about the group from which they come, the same goes for writers. Get to know us and realize that the negative viewpoints that have been placed on us pretty much since the written word was invented, are false, they are not always true and remember we in our own right are artists. Imagine how boring the world would be without music, without literature, without creative minds to entertain you with words, whether it is on the pages of a book or on the screen. Stereotypes do hurt, they don’t so much bother me, but when the view of my profession is always negative, it does become slightly bothersome.

I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t watch the shows and the movie I referenced above. I have watched them all and they are very good. They are worthy of your time, just remember that the images of the writers depicted in them are not always true.

-Brett T. Mazzoni

Photo retrieved from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/writers-mind

 

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Can we have a Common Sense Challenge?

Over the past several years, there has been a lot of “challenges” floating around the Internet, and every one of them has been more insanely stupid than the one that preceded it.

First, there was the “gallon challenge” in which the idea was to chug a gallon of milk as quickly as possible or drink an entire gallon within an hour without vomiting. A similar challenge existed, chugging a gallon of water which resulted in the 2007 death of a California woman after she consumed a gallon of water as part of a radio station contest where the winner would win a Nintendo Wii. Then there was the cinnamon challenge which became popular around 2012, where one would post a video of themselves on Youtube eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon and not drinking any water for 60 seconds. Generally, the result was the person choking and lunging for water. This led to a rise in calls to poison control centers. The risk of this challenge was that cellulose which is an inert substance which doesn’t easily break down could get lodged in the lungs and suffocate the person foolish enough to take on this so-called challenge.

Finally, there was the “bath-salt challenge” where teens would snort or ingest large quantities of synthetic drugs that can be purchased at convenience stores, liquor stores, and various other places. The drugs are advertised as “safe” and legal alternatives to illegal drugs that when taken, produce the same amphetamine-like stimulation and hallucinations one would experience if they took ecstasy. This was the suspected cause of death of a 28-year-old woman in Wisconsin in 2011.

The new “challenge” that is trending is being referred to as the “Tide Pod Challenge”, where people bite into the pods that contain Tide laundry soap or fry them in pans and quickly chew them before spewing the soap from their mouth. This is the most bizarre challenge as of yet, at least to me. With the cinnamon challenge, the risks may not have been known at first, after all, most of us eat cinnamon and it tastes great! But Tide Pods? It would simply be common sense to know that consuming laundry detergent would be toxic. It’s common knowledge that there are chemicals in it that when consumed, could be fatal. There are even warnings on every bottle and container that clearly relay the dangers of putting the substance into your mouth, let alone swallowing it. It would be one thing if it were a young child mistaking the colorful, scented pods for candy and popping them into their mouths as toddlers often do with things. This was a problem a while back and Tide responded by telling parents to keep laundry detergents out of the reach of children. That should also be common sense to any parent. But those who are doing this “challenge” are teenagers who should know a little better and exercise slightly better judgment, at least to the best of their ability. Tide has responded to this epidemic by warning people of the dangers and are urging people not to participate, YouTube has also removed videos of people engaging in this ludicrous trend.

The key words in the paragraph above are “common sense”. The problem, I think, is that there is not enough of it in today’s society, or as the old saying goes, “sense isn’t common” and things like the Tide Pod Challenge are proof of that. This is why I think the new trend or “challenge” should be dubbed “The Common Sense Challenge” where people use their common sense and not ingest, snort, or whatever hazardous materials or do things that would put themselves or others in danger and post it online so that it goes viral, and even better, if people would exercise their common sense and not repeat the idiotic thing they saw somebody else doing, we could cut down on hospital visits and calls to poison control centers for reasons of stupidity and negligence. Use your common sense, be a part of the Common Sense Challenge and put an end to this craziness!

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/woman-dies-after-water-drinking-contest/

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/consequences-of-the-cinnamon-challenge/

https://www.forensicmag.com/news/2011/05/bath-salts-latest-synthetic-drug-challenge

Trying to Figure it Out (Confused)

One of the hardest things about life is, trying to figure out what it is you want to do. You grow up hearing, you can be anything you want, but that isn’t always the reality. It’s getting harder and harder to get ahead these days and finding manufacturing jobs these days is very difficult as many of those jobs are being lost to automation or are being shipped overseas. The days of finding a good paying factory job and being able to buy a home and support a family on your wage are gone. A high school diploma doesn’t hold water anymore and a Bachelors’ degree is beginning to spring leaks of its own as a Master’s degree is increasingly becoming the standard in order to find a job.

This is the problem I’m running into. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies and Political Science and despite three internships and extensive research throughout my college days, I’m having a difficult time finding work. Every type of job I want to hold requires either a Master’s degree or five plus years of experience or both and my experience doesn’t add up to enough. I’m currently working a job that is sort of in tune with my fields of study but the pay is fairly low and there is a lack of work/life balance and upper management doesn’t care about your needs outside of work all that much. I would still like to get my Mater’s in Public Administration but recent trends show that the job outlook for people with such a degree is shrinking. I’m asking myself, do I want more debt in student loans if I’m not guaranteed a good paying job to pay off that debt and live on? The shrinking job market is why I decided not to pursue journalism which was my childhood dream, because the need for journalists is shrinking and is projected to continue to dwindle away, and the odds of landing a high paying job with a major network are pretty rare and getting anywhere as a freelance journalist is much more difficult than some make it out to be.

I always told myself that no matter what happened, and no matter how many of my goals I failed to accomplish, the one dream that I refuse to fail at is being a writer. Writing has been my dream since I was eight years old which is when I picked up a pen for the first time and wrote a story. Ideally, I would have liked to have some things published by now, but life and college got in the way. I’ve thought about getting another degree in creative writing but again, is the extra debt worth it? And what kind of job outside of a low-paying job will I find with that? I’m better off sticking with my current degree or pursuing another one that will earn me a decent paycheck and continue to write and work towards publication.

I often think, how great would it be to be able to be a stay at home dad when I have children? I would do the housework, take care of the kids and spend the rest of my time writing. It’s 2017, gender roles don’t or at least shouldn’t exist where it’s unacceptable for the man to stay home. The problem is, I have my own debt, student loans especially. I can’t expect somebody else to pay that off if I’m not making a good chunk of change off of my writing. There’s self-publishing yes, but even that, even with more affordable outlets, it takes time to get a name for yourself and start making enough money to live on. Not everybody will sell as many books as Stephen King even though that is the dream of every writer.

This is what I’m trying to figure out. What would you suggest if you were in my shoes? What are you trying to figure out for yourself? Are you in a similar position? If so, please share in the comments. I hope you figure it out. Let’s figure it out together. In the meantime, I’ll keep job hunting and continue to write and hope to have something ready to go for publication this year, even if it’s a shorter work that is self-published.

-Brett T. Mazzoni