Top 10 Author Stereotypes


Even though we’re told not to stereotype groups of people, we do it all the time. When someone mentions the word “attorney”” to you, a certain image probably pops up in your mind – typically a man with a briefcase and confident, almost dismissive, demeanor. But you and I both know that a great number of attorneys don’t fit this image at all.

Stereotyping whole groups of people is hardly fair, but it happens. A while back, I wrote a post about book lover stereotypes, so today, I’ve decided to examine the other side of that same coin and discuss author stereotypes.

Top 10 Author Stereotypes

“I look like this because I’m a writer” is a line from the mystery thriller movie Limitless. The main character is a down and out writer, mired in self-doubt, sloth, and somewhat poor hygiene.

So, does Eddie Morra (played by Bradley Cooper) represent the typical author? He’s a mix of several author stereotypes. I’ve come up with my own top ten list of writer stereotypes:

  1. Writers are prone to alcoholism. Certainly, some writers fall prey to alcohol addiction, but I don’t think authors are especially susceptible compared to other groups. Many novels and Hollywood films depict authors with an alcohol habit, creating the stereotype in the public’s mind.
  2. Writers have pet cats. I don’t have any cats. I do happen to have two adorable dogs. While many authors probably do own and love cats, I think it’s likely that most of these cat lovers are female. Oh wait! That’s a stereotype…sorry ladies. The point is, many who make a living through writing may or may not love animals. If they do, they’ll have a pet or two, but it won’t necessarily “meow”.
  3. Authors need gallons of coffee. Authors need to stay sharp and alert when crafting their stories. Otherwise, they may mix up all kinds of both minor and major details. This is where I think the coffee lover stereotype comes from. Lots of people drink coffee to stay alert. It’s not just authors. Me? I only drink decaf coffee.
  4. Authors are depressed and melancholy. This stereotype is perpetuated by the image of a brooding Hemingway or Edgar Allen Poe. For the most part, I’m a happy and jovial person and so are my author friends. I’ve found most authors are enthusiastic and passionate. They certainly must have a dedication to telling great stories and entertaining their readers. During certain parts of a story, an author may need to step into her darker emotional self so she will be able to stir up the same emotion in readers, But this doesn’t mean she’s an dark, melancholy person in general.
  5. Writers are eccentric. Some people are just plain weird. I’ve met weird and strange people in every profession. Creative people often seem eccentric to those on the outside because the creative mindset sets them apart as decidedly different. People think different is weird and eccentric.
  6. Authors have a god complex. When thinking about a successful author, many people conjure up an image of an arrogant being that thinks his work a literary masterpiece that will live on through the end of time as a shining example of unspeakable excellence. I am certain that the majority of authors do not have this attitude, even privately. And if they do, they won’t last long.
  7. Writers are reclusive. People often envision writers pounding away at a typewriter (really, a typewriter?) in a darkened, wood-paneled study, barely eating, subsisting on coffee (or alcohol). All this while friends and family tiptoe quietly around the house so as not to disturb the artist at work. Don’t buy it. As writers, we get our ideas from things we observe and experience in everyday life. Without this stimulus, writing goes stale quickly.
  8. Authors are unkempt. Like Eddie Morra, the writer in Limitless, lots of people view writers as disheveled, crumpled-clothes-wearing, messy types. Morra symbolizes the public’s image of a creative type whose life circumstances encourage his tendency to squander his bountiful talent and potential. Oh, and he’s also depressed. None of the authors I know are unkempt and unwashed as the movie depicts Morra. We all have those days where we forgo shaving, stay makeup free (for the ladies), wear our robes well into the afternoon, but most of us don’t do this as a rule. Personally, I rarely have a day like this. My wife insists that I shower regularly.
  9. Writers are broke. Some writers are probably broke, especially if they have yet to publish a novel. Successful writers aren’t. Even up and coming writers don’t have to be broke. It all comes down to choices and good money management skills. So, just because you see a twenty-something budding author still living with his parents and driving a beat up Pinto, don’t automatically assume he’s broke. If he’s smart, he has at least a part-time job and saves every penny of his paycheck. Money in the savings account = not broke (even if living in the parents’ house).
  10. Writers chain smoke. I know writers who smoke and those who don’t. I’m not quite sure how this habit became associated with authors. Despite all the health warnings and public service announcements against it, far too many people from all walks of life struggle with smoking…not just authors.

Let’s talk about it. Writers, do you any of these stereotypes describe you? Readers, do you imagine authors with any of these stereotypes?

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2 Responses to “Top 10 Author Stereotypes”

  1. Michael Kelberer

    Well, lets see. Of the 10
    – I am or was at one point very strongly 5 of them
    – I was but am now much less 3 of them
    – I wasn’t but now am 1 of them
    – I don’t personally do pet cats but I married into them
    Seriously, points well taken. Mostly, writers are just people….

    • JoelGoldmanAuthor2

      Hi Michael – great self examination you’ve shared here and you’re right about writers just being people. We all have our idiosyncrasies, but when it comes down to it, we’re much like anyone else (for the most part, anyway).