Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Six Types of Writers


Before I go further, I just want to disclaim that I am not denegrating any of these "types" of writers. Every kind of writer has good and bad points and I've tried to highlight those in as interesting and entertaining a way as I can. From my experience, all these types exists, with a vengeance, but, a writer is rarely composed entirely of one type. I would break myself down as follows:

%40 Space Cadet
%20 Weird Recluse
%13 Greasy Palm
%13 Angry Young Man
%12 Ray of Sunshine
%2 Bitter Failure

So, really, I understand and sympathize with all author types. So, I don't want anyone getting offended here! If I am laughing at the eccentricities of any of these types, I am also laughing at myself.  Because there is a bit of each type in my make-up, even if I most fully identify with the Space Cadet!

Without Further Ado...

The Ugly Side of Writing presents...

The Six Types of Writers:



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1. The Space Cadet:

Being firmly in this category, I have to say I consider it the most quintessential author--the most "authorish" of the authors.  Space cadets spend most of their time in an alternate reality and their fiction(they tend to write fiction) is really nothing more than the residue of their constant daydreaming.  It sounds unforgivably self-congratulatory, but I consider the space cadet to be the closest to a "Born Writer" than any other of our class of writers.

All the more "out there" universes of literature; all the most imaginative departures were brought about by a space cadet's supersonic burst into fantasy--Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien(and I suspect J.K. Rowling)--anyone who ever dreamed up anything mind-blowing in it's strangeness and/or originality was surely a Space Cadet, at least in half-measures.

The space cadet may be standing right in front of you, but he or she may, in fact, be an honest-to-goodness space cadet, at the moment of viewing.  I have had space adventures while commuting to work, and I am not ashamed to admit it.  I would, in fact, be ashamed about how weird that sounds, if I could help it.  But, much like a sufferer of tourette's syndrome, my space journeys are entirely involuntary.  They just sort of happen.  Unlike tourette's, which is a serious and tragic detriment to one's quality of life, I have found that a space cadet's "imaginative tourettes" is relatively harmless, so long as you keep a grip on your surroundings at all time and avoid busy streets, with poorly marked cross-walks.  Not only is it harmless, it occasionally results in the accidental creation of a novel or two.

The upside to the space cadet is that writing is, in all truth, their life and passion.  If a space cadet tells you they are a writer, you can be sure they are a writer.  In fact, they are probably a writer on more dimensions of existence than the non-space cadet could possibly imagine.Their work is likely to be imaginative and original to the extreme--possibly to truly disturbing extremes and it is not unheard of for the space cadet to invent new genre and styles of writing. Not because they're the brightest of the writer types, but only because they are the most commited, the most absorbed and the most passionate about creating new, exciting realities.

The Ugly Truth about the space cadet is the fact they're very unlikely to ever have any career, to speak of. Unless someone with a firmer grasp of reality steers their ship for them(it is ideal for a space cadet to have a literary agent for this purpose), the space cadet is likely to steer their latest writing project right into an iceberg and sink their career without any further ado.  But at least the space cadet will thoroughly enjoy themselves, imagining the dark and tragic vessel, as it sinks below the waves of a merciless sea.  If the space cadet gets any attention, or happens to score a marketing success, it will be purely by accident.  A given Cadet may decide to do a book launch or a tour, but the motivation will not be business-based.  The space cadet enjoys almost any experience, including book tours.  But even this, when successful, will have been brought about by pure chance.  They could have just as easily decided to spend that week people-watching at the airport, rather than choosing to do a book tour.  And so, any marketing is well and truly the result of happenstance. 

As a result, accidental popularity is really the space cadet's only hope of success, unless they can land an agent. Luckily,their originality and imagination ocassionally do lead to their discovery by the public and a quite appropriate celebration of their talents--but this happens for too scarcely, in the real world.  It is more likely the market will already be flooded with the works of Greasy Palm writers and the space cadet must while away his/her lonely days embarking on the galactic journeys of their nomad souls.  Luckily for the space cadet, this is all they really want from life, anyways.


2. The Greasy Palm:

The greasy palm, when he/she tries to launch a writing career, is all about the business.  The actual act of writing may almost be seen as an unpleasant pre-requisite.  The real fun, for the greasy palm, is the long sales campaign to follow.  This writer is the polar opposite from the Space Cadet, who lives to create and is often clueless about the marketing end(and would likely not care, even if they did know).  I have always said that writers and literary critics are entirely opposite and incompatible people, and never the twain should meet. I know there are some writers who are also literary critics, and vice versa, but in truth I don't think it is possible to be both. More likely it will be a born writer, masquerading as a critic or a born critic, trying hard to be a writer.  A lot of these born critics trying to be authors can be classified as Greasy Palms.  They are not always so, but they could as easily be born proof-readers or born marketing directors, trying to be writers--the point is, they are business and detail-oriented individuals and are not creatives, at heart.

A born critic writes self-consciously. Every sentence is judged on the merits of "Will they like this in Chicago?  Will they like this in South-West London?"  Basically, they write to please, not to create.  You can identify the critic masquerading as an author by the easy, inoffensive nature of their writing and usually by their relatively small body of work.  Although some suspected Greasy Palm type writers, such as Deepak Chopra, may in fact be prolific. But always, the hype about the Greasy Palm's work will be much bigger and more spectacular than his or her actual body of work.

A born writer, on the other hand, is far too open minded to make a good critic.  Their creativity usually stems from their general ability to empathise and read situations, right down to the most secret and hidden inner truths.  Anything fascinates them, because they can see so much, which may be invisible to most other people. As a result of this lush perception of things, they like experiences of all kinds--no matter how mundane or downright awful.  And so, they have a strong tendency to accept whatever they see, hear or read.  A writer masquerading as a critic is easily identifiable by their extremely soft touch; their seeming inability to locate the glaring errors or stylistic monstrosity of what they're reading, because they are too busy getting lost in the narrative.

The upside to the greasy palm is their sixth sense for what people like and, consequently, what will sell.  You are very likely to find this type of writer on the best-seller's list.  The greasy palm is the absolute dream of the publishers, because both the publisher and the greasy palm are primarily concerned with the business end of things.  They are entirely of one mind and this suits both parties perfectly.  The greasy palm knows how to get their work read, and in that way, they are the most likely to succeed, of our entire class of writers.  If sales and exposure are your yard-stick, this is the very best kind of writer.  This writer is also the most likely to have uniformly good reviews, because this type of writer knows best what the critics are looking for and generally don't put their thoughts to paper, unless they are 100% certain that everyone will approve of what they have to say.

The Ugly Truth about the greasy palm is the fact they don't really like writing and are not really suited to anything creative.  Their minds are well suited to forming marketing strategies and editing raw text--in search of punctuation errors--but not to anything more imaginative than that. Quite a few Greasy Palms, in fact, rely on ghost writers to do the dirty work of creating stuff, so they can focus exclusively on what they see as the many delights of sales and marketing. As a result of the great successes of the Greasy Palms, however, all the "born writers" out there, clueless as they are, may well languish in obscurity, pushing the limits of imagination without so much as a single fan cheering them on.  Whereas, the greasy palm may be hogging the limelight with their one, uninspired piece, expertly written for the critics and garnering a fan-base of millions(not that I'm bitter about it). But, this does create a very sad paradox, one which everyone who enjoys writing should shed a tear about: those who love writing the most are often the most ignored; those who like writing the least are often the most celebrated.  It ain't exactly a pretty state of affairs, but then, I did say there was an Ugly Side of Writing at some point--so, there you go.


3. The Weird Recluse:

By far the most common type of writer, this is also the type most likely to write a so-called "classic of literature."  But, sadly, they are also the type most likely to publish a classic, make no money off it and not be recognized for their brilliance until after their death.  As unpleasant as their title may sound, the Weird Recluse constitutes most of history's best and most iconic writer's, such as Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Emily Dickinson.  In my experience, introversion and writing talent go hand in hand.  Only someone with introvertive tendencies can entertain a fantasy long enough to write it out into a novel.  The Super Happy Ray of Sunshine is an extrovert, without a doubt, but they are the exception to the rule--novels spring forth from out of the Super Happy's pure excess of energy and insatiable desire to share their enthusiasm.  But for most normal extroverts, sitting down for a month or six and writing a novel is just not a possibility.

