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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Modern Day Pioneer (My journey across the country and my next steps)

It has been approximately one week since I packed my entire life into the back of my car, and dedicated the front passenger seat to my cat and to her crate and headed west for California. I felt like the pioneers who came before me, many years ago, who traveled west and transformed the landscape into what is today the Southwestern United States, even if they did some bad things along the way. I’m sure that many of you who will be reading this, have probably taken this journey before, traveling far from home to chase your dreams, but for me, this is an entirely new experience and for those of you who are considering it, or have never taken this chance, I will share my experience with you.

I’ve divided this blog into four sections and they are: The Trip, the homesickness and the deal reached to cope with it, the job search, and my goals.

The Trip

The journey began at 7AM Central Standard Time when I departed from Chicago. With my packed car and some snacks, I gave my mom a big hug, told her that I loved her and set on my way. My first stop was a rest stop in Iowa where my car’s A/C decided to take a dive, so, I had to put the windows down and drive fast, or as a gentleman I spoke with at a gas station in Nebraska put it, “Put the windows down and drive like hell.” The A/C not working wasn’t a real issue until I got out of Colorado where I spent my first night. Driving through the mountains, it was nice and cool so the A/C wasn’t a big deal, this was also the case when I was driving through the mountains of Arizona, though if you’re not used to driving through mountains on roads that twist and wind every which way and are barely lit when you’re used to flatland, you freak out and drive very slow. If I recall correctly, the speed limit on such roads in Arizona was 65 MPH and I don’t think I went over 45 as people whizzed by me and probably thought I was nothing more than a tourist not used to these types of highways.

I didn’t sleep very well the first night when I stayed in Colorado. This was mainly because me being the neat freak that I am, the Super 8 I stayed in could have been cleaner and could have used some major updating. This is not to say that it was filthy but it could have been cleaned a lot better. I probably could have done more research into pet friendly motels/hotels in Colorado, but this particular Super 8 had middle of the road reviews and was affordable, though I wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t wait to get out of there so I checked out early, stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast and headed for Arizona. The drive through the rest of Colorado through Arizona, I can only describe as a roller coaster through the mountains, up and down, to the left, and to the right, something that I would imagine takes some getting used to if you were to drive these roads daily. The La Quinta Inn in Phoenix was very nice. It was clean, up to date, and the staff was wonderful. I don’t recall how many times I stopped for gas or just to take a break, but every time I did, I made sure that the cat was fed and given water, though she was not so interested just because she hates the car.

Once I got into  New Mexico, I really began to notice how wonderful A/C really is, for even with the windows down and 75 MPH, there is just no replacement for a good working A/C when you’re driving through the desert. I noticed how hot the cat was getting as she began to pant and that really began to scare me. I stopped a few times to see if she would drink, but she wouldn’t because I suspect she was stressed. I had to splash water on her from a bottle to cool her off, she ended up licking the water off of her fur so I knew that she was getting some fluids in her. I got through New Mexico as fast as I could and into California, making my way to my friend’s house in the valley.

What I took away from all of this was; that everything about your car can work great and crap out in a matter of seconds. I realized that chains that I once thought extinct such as Sinclair Oil are still alive and well as you get further west and trucks stops are pretty elaborate with everything you need, you could live in one if you really wanted or had to. As I drove, I took a look at a lot of license plates to see where people were driving from. I thought that I had come a long way, but I saw a few cars with plates from Minnesota and even as far away as Maryland and Maine. People travel and they travel everywhere, and then there’s the people you meet. I have never been one for stereotypes. I believe that people should have an opportunity to show you who they are regardless of race or location or any other insignificant labels society places on people. Every time you think of a state, you think of that state’s residents in a certain way due to stereotypes, and you find when talking to people, that these stereotypes are just nonsense. I did not come across an unfriendly person.

