Hollywood glorifies a lot of things, but one thing it’s hard to see past is how it frames women writers. Many of us have grown up seeing women writers on the big (and small) screen, starting with Josie Geller in Never Been Kissed, then going on to see Carrie on Sex and the City or Rory on Gilmore Girls. Nerdy middle schoolers everywhere thought, “Wow! What a job. What a story!” not realizing how detached from reality this character’s profession actually is.
We got Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Girls, and pretty much all hopes for accurate depictions of female writers were gone for good…
1. We are rich
Unless we are J.K. Rowling, and most of us are not, our annual salaries are really not that great. We can’t afford that penthouse apartment or a pair of Louboutins. Novel writers struggle for years before getting their “big break” (even then, the compensation is not nearly as “big” as movies want you to believe) and journalists are usually freelancing for next to nothing just to “gain exposure.” Basically, being a writer is a struggle and a half and you’re not going to be making bank in your twenties — probably not even in your thirties. It’s just a fact.
2. We live in New York City
It’s true that most high-profile writing gigs are based in New York City, but a lot of people write for major publications remotely. In fact, many stay out of big cities if they have a remote position because it means you get a bit more bang for your buck. Some of the best writers out there are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles outside New York City.
3. Our love lives are a mess
Okay, fine, this may be true for some writers, but we’re not all super unlucky in love — at least not more so than any other career person out there. Just because a woman focuses on her profession doesn’t mean she’s bad at dating or finding a partner. Writers are very savvy people — juggling multiple deadlines, different beats and various article lengths — don’t underestimate us. Relationships are never a breeze, but being a writer doesn’t immediately make us shitty at dating.
4. Women writers work at fashion magazines, male writers work in serious journalism
Ah, the struggle for every woman writer in movies and on television. Somehow, because they are female, the only writing jobs they can get are in the beauty, fashion and gossip realms. (Okay, maybe not Zoe Barnes from House of Cards, but she’s also murdered by the guy she’s sleeping with for tips, sooo…) They want to be a serious writer, but their editor keeps assigning them puff pieces. Just wait, though! With the help of a straight white male, they will reach their dreams! It’s so classic.
5. We are all white, cis and hetero
There is no “writer” archetype IRL, yet the one we see in pop culture is almost always white and straight (though we do get a bit of diversity in The Bold Type, admittedly). This is more of a problem across every profession as depicted in the media but it’s still worth a mention. Writers — male and female — are different races, sexual orientations, and genders and this includes non-binary and trans writers, too! The writing world is so much richer than what’s portrayed onscreen. Even in real life, though, it’s not diverse enough. There are still so many voices, so many perspectives to hear and many we don’t hear hardly enough.
6. Our careers are the priority… until we find love
I call bullshit on this one. There is a way to balance career and love — not that you’d know it from the portrayal of career women on TV and in movies. Big, huge shocker: career ambitions do not go out the window as soon as the perfect Tinder match is found. Come on, we’re more complex than that. Sure, writing means long (and sometimes odd) hours, but that doesn’t mean that we just say “that was fun, done now!” with our jobs once we meet our soulmates.
7. We all have that one sassy best friend
Ah, the “sassy friend sidekick” trope. You know, the one friend who the main character piles all their issues on. The friend who is the comedic relief and usually dressed a bit down so they’re not as attractive as the star. It all seems so forced. Even better is when they unexpectedly try to sabotage the lead’s job and become the sudden secret villain. First of all, women supporting women? Totally a thing. Second of all? Writers are pretty perceptive people — meaning dull BFFs aren’t quite their vibe.
8. We write one article a week
If you’ve ever been a full-time journalist, you better be quick at churning out stories. We’re talking three stories in a day – if not more. The only exception is if we’re working on a deep investigative piece that takes weeks or months to research, interview and write. Even then, every working hour is spent organizing, drafting, interviewing, writing – then rewriting – editing, etc. We don’t have the luxury of working one day, then breezily going about our privileged NYC lives, rubbing elbows with movers and shakers.
