In some ways, this post is a follow-up, or a “part 2” to my recent post “4 Myths About Being a Writer”, in which I discussed common myths that young writers struggle with in regards to what it takes to become a “true” author. However today, I’m going to talk about one large misconception that the general public tends to have about teenage writers.
Often times, when someone says they are a writer, people who have little to no experience or knowledge about teenage authors assume that they identify with “the teenage writer stereotype.” Or, if they have met one writer who fits into that category, they assume all others are the same way. This stereotype however, was not created by teenage writers, but by people with little knowledge about how they [we] actually work. Once they begin taking you seriously about being a writer, they like to box you into what is typically referred to as “The Introvert Stereotype.”
People who don’t understand or associate with young writers often tend to assume that they:
a) Are extremely introverted, often to the point of hermitage (i.e. completely unsociable)
b) Hide out in caves 24/7, cranking out 5,000 words in a single setting
c) Never leave the house for “real” adventures (i.e. don’t go outside)
d) Have utterly flawless grammar
e) Wear glasses and have pencils stuck behind their ears at all times
f) Conduct thorough research on a vast number of subjects, including the very minute details of their writing
g) Are nerds, geeks, and virtually walking encyclopedias
h) Speak Shakespearian (i.e. have large vocabularies and are incredibly well-versed)
i) Never do anything else
And then if you don’t fit that mold, the myth that “somehow you aren’t actually a writer” is born, and often believed. Young people who don’t fit into this category are often more hesitant to express their desires to be authors, because…what if that’s not who you are supposed to be? What if that’s not the “type” of person you are? After all, 99.9% of all young writers are like that, so you won’t fit in. Right?
Actually, this whole thing is a huge misconception. I recently conducted a survey in which I interviewed more than seventy young writers on the subject of this stereotype. The results might shock some people, but I can’t say that I was surprised. Being a young writer myself, I’ve become pretty tired of the common “box” people liked to put me in, because I know I don’t fit it.
In this survey, I gave out a list of questions, and also presented the stereotype. Then I asked them each to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how well they identified with it. Roughly 90% of them identified as less than a five. This was not surprising to me, as I personally identify at about a six. For example, I am probably 95% introverted, but I really enjoy things like hiking and swimming and being outdoors in the summer. And though I hope to make a career of writing, I do have numerous other hobbies.
Statistically, the charts showed what some people might consider amazing results. For example, only 3.8% described themselves as “extremely introverted hermits”, and less than 40% identified with having “flawless grammar.” Almost 40% considered themselves extroverted rather than introverted, and about the same number conceded that their grammar was, in fact, not that great. Forty-three percent said their grammar was “fair”, but certainly not perfect, or even that good. And when I asked if they spoke Shakespearean, half of them just laughed.
The idea that all, or even most young writers fit into this stereotype is ridiculous. It’s even more ridiculous to believe that, in order to be accepted as a writer, you must conform to this mold. This “Introverted Stereotype” is actually a very small percentage of teenage authors. Also, the belief that introverts tell better stories than extroverts is a huge lie. I happen to know authors with both types of personalities who are very talented.
In fact, the diversity of personalities, types, and tendencies of young writers is part of what makes the group itself so fascinating. While many of us have commonalities, it’s our differences that allow for growth and expansion, as opposed to the boring reality we would have if everyone was part of a stereotype. (Especially this one.)
Often, one of the only things teenage authors have in common is that they like to tell stories. How they go about it, the amount of time they spend working on projects, what setting they prefer to write in, the hobbies they have outside of storytelling etc. vary in as many ways as there are writers. So never let someone tell you that “You aren’t actually a writer”, or “You just don’t strike me as the ‘writing type.’” There IS no “writing type.”
Writing is a place where you are free to be you. It doesn’t matter what “type” of person you are, how diverse your hobbies are, or how perfect your grammar is. If you want to be a writer, you will be a writer, and no one will be able to change that.