The Homesickness and the deal reached to cope with it 

I knew that eventually I would get homesick, but I didn’t expect it to strike so soon and be so bad. I will admit, that for the first few days I cried, and no, I don’t think it’s wimpy or whatever for men to cry. If you think that, you’re just ignorant. It had been a long time since I cried, the last time was over a year ago when I and my then girlfriend of five years went our separate ways. I had never been away from my mom before and that bothered me, her and I have been through a lot together, good and bad. And I really miss the dogs, yeah I have my cat, but the dogs are family too and  I miss them. I can’t say that I’m completely over being homesick, but I’m sure that in time it will go away. After all, people leave their country for others and leave their family behind to seek a better life, people go off to war and leave their families at home, I’m sure, I’ll survive.

However long my homesickness lasts, a deal has been reached between my mom and I to deal with it on behalf of both of us. First, we agreed to text everyday and call each other once in a while. This way, we know that we’re both safe and we can keep each other updated. 21st century technology is a wonderful thing. Second, we agreed that in roughly one year, after we both save up some money, I will find an apartment for the two of us, move out of my friend’s place and get a place with my mom, this way we will be together again, homesickness will no longer be an issue and I can take care of her as she’s getting older. Taking care of your parents in old age is something that we shamefully do not do in the west, especially the United States, this is just one of the many things that I admire of eastern culture for the younger generations take care of their elders. Knowing myself, I don’t suspect my homesickness will go away completely, but knowing that this is the plan and working towards that goal, will help me cope with it until this plan becomes a reality.

The Job search

Aside from the homesickness, there is one other thing that was truly bothering me about making the trip to California, and that is coming out here without a job lined up. I can’t recall the last time that I was unemployed and I’m the type of person who likes to work not only because I get bored out of my mind if I don’t, but I need to make sure that my bills are paid and are paid on time. I recall one of my favorite college professors from Northeastern Illinois University whom I took several classes with. He once told one of these classes that he grew up in a town in I believe South Carolina, could have been North Carolina, but anyway, he explained to the class that as an African American in the 60’s and 70’s, the town was not exactly friendly to him. Racial tensions were high, he explained. After completing his undergraduate work, he left the Carolinas and with nothing in his pocket made his way to Atlanta where his first job was at Popeye’s Chicken where he eventually became a manager before going to Florida where he studied to earn his PhD. After he had gotten his PhD. he taught in several states before moving to Chicago and getting on the tenure track at NEIU. I never forgot this story and as I made this journey, I kept his story in the back of my mind.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve applied to every place that is hiring. I have plenty of retail experience so I’ve been looking into that field as well. I did apply to the security company that my friend works for, they really liked my resume and my experience and want to bring me aboard, but I can’t start working until the state of California approves my security guard license, I’m waiting for the federal background check to come back and then everything should be ready to go.  This process can take 7-10 business days, today is day 7 since I submitted everything and to be honest, I am growing impatient. I have had several other interviews and two tomorrow. I have also been looking at and applying to nonprofits in the area and will continue to do so, for if I can get into one of those, I would be able to help make the difference that I’ve always wanted to. I should be patient, but I can’t help it. I need to start working, paying the bills, and saving up.

My Goals 

I came to California with several goals in mind. The first of which is my short term goal, to get a job and save up money so that I can get an apartment and bring my mom out here within a year. The second is find a tutor and study for the GRE and begin taking the steps to get into graduate school, which is one of the main reasons I made my way to California, the universities are excellent and unlike my native state of Illinois, there is no budget crisis, there’s funding for the state universities, as well as financial aid. Once in graduate school, I will be studying for my PhD. in Political Science. Once finished, I intend on teaching college for a while, writing, and pursuing some other endeavors. These are my goals and I will do anything that I have to, in order to make sure that all of these goals are achieved. I believe that I can do this and I will.

If you have taken this step in life, then you know exactly where I am coming from and you know exactly what I am feeling. If you haven’t made this journey to any location in the world, I hope that by sharing my experience with you, I have helped you decide or not decide to leave home, but if you do decide to go away from home, remember that it will all work out as long as you are determined and passionate.

Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors.

-Brett T. Mazzoni