9. We get rom-com stories, while men get awards-season bait
Ever noticed that typically the female writer character is reserved for romantic-comedy characters (think Amy Shumer in Trainwreck or magazine Editor-in-Chief Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30), while guys like Jason Segel get to show off their ~SeRiOuS aCtInG sKiLlZ~ by playing David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. Sure, we got Hilary Swank in Freedom Writers — but even she was more of a teacher than a writer anyways. Annoying.
10. Our work clothes are all designer
Yes, there are plenty of writers who enjoy designer clothing, and that’s quite alright. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, many writers are very laidback and casual — especially considering the financial stuff we were talking about before. Working at home in sweats is a writer’s paradise. And when we must go into a newsroom, the attire is usually jeans and some type of flat-sole shoe. Plus, has anyone else noticed those outfits on The Bold Type are just straight-up not work appropriate 95% of the time?
11. We stay out late on weeknights
Oh my god. School nights are school nights for a reason. And they stay “school nights” well into adulthood. It’s game over if you’re staying up past midnight. Sure, this is true for pretty much anyone over the age of 23 in any profession, but the life of a writer is usually depicted as so glitzy and glamorous — you’re partying with celebrities until dawn and then showing up to work a few hours later looking fabulous.
Writing is hard. Also staring at a screen with a hangover is basically torture. It takes creativity and mental strength to turn in a good piece and doing shots on a Wednesday until 3 AM with Linda won’t get you any writing praise, I can tell you that.
12. We have one primary writing job
For many writers, we have to juggle multiple gigs to get by. We are always looking to have a byline in the next big publication and get a continuous string of assignments. It’s rare when a publication can give writers the privilege of one primary job, whether it’s for monetary or career-boosting reasons. Successful writers most often have a string of bylines with different publications and can only do so by hustling hard and pitching to as many outlets as possible.
13. Our apartments are larger than 500 square feet
Alright, I’m not claiming that every writer’s apartment maxes out at *exactly* 500 square feet, but you know what I’m talking about here. Writers are encouraged to create a space in their homes just for writing, but that’s tough when there is not much space to begin with. That’s why you see us hunkering down at coffee shops or libraries for hours. Being cooped up in one place for too long can be claustrophobic and disruptive. Even if we’re in places where the cost of living is cheap, we’re still nowhere close to living in any type of luxury. Also living alone? HA — don’t make me laugh!
14. We have a lot of free time
Remember how we have to juggle a bunch of assignments for multiple publications and different beats? That stuff takes time — time we have to manage very carefully. For writers, especially freelance ones, a whole day could go by without ever stepping outside our homes. Once we get in the zone, we zero in and focus until our brains tell us when to stop. It’s no 9 – 5, honey.
15. All our pieces are self-discovery editorials
The personal narrative has gotten a lot of traction in the writing world, but no matter how many personal stories a human has, people are going to get tired of reading them. Josie Gellar’s big feature debut in Never Been Kissed was about her love revelation with her teacher. (Also, a fairytale ending where the teacher gets a student? This film is messed up.) Andie Anderson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days gets her swan song via an editorial about her love life. Noticing a pattern? Think about 99% of Carrie’s pieces — personal! Most of Jane Sloan’s assignments on The Bold Type are basically think pieces. Like we said, writers will come upon that every once in a while but it’s not the norm.
16. We always get our dream internship
Getting a good internship/fellowship/first job is no easy feat — not that Hollywood would let you know. Honestly, how the f@#& was Andie was chosen as the top candidate in The Devil Wears Prada?! Sure, she hustled, but girl was not equipped for that kind of work environment — and she showed up to the interview completely unprepared. Likewise, Sabrina Spellman was completely inexperienced when she was picked up at Scorch magazine. Ultimately, neither situation worked out, but how did they get there in the first place?
17. Young Characters still have a high-paying job with lots of responsibilities
In case you haven’t met a millennial, let me remind you: millennials are perpetually broke. Mocked for eating avocado toast and drinking sparkling water, these are tiny luxuries the generation can afford. What’s a 401k? Health insurance packages with affordable vision and dental plans are real? While the generations before us were settling down and having kids (or spending their liquid, kid-free cash) in their 20s, millennials are adapting to a new way of living. It includes budgeting for rent, food, student loans and not much else. Many writers get by hustling as a barista or waitress as they freelance on the side, and when they do have a full-time writing job — there’s not nearly as much freedom as it seems on screen.