And so, in spite of the unsavory image we have in our heads of the furtive misanthrope, burrowing into the depths of their basement to write out their twisted and solitary fantasies, the weird recluse is actually the essential life-blood of literature. Without their desire to escape reality in search of a new and better inner reality, literature would be devoid of fantasy worlds and would certainly be a duller, more depressing place.  The space cadet has no shortage of fantasy worlds in his or her head, but unlike the Cadet, the Weird Recluse may actually sit down at their subterranean computer desk and ponder the best way to get their work read, while the Space Cadets are blithely traipsing through the tulips.  Weird recluses may be camera-shy, but they are far from clueless.  Unlike the Space Cadet, they could easily grasp the necessary steps required to establish a writing career and this is why their fantasy worlds may make it to the world stage and become a "classic."  Their mixture of high imagination and grounded sobriety make this possible. They may, however, skip the book tour in favor of a letter-writing campaign, a virtual book tour or any other method that doesn't require them to leave the basement.  Most Weird Recluses aren't misanthropic, but they are often shy and, more often, they simply find their inner world more interesting than the outer and therefore don't see the point of having any needless contact with the public.

The upside of the Weird Recluse lies in their great surplus of two things: imagination and reflection. Only such solitude as the Recluse enjoys can bring about the real intensity of reflection required to create fantasy worlds of the calibre necessary to create a classic.  The only person more imaginative is the Space Cadet.  But, as said, most of the Cadet's fantasies are doomed to remain within the confines of their own minds and may never see the light of day. So, any "classic" they dream up--even if they dream up seven per day--will only ever have an audience of one.  This is why the Weird Recluse is the MVP of the writing team. If you married a Space Cadet with a Greasy Palm and locked him in a basement with a lot of time to reflect, you would have a Weird Recluse.  They have all the imagination of the Space Cadet(well almost), but with a sprinkle of the Greasy Palm's cunning ability to launch a writing career--just so long as it doesn't involve too much face to face contact with other people.

The Ugly Truth about the Weird Recluse is that, for one, publishers have a strong phobia about being saddled with such writers. As skilled as the recluse may be in writing the persuasive letters necessary to land a writing contract, the Recluse will often freeze up and stall in the driveway, when once they are published and are expected to press the flesh at highly public press events. Publishers want the best of both worlds--not realizing it is the introversion of the author which is largely responsible for the brilliance of their writing, they will then turn around and curse the Recluse's shyness, when it comes time for that international book signing tour. The Recluse may well lack social skills and may be prone to bitterness, if his work becomes the subject of too much public criticism.  This type often does not respond well to becoming a celebrity, in spite of their secret desire to become famous and well-respected as writers. Any social criticism, especially in public, is likely to burn like a hot rock in their hearts for a long time to come.  A simple bad review, seen by millions, could well be enough to make them collapse and retreat all the deeper into their basement.  At this point, the Recluse is at great peril of transforming into the most lamentable of our author types.  For more information on that, scroll down to our final author type: The Bitter Failure.


The Angry Young Man/Woman:

If the novel on your night-table has a self-righteous protagonist, who thinks everyone is out to get them and who is seemingly living out someone's elaborate revenge fantasy, you may be dealing with the "angry young man/woman" brand of writer.  Most writers have at least a little bit of this type in their make-up--as it is common, if not required, for a writer to have some sort of message they cannot help but convey, through their writing.  In fact, most writers start out specifically because they have something on their chest and cannot let it out in any other way.  Writing is like therapy, to a greater or lesser degree, for almost all members of our class of writers(with possible exception of the Greasy Palm--in which case, marketing their book is like therapy).  But the angry young man/woman takes it far beyond the usual authorial need to relay a message and let off some psychological steam.  To this type of writer, rage IS the message!

This type of writer is usually very easy to spot, because they have a major handicap in writing fiction--they are incapable of giving a unique voice to their characters.  Every protagonist will sound like them and will complain just as loudly and vociferously about all the injustices the author most despises. Although, in truth, this type of writer does not usually choose fiction as the vehicle for their discontent.  They are more likely to be found in non-fiction and journalism(particularly editorials), where they needn't bother with the tangental distractions of character development, story arcs and other such unfulfilling miscelannia.  They can get right to the rage--which is their only real motivation for writing, in the first place.  Seen from their point of view, it is understandable they avoid learning most of the craft of writing, as, to them, the fight is all they're in it for.  Sadly, though, the reader may be disappointed by this type of writer's efforts, due to their lack of interest in those subtle crafts of the writer--designed to keep the reader entertained.

