Typecasting a writer: folly or not?


“Don’t classify me, read me. I’m a writer, not a genre.” 
― Carlos Fuentes

In one of my earlier blogs (New Year’s Revelation No. 5, “Never, Never Assume!”), I wrote about the unfortunate common practice of making assumptions ― about people or situations.  So many of us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, fall into that trap – to our detriment.  In so doing, we run the risk of making erroneous assumptions (because we are not aware of all the mitigating factors) and rush to judgment, perhaps too quickly.  The same applies to pigeon holing or typecasting someone.

In the acting world, for example, actors are often typecast as comedic, dramatic, character, leading role, action hero, and so on.  Yet many actors have proven – time and time again – that they can seamlessly apply their acting talent and skills to any genre. And when they do this, we are always surprised (yet delighted).  Why are we surprised? The answer, of course, is that we made an erroneous assumption. Yes, Robert De Niro has played some seriously intense and dramatic roles.  However, as “Vitti” in Analyze This and Analyze That (opposite Billy Crystal), De Niro had me rolling on the floor, laughing.

The same applies to writing.  Just because a writer publishes a book in one genre, this does not mean he or she is incapable of writing in a different voice, for a variety of target audiences, or in multiple genres.

As for myself, I have multiple book projects in the works.  Many are non-fiction.  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is a political and economic commentary and collection of real-life vignettes.   This does not mean that the only genre I write is non-fiction editorial.  I write fiction, as well as industry-specific pieces and scripts for documentaries. 

Whether one is a writer or a photographer, an actor or an artist ― the fact is, we are complex and multi-faceted.  Labels are very limiting and should not be assigned so readily.

If we only focus our eyes on the moon, we may miss the beauty of the rest of the galaxy.

Image via trivworks.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 5 of 7: Never, Never Assume!


“We have a tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we BELIEVE they are the truth.   

We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, we take it personally, and then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.   

We only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. We don’t perceive things the way they are; we literally dream things up in our imagination. Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions that we believe are right, then we defend our assumptions and try to make others wrong.

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.”

~  an excerpt from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz


Sure, we are all guilty of making assumptions every so often and when we do, nine out of ten times we’re completely off the mark.  Sadly, people often make assumptions —not  because they are afraid to ask for clarification, as Don Miguel Ruiz suggests — but because they choose to sit in judgment.  They are convinced that they are right, despite possible evidence to the contrary or without bothering to delve a little deeper.  They are influenced by their own personal biases. Still worse, they then spread their poisonous thoughts, sometimes publicly, not caring about the damage they have wrought.  That is how reputations get ruined.  In some cases, the damage results in financial ruin and, in more extreme cases, suicide.

We see this all the time.  Public figures, like celebrities and politicians, are crucified in the media.  Private citizens are not immune from this type of unwanted attention and undeserving judgment.  Just turn on the news channel or pick up the local paper and you’ll see someone’s unfortunate personal mistake or trauma plastered all over the news.  Sadly, many people believe what they read or see on television.  Personally, I always feel very sorry for someone whose personal life challenges are made public, regardless of whether they’ve done something wrong.  I feel for them and their families and imagine what they must be going through.

Whatever happened to simple, human compassion?  We shouldn’t be so quick to bring down the gavel.

James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you that you judge your neighbor? 

Assumptions are often made based on how we look or dress. Here are a few examples of erroneous and ignorant assumptions:   If you always dress completely in black, you must be sinister;  If you wear t-shirts and jeans all the time, you probably don’t have much money;  Being fat equates to being lazy; If you wear glasses, you must be intelligent; If you have tattoos and body piercings, you’re bad news; Redheads have hot tempers;  Blonde women are airheads; and on, and on … .    

“While you judge me by my outward appearance, I am silently doing the same to you, even though there’s a ninety-percent chance that in both cases our assumptions are wrong.” 

~  Richelle E. Goodrich

Back in 1981, I attended one of my husband’s electrical engineering classes at the University.  Although I was a political science major, I wanted to “take a walk on the wild side” and learn a little about the world of engineering so that I could better understand his chosen field of study.  For the life of me, I can’t recall what the subject of the lecture was, but I do remember (to this day) something that the professor said. He turned to the class and shook his finger, saying (very emphatically, I might add): “Never, never assume!”

We have made this our mantra ever since.

Image via heartspiritmind.com.