We believe in myths to support our delusions and to keep our distance from reality. But, if the myth applies to us, we believe in the myth to set us apart from other groups of people or to give us excuse to indulge in a specific behavior. In either case, we believe in myths for our convenience, even when it might possibly hurt us. Believing in a writing myth, however, tends to be more damaging to the writer than the non-writer.
The following are 5 writing myths, in no particular order, that are tiresome and simply not true.
Man is what he believes. click to tweet
Writing Myth #1: If you have a natural talent for writing, writing is easy.
Natural talent or not, writing is fucking hard. If it’s easy for you, you must be a savant. For the rest of us, it’s a rollercoaster…or a rough teacup ride. Writing takes as much self-discipline as it takes creative flow. Writers don’t just sit down in front of a screen or notebook and write a grammatically perfect, wonderfully executed, coherent piece of fiction or non-fiction. That’s equivalent to assuming that a naturally gifted architect just thinks of a beautiful three dimensional building, sketches it and, walla! Balderdash!
As with any person who “creates”–landscape artist, architect, web designer, carpenter, interior designer, underwater basket weaver, etc.–there is a process both unique to the craft and to the individual creator.
When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. click to tweet
–Enrique Jardiel Poncela
The process is only part of the complexity of the journey. There is also the emotional energy burned in the laboring and the waiting, before, during and after the project is completed.
As writers, we sift through ideas, we research, we write, we stop, we read, we edit, we reimagine, we break, we do more research, we write, we edit, we stop, and so on and in whatever order that makes sense for each of us…until the work is “done”. Depending on the writer, the work, and circumstances in between, it could take weeks or years to finish any one piece.
Writing is not easy. Writing takes as much time, emotional and mental energy as any other creative or non-creative profession…no matter how naturally talented you are at it.
Writing Myth #2: Writers are inspired by a “creative force”, or muse, beyond their control.
Hogwash! Though I absolutely love the idea of this romantic notion of the muse, a creative intangible force that brings me ideas, it’s simply not a real thing. Frankly, that would freak me out just a little.
Though there are moments where an idea seems to come from “nowhere”, it in fact does come from somewhere. It comes from inside you. Specifically, from your subconscious, which as you know, is not easily accessible. That’s why ideas only “seem” like magic or easy to come by.
Writers are inspired by immediate and past experiences, it’s that simple. Even then, even if we had a muse, some magical faerie whispering in our ears what to write about, we would still need to sit down and write the actual article, novel, memoir, poem, and so forth. We would still have to organize and edit and proofread and correct.
So, if you’re a writer, don’t sit and wait for your muse to inspire your next piece of work. You’ll be waiting a long time… There’s no such thing as magic.
So, if you’re a writer, don’t sit and wait for your muse to inspire your next piece of work. You’ll be waiting a long time… There’s no such thing as magic. click to tweet
Writing Myth #3: Writers are experts at grammar and spelling.
All I can say to that is, your wrong. [<—See what I did there…]
Writing Myth #4: You need to be a good writer before you write professionally.
I think most writers who believe this writing myth, like me, do so out of fear. It’s yet another excuse not to put yourself out there, for public consumption and criticism. But, we’ll never get better if we don’t put our work out there to be read, and yes, criticized. I’m frankly still working on growing, and reinforcing, some brass ovaries to take the blows as they come.
I also used to believe in “good writing”. Good is subjective. And although I believe there is a lot of bad writing out there, my “bad” may not be the same as your interpretation of bad.
To be “good” in the most useful term, is to be a good communicator, consistent, genuine and have a unique voice. The more you write, the more you’re lauded and criticized, the more you improve…provided you don’t rest on your laurels, or give in to the urge to ball into fetal position each time a publisher or troll responds negatively to your work.
Writing Myth #5: All writers are weird or eccentric.
I know this myth is absolutely not true despite all the fictional portrayals of famous or not so famous writers in film, TV and, dare I say, even books. I know plenty of writers who are as unexciting and quirk-less as Wonder bread.
Non-writers especially want to believe that the mind of a writer is somehow “strange”. That the things we write about, especially if you’re a fiction writer, can only be thought of by peculiar people. Like being creative, thinking beyond the scope of what’s traditionally written about or realized, is by default “quirky” or strange.
Anyway, the truth is, most people have offbeat thoughts and personality quirks. Maybe creative people just have more permission from society and so feel less inclined to hide their quirks.
Regardless, own your weirdness or dullness. Just write like a matterfucker, whoever you are.
A Message To Aspiring Writers On These Stupid Writing Myths
Don’t buy into the bullshit of writing myths. Don’t idealize the life and work of “the writer”, or any famous writer in particular. Pay attention to your own experiences and your own process. Write mindfully.
Don’t buy into the bullshit of writing myths. Don’t idealize the life and work of a writer in general, or any famous writer specifically.Pay attention to your own experiences and your own process. Write mindfully. click to tweet
You know that even if you have a natural flare for words, sentences are never perfect the first time out of your mind and onto paper…nor is a poem, a paragraph, an article or a book. Your work, your process, your effort makes it so.
You know that though sometimes inspiration seems instant, it doesn’t exist in a bubble. It comes when you’re looking for it AND when you’re just going about your business. The unconscious and subconscious mind has a funny way of shaking things loose and bringing things to the surface, i.e. your conscious mind, when it’s not constantly being poked and prodded for information like a reluctant perp who refuses to “give up the goods”.
You know that when you write thousands of words and sentences, there will always be grammatical errors. You are not a machine and having exceptional grammar does not make your work better. Trust!
Even though you have your fears of whether you are “good enough”, you know that there are books and articles and poems out there that are professionally published pieces of shit that don’t even meet the basic tenets of “something another human being could read”…in your humble opinion. So, you don’t have to wait to be “good enough” to professionally publish anything. Especially in this digital world.
Art is never finished, only abandoned. click to tweet
–Leonardo da Vinci
And finally, you don’t have to be anything, or any way to be a writer. You just have to be genuine, honest, committed, consistent, and your unique self…weirdo or common bore. ‘Do you’, as the kids say!