The plus side of the Angry Young Man/Woman is that journalism, as we know it, would not exist without them.  The Super Happy Ray of Sunshine type may have a shot, but he or she is more likely to wind up the news anchor or the bubbliest member of the weekday morning show. In addition, any revolution of history(including the American and French) have been fuelled by them.  Without them, politics would not exist, we would all be a lot more ignorant, crime would flourish unexposed and we would have no paper to read with our morning coffee.  On top of that, any kind of social issue that requires justice absolutely requires the attention of an Angry Young Man/Woman. A lot of these types of authors are not angry about small potatoes, after all.  They are often angry about something genuinely unjust in our society. But, not all of them do have a bonafide cause, saldy.  Far too many are simply paranoid, bad-tempered individuals, who are liable to write a fifty page letter to the editor about how they don't feel their parents toilet trained them properly(and the heart-rending injustice this wreaks).  But when there is a just cause to fight for, only this type of writer is capable of doing anything about it.  

The Ugly Truth about the Angry Young Man/Woman is that rage-based writing does not always make for fun reading. Apart from journalism, where this type of author will always thrive, there is really not much place for this kind of writer, as their subject matter is often limited to injustices and all the other things they hate.  If you, yourself, are incensed about a particular issue, then nothing will appeal to you more than to read a topical dissection of the problem, by your favorite Angry Young Man/Woman author. But for the rest of the world, it may come off as somewhat unpleasant and artless reading, to say the least.  As a result, this type of writer is unlikely to be found on the best-seller's list, unless they are able to tap into an injustice big enough to capture the national sentiment.  Once in a blue moon, this type of author does just that and their protest book, film or journalistic piece goes viral. But, sadly, these authors are also most likely to be literary "one hit wonders." The public are fickle and today's big issue is tomorrow's recycled newspapers. Of course this is terrible, horrible--unjust even. And no doubt there is an Angry writer out there tapping away in indignation about this state of affairs.  But such is the world we live in--just another of of Writing's many Ugly Truths.


5. The Super Happy Ray of Sunshine:

Some writers get by on their sheer imagination; some get by on their sales acumen(otherwise known as 'hustle'). The Super Happy Ray of Sunshine, on the other hand, gets by on exactly that.  They are seeming never-ending sources of sunshine and shiny fairy-dust and just keep on smiling and going like a chipmunk in love.  These people are possibly the polar opposite of the Weird Recluse type of writer. They are easily identifiable by the entourage of tag-alongs they tend to attract. Male or female, they will be highly social animals with a tendency to giggle spontaneously and drown out everyone and everything around them in their infectious enthusiasm.  As far as writing goes, this writer seems to write mainly out of a surplus of energy and a need for topics to fuel there constant stream of conversation. They do have a little bit in common with the Greasy Palm type of writer, in that marketing and all the highly advisable shmoozing, necessary for a successful writing career, are a cake-walk for them. But, unlike the Greasy Palm, the Super Happy troupe don't market their work out of a single-minded obsession with profit--no, they get out there and market their work just because it's such good fun!

Shuttling from place to place, crowd to crowd, talking about just how fun it is to be an author and shuttle from place to place? Endlessly drawing out the fertile conversation value of your recent publication? What better life could a Super Happy Ray of Sunshine with an insatiable social appettite possibly envisage? It is like a dream come true, to them, and could perhaps best be expressed by an old army recruitment slogan: "It's more than just a career. It's an adventure!"

If you were to marry and Greasy Palm with a Space Cadet and tattoo a smile on their face you would have a Super Happy Ray of Sunshine.  They have the social acumen of the greasy palm and ability to know what their peers will like, without the cold eye to profit; they have the wealthy resources of mind to compete with the imaginary pursuits of the space cadet, but without that clueless look of vacant absence with the space cadet so often sports. This kind of writer is second only to the space cadet in imagination and the possibility of great creative accomplishment.

The Weird Recluse may also outdo the Super Happy, in imagination, simply by virtue of his/her introversion(in our experience introverts make the best writers).  But the Super Happy writer will more than compensate for this possible flimsiness in content by reaching the largest possible audience.  After all, his/her entourage of friends, alone, constitute a statistical "audience", by their sheer numbers.

