Debunking the Writer Myth

giphyOne of my biggest challenges as a writer is getting caught up in the myth of the thing instead of just living it the way it feels right and works best for me. Does that sound confusing? It is, a little. Let me rephrase–sometimes instead of just being myself, a person who writes and is hoping to continue writing indefinitely, I make a whole ton of assumptions about what a writer looks like, and what a writer does, and so on. And then I compare myself to those assumptions, and feel guilty, or sad, or angry when I don’t quite match up.

Fellow Scribe Brian wrote a great post in this vein just last month, citing one of my favorite (or least favorite, depending on how you look at it) myths about being a writer: Writers write every day. Spoiler alert: it’s not true. But that horrible, insidious little notion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to myths and assumptions of what a writer should or shouldn’t do; can or can’t look like; to be or not to be. (Sorry.) Myths and assumptions not only made by others, but if you’re anything like me, about ourselves.

Here are a few myths I wish would die, never to be resurrected ever again.

Writers Write Every Day

giphy1Okay, I know I already mentioned this one. But it bears revisiting. The assumption here is that if you’re a real writer, you’re constantly scribbling away at something. In the middle of the night, on your lunch break, under the table at dinner parties, and during commercial breaks. As though writing is a pathological need, an urge as implacable as hunger or thirst that cannot be ignored.

This is simply not true. Sure, there are moments when I whip out my handy journal in the middle of a restaurant and begin scribbling furiously because something just occurred to me. But there are also times when I stare at a manuscript I’m passionate about and simply can’t think of any words. I try to write every day. But just because that doesn’t always happen, doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.

Writers Rely on Inspiration

Jeez, if this was the case I’d still be trying to finish my first book! Maybe some writers are conduits for some mystical creative force shooting down from the heavens through their fingertips and out onto the page. But I certainly don’t know any of those kinds of writers.

Inspiration is real, don’t get me wrong. But in my experience, inspiration must be grown; seeded and planted and watered and fertilized before blooming. And even then, it must be married to hard work and commitment if it is to grow into anything really amazing.

Good Writers Are Naturally Talented

giphy2You know what’s a myth? Talent. I’ll clarify–are some people naturally gifted at certain things? Yeah, sure, maybe. Who cares? The road to success is paved with tenacity and the will to improve. Good writers and successful writers are almost always people who have taken the time to make a study of their craft, and have never assumed that they’ve learned all they can learn. A good writer is a writer who knows that they can always improve, and is willing to put the time and effort into improving.

Writers Are Loners and Introverts

Can writing be a solitary and occasionally even lonesome path? Yes. Does it help if you’re pretty okay with being shut away with only yourself and the voices in your head for company? Probably. Will there be times when you wish everyone, including your loved ones, would leave you the heck alone so you could finish your book/poem/story? Almost certainly. Does that make you a loner and an introvert? Not necessarily!

In fact, a lot of the writers I know are pretty outgoing, and love to geek out about books and writing with fellow writers! Sure, the proverbial water-cooler might exist in a mostly digital environment these days, but that doesn’t mean we don’t surround ourselves with the kind of communities that support our dreams and buoy us through hard times.

At the end of the day, being a writer is like being human–there’s no one way to do it right. Be yourself, and be your own kind of writer, and believe that everything else will fall into place.


Are there any myths about writers that drive you crazy? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

5 thoughts on “Debunking the Writer Myth

  1. livrancourt says:

    “… inspiration must be grown; seeded and planted and watered and fertilized before blooming. And even then, it must be married to hard work and commitment if it is to grow into anything really amazing.”

    This is SO true. (Also, your point about talent is right on, too.) I tell the story about where I learned to write by being the cantor at our church, and having to sing a solo every Saturday for nine years. There were *many* Saturdays where I felt anything but inspired, but I still had to do it. These days I’m more likely to be dealing with word count goals than trolling old hymn books looking for something interesting, but I still gotta get it done. For me, inspiration is a flash, an idea, a “the guy in this picture looks so damned sexy, but angry. Why is he angry?” Telling his story is where the planting and watering and work comes in.

    1. Wow, that’s so interesting about being a cantor! And I can definitely see how that could translate into being a writer. I totally agree–inspiration for me is often an image or an idea that in and of itself is essentially nothing. Only once it’s explored and nurtured can it become anything important.

  2. Shauna Granger says:

    Yup yup. I blogged about this last week and how we shatter our own myths as we grow as authors.

    I totally feel you on the talent part. I do think you need some natural inclination, but just having that doesn’t mean a damn thing. I got my BA in Creative Writing, and when I walked into my first writing class in college, at 17 years old, I seriously thought it was going to be the easiest thing in the world. I knew how to write. My creative writing shined in high school. Just give me my diploma already.

    Turned in my first assignment feeling damn good about myself.
    Got it back.
    *screeching tires – blaring horns – metal ripping – glass shattering*
    Big fat F.
    I knew nothing about writing.

    I had the natural inclination but that didn’t mean anything. I learned a lot in those 4 years, but I’ve learned so much more in the years after. But accepting that first “oh, I really do need to learn” moment is paramount.

    1. Yes, exactly. I think most writers (and probably a ton of other careers as well) need some basic inclination, which often arises out of having a “talent” for it. But I sometimes think throwing around the world “talent” can actually have a detrimental effect, for both people who are and are not naturally inclined.

      I had a similar experience as you–growing up I loved to write, and happened to be pretty good at it, so I had teachers and parents and even peers telling me I was *so talented* at writing. Fast forward to my first creative writing class–I didn’t get an F, because we weren’t graded per se, but that first workshop was BRUTAL. And I was honestly shell-shocked, because I thought I was “talented.” I almost dropped the class–I remember telling the professor that I clearly wasn’t talented and that I didn’t belong in the class. He actually laughed at me, before explaining in no uncertain terms what he thought about talent. That lecture has stuck with me to this day.

  3. James Orr says:

    ” Maybe some writers are conduits for some mystical creative force shooting down from the heavens through their fingertips and out onto the page.” Wow, I hated seeing this one de-bunked. I always considered myself a writer in the sense of being a pen (or a keyboard) that some the Cosmos picks up and puts to use. If I no longer rely on inspiration that means that I’ve actually got to work! Move this mountain of Un-motivation into higher gear. Thank you; now I know what I’m going to do with myself when I retire next month…(but maybe not every day).

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