Thoughtless writers and the stigma that needs to die

The chaotic world of social media is awash in nonsense, much of it perpetrated by those who claim to be or imagine themselves to be writers.

They consume precious bandwidth by tossing around famous quotations of questionable provenance, Instagramming their groan-inducing sentiments about “the writing life” and, with their often careless use of language, perpetuating damaging stereotypes about writers and others.

Take the example that set me off today, a post that said:

ALL WRITERS ARE LUNATICS

The poster asked: Haven’t you noticed that all writers are just a little bit… off? (In the best way possible)

A couple of dozen followers agreed, celebrating their alleged lunacy and the apparent cool and oh-so-specialness of their writerly selves. I responded with a simple “Nope.”

Why?

  1. Both the image used in the post and the related question make light of the serious issue of mental illness.
  2. The notion that “all writers” are a “little bit off” is a myth.

The term lunatic itself is outdated, pejorative slang, though it does seem to be useful in Twitter snark and other online commentary. It was even removed from the U.S. Code in 2012. Its use may seem harmless and even lighthearted in some contexts, but no serious writer who seeks to destroy the stigma that surrounds mental illness will use it lightly.

writer's deskRegarding 2, while it is true that some famous writers suffered from mental illness that shaped their creativity (and sometimes led to their deaths), writers in general are no more “off” than the general public.

For the record, I have been treated for depression for nearly 20 years. I’ve been writing for a living a good bit longer than that.

Take that, stigma.

Write on.

B.J.

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