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Writer as Geek

by Carrie Swiggum 

Tags: Great Writing, Literary Writing, MFA, nerd, Amy Shearn, Poets and Writers,


Working as a writer in the 21st century is a labor of love, even for those lucky enough to have a steady paycheck. Writing is a tough business and isn’t as romantic as the clove-smoking, pill-popping, whiskey-chasing, “barely functional” lives that authors supposedly once led. Think Hunter S. Thompson, Dylan Thomas, or preeminent “boozy fistfight[er]” John Keats. Is that mystique gone, or are successful writers getting to be both hard-working and boring?

Writing for Poets & Writers (print only), Amy Shearn searches for the "badly behaved writers" in MFA workshops but instead finds a "revenge of the nerds" movement. She writes:

My classmates were more egghead than cokehead. At our parties we played dominoes, complained about the school’s administration, and went home early so we could get up the next day and write. After a while it became clear that the writers who were going to make it—the ones who were getting the grants and publications and cushy fellowships—were those who buckled down and worked hard, the nerds in the wrist braces who filled out paperwork with the diligence of accountants. As for me, I forced myself to stay on a prudent schedule and wrote a few hours every day before heading to my day job. It wasn’t sexy, but it worked. My first novel was published last summer.

In the same article professor, essayist, and novelist Charles Baxter, puts it another way:

When an artist is no longer envied, when hopes are no longer invested in her or him, the aura fades, as does the glamour. Rock stars still have the aura; they are gods, and gods drink and get drugged-up and go wild and have sex with everybody and die young. Writers are no longer gods; everybody knows that.

Source: Poets & Writers