I love a good writing meme. They allow our community to joke about who writers are and what we do.
But some of them also help prop up stereotypes about writers that actually hold us back. They popularize the image of the writer as odd, unreliable, more than quirky, absent-minded, cantankerous, and procrastinating. Now, as humans, all writers can be all of these things or none of them.
But we need to recognize that we are not those stereotypes so that we can take our roles as writers seriously, and so that others who still consider themselves Not Writers, and who may not identify with the writer stereotype, can find productive entries into our community and begin telling their stories!
With that in mind, here are 6 popular myths about writers and writing that I wouldn’t mind seeing the end of.
#1) Writing is easy
Writers themselves don’t propagate this myth. We generally fight it, swords (or lightsabers) blazing against those who say “oh, how fun!” when we tell them we are writers. Yeah, writing is fun, if by fun you mean sleepless nights, writing work poured into the corners of our lives around our day jobs, families, and hobbies. Writing is HARD WORK. It is intellectual work, emotional work, and it is exhausting. But we love it anyway, and we have Things To Say, so we write. To misrepresent writing as easy is to miss the true love and dedication we have for our craft–it’s HARD, but we keep writing because we love it.
#2) Writing requires inspiration
If you just finished reading #1, you know that writing is no easy task; however, the myth that writers are inspired to write likes to stick its foot out and trip up that particular truth. If writers relied solely on inspiration to part the heavens and shine down upon them, they’d never write. If writing came from a fairy or muse locked in a closet, sending out inspiration vibes and scratching tally marks into the walls to keep track of the length of their imprisonment, it wouldn’t happen. Inspiration is a myth.
“WHAAAAAAT,” you say. I’ll explain.
Writers make their own inspiration. They pay attention to the world and the people around them. When they read and challenge their assumptions, when they get out of their comfort zones and have adventures, they create inspiration. When they sit at their desks and write down everything they know and feel, they create inspiration. The myth that writing must be inspired, must come from some external muse, undercuts the truth that writing is hard work. Not only must writers master words, they must also create their own inspiration!
#3) Writers use their craft for revenge
Okay, this one may be true for some folks. Someone somewhere has done something shitty and is SOOOOO going to end up killed off in a novel somewhere. It’s just life, man.
But not every writer peoples their novels with folks they know or knew, and not every writer uses their craft to get revenge. Some writers, ya know, just let that shit go and write for themselves, not because they’ve been slighted by others. The writer’s first commitment is, and should be, to the story they are writing, and that story may have nothing to do with personal grievances.
#4) Writers don’t work–they procrastinate
The writers I know write as often as possible. Not only do they understand the importance of practicing their craft, but they genuinely enjoy it! As I’ve said, you have to enjoy writing or you won’t put up with all the work you have to do to do it well.
This is another of those myths that trip up the truth about writing as hard work. The unsaid message of this myth is that writing is so easy it can be done last minute.
Nope. Just nope.
Now, I admit that I used to be a proud member of the Young College Students Who Write Papers the Night Before They Are Due Club, but now that I’m an adult, I have better control over my habits (No… seriously… I do!). And, whether you’re 18 or 81, writing is a serious pursuit that requires control and dedication, not procrastination.
#5) Writers are solitary and moody
C’mon, guys! We know this ain’t true! Sure, some of the most famous authors were solitary and moody (or seemed to be that way). I’m sure those words in conjunction–writer, solitary, moody–sparked an immediate slew of names in your mind: Faulkner, Hemingway, Plath, the Romantics. But, here’s the thing, if you research those folks, you find out that even they relied on a community of artistic minds to help them write.
My favorites are the Romantics, who basically invented/popularized the image of the solitary poet/writer inspired by some unseen being to create art. Thanks, guys… The myth of the Romantic, solitary writer has done no-one any good. Besides, Wordsworth? Coleridge? Best writing buddies. Collaborators. AND Wordsworth collaborated with his sister, Dorothy, too.
All these collaborations are AWESOME. Once we realize that those seemingly solitary geniuses were actually active creative collaborators, we begin to realize how important having our own writing community is. It’s time we put this myth to bed so that we can embrace the collaborative nature of writing.
#6) Writers should write ALL THE TIME
Yes, writers must practice their craft. This means finding spare moments every day to get in a sentence, a paragraph, a page (or to revise a sentence, a paragraph, a page), but writers are diverse human beings as well. This means that we get stressed, overworked, and depressed.
Guess what happens to creativity when you’re stressed, overworked, and depressed… yep. It goes Pfffffftttttt. That creativity well runs dry. That’s why it’s important for writers to Do Other Things. Doing Other Things refills your creativity coffers in more than one way. It keeps you from becoming overworked, but it also gives you new experiences that enhance your writing!
So, sorry Cumberbatch Sherlock, I’m not writing because I’m rejuvenating my creativity instead. Oh, and because I’m a human who has a variety of interests! Pretty good reasons, right there. Take your smolderingly handsome guilt face elsewhere.
Demystify your writing life
We’ve all been invested in one or more of these myths, or in one or more of the myths Julie and I will talk about in the coming weeks as we continue this series. I’ve been there–wrapped up in the notion that, if I were a Real Writer, the inspiration would come. It didn’t come. Until I sat my a$$ in a chair and got to work. And it was through that work that I began to feel myself become a Real Writer, not through any sort of muse-given brain wave.
That’s why it’s important for our success as writers to recognize, challenge, and move beyond these myths, and we hope this series will help you do jut that!
What’s you favorite (read most annoying) writer’s myth? Drop up a comment to let us know. We’d love to hear it!