You don’t have to be an alcoholic, to be a writer.

Nor do you have to be a drug addict, have a mental psychosis, or bask in the misery of others. No.

You just need to be a thinker–a good one–and an observer.

I’m actually a goody-two-shoes. The most I’ve ever done is drink underage (seduced by Coke and rum at 17 years old), and drive to Flagstaff behind my parents’ backs. In junior high, when my 13-year-old friends pranced around the mall in mini skirts and lipstick, my mother condemned boys, forcing me into a life of homework solitude.

I might be a little nutty (as everyone who knows me will attest), but I’m not your typical depressed, drunk, Edgar Allen Poe writer. I never went “goth,” and I like makeup and pedicures. At the same time, I want to hike the Grand Canyon and go on Safari in Africa.

I do suffer from ADHD, but what creative doesn’t?

Don’t fit the stereotype? Who cares!

All that matters is your work. So who cares if you’re happily married, hold down a 9-5 job, or are living a satisfactory single life? Maybe you’re a homebody who prefers the company of your cats–or maybe you love talking with people and hate being alone.

Maybe you’ve never been suicidal, or maybe you’ve contemplated driving off a cliff. Perhaps your dad cheated on your mom when you were 10, and now you struggle with monogamy. Or perhaps they’re growing old together in the same house, and you’re suffering from THEIR empty-nest syndrome.

My point is, you are YOU. And you should write–as you.

This individual voice is what draws others back to read your work again, and again, and again. Don’t fear it, don’t run from it. Let it shine through–like the unique individual you are.

How do you find that voice?

Ask yourself some of these questions: How do I talk every day? What types of jokes do I tell, or laugh at? What makes me angry, and how do I react?

I could never decipher the secret to writing humor, until I began writing as I naturally talk and laugh. People now love my voice (or so they’ve said).

Your voice is a representation of you. Never forget that.

So, even if you are an alcoholic . . .

Embrace it! Been diagnosed bi-polar? Love it! And if you think you’re normal, you’re really not. Trust me, you have plenty to write about. Don’t let the writer stereotype hold you back from that masterpiece.

SO TELL ME: What are some stereotypes–as a writer or otherwise–that you’ve struggled with?

22 thoughts on “You don’t have to be an alcoholic, to be a writer.

  1. Love this post. The stereotype holds true for most artistic fields. I also compose music, so does that mean I have to be twice as iconoclastic and zany? No, no.

    My hang-up is that I’m sometimes hyper-aware that I represent a small demographic (full of its own rich and varied stereotypes), and that sharing my personal opinion, or negative thoughts, could reflect poorly on my entire niche. However, then I feel like I’m not being genuine, and that my prose is adversely affected by my self-censorship. Then I finally get over it and post something. 🙂


  2. As someone who isn’t a writer, I find it so interesting to read writers’ thoughts and discussions.

    Shari, I like your advice to embrace yourself. I think I have done that, writing about our situation. I’ve said things I probably shouldn’t have said if I were to “follow the rules” of dealing with the situation. Bugger it – I want to pain the picture with words of what really happens, so I embraced myself and broke the rules.

    Stereotypes? Plenty! My parents committed suicide so obviously I would too! Funny, I’m still here. The stereotype applied to my husband by the powers that be and by default also to me. Stereotypes are dangerous.


  3. This is wonderful advice! So often, we fall in love with someone else’s voice and lose our own in the mean time. When we do that, we lose our value as a writer, because no one else can successfully own our voice. Thank you so much for sharing!


  4. Thanks for the great post Shari! I sometimes worry that my writing is too much of my own voice (despite having a journalism degree as well — I guess I didn’t listen very well!). This is a nice reminder that it can be a good thing. When a reader who knows me well tells me that when they read my blog, they can hear me talking, I take it as a compliment. But I worry that for those who don’t know me, they might wonder how they ended up in my weird brain!


  5. Love this post! I found my voice when I started writing all the things that I wouldn’t say out loud. Not that they were bad things . . . I just leave a lot unsaid.


  6. I was that same good-two-shoes, Shari! Great post and thought-provoking. I don’t think trauma in life necessary dictates a person’s ability to be a literary genius. As you say, it’s all about seeing and interpreting things, then showing the world your unique birds eye view of those things.


  7. Great post! It’s funny how we can get caught up in the writer stereotypes. I feel similarly to Julia’s comment. I was trained in the journalism style. So for years, I felt like everything I wrote had to be factual, not use the words “I” or “me,” and unbiased. Starting my blog was a huge leap forward for me and helped me realize that I’m a writer because of me and my words. Not because of proper AP style. And I’m enjoying writing more than I ever have. Thanks for this insightful post!