Without a doubt, this type of author is attractive to publishers, because public relations is not only easy for them, it is their passion and usually their sole past-time. Only the Greasy Palm is more attractive to publishers. The only drawback is this type's lack of predicability and their inability to restrain themselves.  They are more likely than the Greasy Palm to say something tactless and spontaneous and so are more likely to inadvertently bring about bad publicity.  They may not be thoughtful or reflective enough to turn down ill-advised public events and may easily be suckered into a contract that really doesn't favor them.  But apart from that, they are the epitome of publisher's "dream author" and their natural ebullience is more naturally attractive to the public than even the Greasy Palm's well-oiled sales pitches.

The upside of the Super Happy Ray of Sunshine? Do I really need to explain any further? It is self-explanatory; this type of writer is almost completely upside and very little downside. So, in this case, we'll skip right to the bad side. As unlikely as it may seem to the Super Happy amongst us, some people are grated by the excessive positivity of this author type and may even get somewhat annoyed by it. However, most of that can be written off, because it will likely come from Weird Recluse type authors who envy the mysterious reserves of energy and affability they so effortlessly demonstrate. Introverts, in particular, may not necessarily warm to the Super Happy's feats of extrovertive derring-do and may exhibit a kind of jealous prejudice against them for being extroverts. Considering most commited readers are introverts, this is clearly a downside. In a way, the Super Happy is somewhat at a disadvantage--a minority in an introvert's world.  But given the many upsides to be found in a Super Happy's career, this one possible downside isn't likely to put a damper on the Super Happy's shiny, happy, optimistic world.

6. The bitter failure:

As I have said before, in this blog, a writer needs to be able to deal with rejection. He or she needs to have an indestructible self-confidence and believe in their writing, no matter what anyone says. All authors unable to do so find themselves deposited in the rubbish heap of dead writers. If this rubbish heap had a name, it would be called "The Bitter Failure". This type of writer has been so jaded to the whole business of writing that they completely give in to their bitterness and effectively retire from the writing profession. Their new profession becomes a life-long dedication to exposing how evil the literary world is and how it is nothing but a cesspool of cronyism, nepotism, inegalitarianism and every other evil ism on the face of the earth. Although these types effectively reach a tipping point, where they are no longer bonafide writers, they may still continue writing. But anything they write, from that point on is not really about the writing at all.  It is about proving how the people who rejected them are talentless monstrosities of corruption and every new work is an attempt to prove this fact. In this way, the Bitter Failure is like the evil twin of the Angry Young Man/Woman type of author. They are single-minded, like the Angry Young writer, but their injustice of choice is entirely personal and selfish and their level of bitterness is far more pronounced and caustic.

In fact, such disgruntled citizens of the literary world are known to form their own magazines(with themselves as head editor, of course) and from that starting point, seek to wreak their horrible vengeance on the corrupt world of writing. There are many examples of such writers who were able to elbow their way into the mainstream by such devious methods, but I won't mention them by name.  The Bitter Failure can be quite vindictive and litiginous and you mention them in your blog at your peril.

Except in the above circumstances, Bitter Failure type writers do not become famous. The average author should be warned not to send your precious works of literary art to a magazine founded by a Bitter Failure, because there is almost no chance they will like your work unless it is exactly like the style preferred by the Bitter Failure him/herself.  Not only will you get a rejection, you may be victimized by the Bitter Failure and your work panned with such sadism, you may be tempted to quit writing and join the dark legions of Bitter Failures, yourself. A Bitter Failure magazine is fairly easy to identify: It will likely be a small affair; It will be run like a dictatorship; it will offer no email address or easy method of replying to the sadistic abuse they level against their unwitting submitters.  If you see any of the symptoms mentioned above, take my advice and run far away. This type of author is like the literary world's version of the walking undead and anyone foolhardy enough to approach a Bitter Failure will endure an experience not disimilar to a vampire attack.

The upside to the bitter failure?  You would think there is none, but in fact there is. The bitter failure's propensity to try to install themselves into positions of power, by force, and so revenge themselves for the many rejections they've endured does serve a purpose.  Young, inexperienced writers, when unwittingly submitting their stories get a crash course in resilience.  After a vampire attack, the new writer has an opportunity to demonstrate to the world they have what it takes to be an author. If you can withstand the dark force of one Bitter Failure's attack, then you are a brave and hardy soul--just as truly as your friendly neighbourhood vampire hunter.  Apart from this, there is nothing good about the Bitter type of author, apart from a cautionary example to all writers about why it is so important to be resilient and remain positive, no matter how hard the writer's path may be.




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