One 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
Okay, 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
You 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!