    1. It’s funny you mention that about journalism, because same here (degree is in journalism, and started my career on a daily newspaper as a reporter)! And like you, starting this blog has helped me overcome the boundaries of journalistic writing. I now have a “journalism” hat, a “creative writer” hat, and a “marketing” hat. I can wear any one, when I need, for what I need. It’s nice (and liberating)! 🙂 I’m also enjoying writing more than I ever have!


  8. I’ve been thinking about just this issue, Shari! I don’t have a past of epic struggle–except for some of that typical mean-girl stiff encountered in junior high, most of my life has been baggage-free. Because so many writing teachers will tell you to “write what you know,” I wondered for a long time if I “knew” anything that was interesting enough to turn into a story.

    But the more I thought about it, I realized that JK Rowling is not a wizard, Stephen King has never killed anyone (that we know of!), and I’m fairly certain that Tolkien never visited Mordor.

    So what matters is imagination. Even people who do “write what they know” also have to use a great deal of creativity to express their story in a way that enthrall their readers. Since traveling around the world or developing a substance abuse problem are not in my future at the moment, I’m going to focus on reading and other activities that will keep my imagination fertile.


    1. I laughed so hard at your Stephen King comment! I agree with you. Imagination is key. I think our own life experiences add to our imagination, helping us to create believable and relatable characters (which is vital to a good story). However, I doubt that Jules Verne ever traveled “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” to write such an amazing classic. Take your own passion, your own experiences, and mix it with your incredible imagination. I LOVE your advice! Thanks for the great contribution.


    1. Thank you, and you’re welcome! I agree, I think it’s so easy to get wrapped up in what everyone else is writing about, that we forget to look inside ourselves first–as that’s where the true magic takes place.


  9. Loved this, I find yammering on in my quirky style, quite entertaining (my family refer to as incessantly driveling) depends on one’s perspective.


    1. Hahaha! Yammering can make for some seriously sophisticated silly stories. 😉 I’ll be sure to drop by your site within the next week, as I bet your writing is VERY entertaining!


  10. Good points.

    I have learned over the years that even though I enjoy a glass of wine or something equivalent, while writing, I prefer a clear head. If I get in the “mood” (you know all about that one) I pour a glass of wine and write poetry.

    The biggest obstacle in my path has always been me. I get in the way of my characters, my plot and even the scenery. Getting myself out of the character, getting the darkness caused from abuse most of my life, and creating characters that are funny, witty and quick on their toes has been a challenge.

    However, in my recent job searching efforts I attended a lecture where I was promptly corrected about being negative. By getting rid of the negative, realizing the positive, I am able to think clearer about what I write and how I write it. It wasn’t “me” in the way, only the negative part of me that clouded the view ahead.

    Thanks for another great topic.

    Oh, by the way. If a writer is a full-fledged member of the Starving Artist’s Society, they don’t have the funds to be an alcoholic.



    1. I find that many writers consider themselves to be their biggest obstacle, too. I’m sorry to hear of your abusive background. I’m sure writing has helped you dearly in sorting through many of those emotions. Writing can be very theraputic, I’ve found. I think the reason creativity flows better when we’re positive, is because our body can de-stress, which instigates relaxation of the mind. When you’re thinking negatively, your body creates a chemical called “cortisol,” which is a reactor to stress (I’m a health writer by day). Cortisol is a cell-killer, and when you have too much flowing through your blood, you cannot think clearly. I once interviewed a psychologist who talked about a new practice called “Learned Optimism.” I find it fascinating! Perhaps try Googling it?

      Oh yes, and I LOVE your reference to the Starving Artist’s Society! LOL!


  11. Great post–it’s something I think about often. One reason I do is because my training is in journalism and I worked for a long time as a technical and business writer. I used to worry (a lot) that my “writing voice” sounds a little clipped and too concise, and maybe not writer-y enough. Now I worry less, and try to appreciate my style and voice, and try to–as you suggest–let it shine through. Thank you for accepting me for who I am!


    1. I hear you on that, Julia! My training is in journalism, and in fact, my career began on a daily newspaper as a reporter. I’ve struggled with the same insecurities as you, but like you, when I learned to embrace my own voice, I found power in that. 🙂 People like something different, every now and then. I actually wrote a post, not too long ago, entitled, “4 Ways a Journalist Can Help Creative Writers.”


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