5 Biggest Writing Myths
Like any art, writing is filled with mythology and folklore, attracting diametrically opposite beliefs, as if the craft were either a conman’s hack or – quite conversely – a divine undertaking possible only through an infusion of magic.
The reality, as is usually the case, is both peripherally present in these myths and yet so far removed.
Here, then, are the 5 Biggest Writing Myths:
Writing is Easy
The physical act of scrawling symbols is easy – some animals can even do it.
Writing poorly is also easy.
Writing well – the kind of “well” that evokes strong emotion, that transcends mere words and rises toward lived experience – that kind of writing is difficult.
Like any art, writing is a craft to be mastered. Sure, there are moments of sublime inspiration, however, just as many or more moments of perspiration.
Writing is a Goldmine
It is if your last name is King, Roberts or Rowling. Otherwise, it is a career like any other, where talent must mix with sweat equity, marketing, networking and good old fashion luck.
While there are examples nearly every year of unknown authors rocketing from obscurity to global name recognition, million dollar publishing deals with movie options, the vast majority of working writers make a livable but not luxurious lifestyle.
That’s not to say you won’t be able to retire at 30 and hang out with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates in the bunker of the White House… but you might want to have a plan B.
If you are looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, you are better off looking elsewhere. If you want to commit your life, or at a minimum a decade, to mastering language, then writing may be for you. And very likely, you will make a comfortable living at it.
Writing is a Diet
This myth is associated to the previous myth about fast money. Writing, like most creative endeavors, is best approached not as a temporary diet but as an ongoing lifestyle. Write everyday. Read voraciously. Learn. Study. You will get better and as you improve, so will your opportunities.
Resolve to be a writer long term. Commit to the lifestyle and you will often enhance nearly every aspect of your life – creative outlets are healthy (in responsible moderation) and many of history’s greatest minds have included writing in their repertoire.
Writing is Writing
This is not a typo. Writing includes the physical act of translating ideas to words on a page or screen, but writing is also much more. There is the pre-writing of idea generation, concept shaping, premise forming and research and the post-writing activities of revision and copy-editing, followed by marketing, platform building and possibly design, etc.
The key is finding the balance between these various tasks, while remaining focused on mastery of the craft. That must come first.
Writing is Words
James Patterson has famously said, “Don’t worry about the sentence, focus on the story.”
While I am just as transfixed by word choice and sentence structure (I think they’re both essential), writing is more than words. Writing is understanding story on both a primal and scientific level.
Many bestsellers are better storytellers than writers. Some great writers are terrible storytellers. Writing is both about the words and the story. There is even a book called Story Trumps Structure, which argues convincingly that story is more important than any other single writing element.
That is to say, you can write a brilliant 80,000 words but if you don’t understand how to develop and execute a story, no one will read them.
Want to learn more about writing amazing stories? Check out these other posts: