No matter where you are in your writing career, there always seems to be the same questions from those we meet in our daily lives. That and plenty of terrible advice. Certainly the general stranger doesn’t mean any harm, but in many cases they don’t really know what it takes to make it as a writer. They just think that they do. Whether television and movies, or even books, gave them their ideas about writing, people in general have created their own picture of what it means. And, you know what, many writers have these misconceptions, too.
9. It’s easy.
If I had a dime for every person who believed this, I’d be pretty rich. I’ve even come to the defense of other authors on social media when family insulted them for not working, and that writing wasn’t a job. Except, writing is a job. A lot of people are hired by a lot of industries and businesses because of their writing. Many of those same employers have whole departments that do writing (advertising, for instance).
Don’t worry. That person said she wasn’t meaning me, because I had a day job, so I was doing the right thing. No, I’m not alone in getting a job to pay bills while I wait for those royalty checks to pay the bills. Many authors only write, and rely on assistance to make sure ends meet month to month. It is not my place to be judge here. I only do what I feel is right for me, part of that is allowing others their choices in life.
The rest of the list will outline many of the reasons why writing isn’t easy. In addition to that list, I’d include marketing and self management with the public Late hours refining, or just getting the words to paper creates hardship, too. Cultivating ideas and massaging the words into proper form isn’t effortless by any means. Good writers just make it look easy. 99% of what goes on is unseen by the public.
8. You don’t need to go to school for it.
You can go right ahead and skip college for writing if you feel that you’re capable of giving yourself criticism and structure, which will result in the improvement of your work. Some believe that reading alone is capable. I don’t think that is at all true. You can read all day long every day, but never understand why those books were chosen for publication over others. Really bad writing sticks out. Good writing is far more than the mechanics. If you’ve never written a best seller, and you’ve read a million of them, you aren’t guaranteed to produce a best seller when you finally do sit down.
Going to school to learn to write, writer better, and expand your brain is imperative to a writer’s growth. Not all authors have a degree, but they do all have habits that exhibit college studies parameters. I’m sorry, but if you want to get better at the skill of writing, you will need to study, and with good teachers of the craft. If you want to improve your art (voice, ideas, and execution), you will need to expand your knowledge base. Higher education is the best bet with which to do all of it, and effectively. Let’s face it. We aren’t very good at criticizing ourselves with the necessary details to fix our flaws.
7. No research.
That is just laughable. The general public, and probably some writers too, think writers just sit about all day making things up. Sure, a good portion of writing creative fiction is making up things. The rest, that which anchors it in belief suspending euphoria, is researched. This is the stuff that you don’t see. Research goes on behind the scenes, long before a work is done.
When writing a book, you will come across the damndest things that you don’t know, and suddenly need to know, so you can keep on writing. Blame the characters, but then get Google fired up to start the process. Research takes many forms, but starting online is a legitimate choice. Not everything you find online is accurate, but it can lead you down the path to accuracy (such as Wikipedia source lists on articles about your topic—you’re welcome).
Not everything in fiction is made up, and not everything should be. You can really destroy your credibility by refusing to research and just putting down what you think you know or make up about a topic. Readers aren’t fools. They will pick up on it, and they’re going to react negatively.
6. Writing isn’t art. It’s just a skill.
Writing is a skill, but writing fiction creatively is art. Neither art nor the subset of writing get the respect deserved. It is in this misconception that others will justify pirating your work instead of paying you the couple bucks to download it. If they won’t pay $3 for an eBook, then they aren’t coming with a $20 for the paperback. Giveaways and the like encourage this idea.
Writing is art. It is painting pictures with words. It’s magick.
The reason a lot people don’t respect fiction is because they didn’t learn how to absorb it and process it properly. For many, reading is a legitimate struggle, either due to traumatic injury or developmental issues. We aren’t talking about them. I am talking about the average human being without barriers who chooses to hide from fiction, instead of challenging themselves. It’s much easier for them to malign writing as useless than to admit they lack strength in a necessary skill. Thus, the focus is on writing as a skill, and not as art.
5. It’s a relatively useless skill.
There really are people who believe that writing is a useless past time. It’s all well and good for those who do it professionally, but not for people they know in real life still trying to get a name for themselves. There is a belief lying around that writing is a soft skill for secretaries. Yup. That’s both elitist and sexist. But, most of anti-whatever language is coded that way. It’s meant to minimize the target.
Let’s clear this up. Writing is used in every single industry and business on the planet. Whether the people know it or not, they need to know how to read and write. They also need communication, which is, in many cases, written down. Someone has to do that. In a moment, I’ll talk about the gender component that suggests men shouldn’t bother with such tasks, as it’s a woman’s skill. Directives, instructions, emails, policy, etc., are all written and all genders make use of the written word. The better someone is at writing the more beneficial that skill is to their career.
Good writing can elevate you in the workplace.
4. Writers are addicts.
This stems from spending too much time trying to get young people interested in reading, and thus telling them about all the shitty things writers got up to in their day. I remember sitting in class, in college, and the professor discussing this with the students. What the actual hell did this matter? But there was knowing chuckling passed around, suggesting that this subculture would be the connection piece for students.
Knowing if someone had such proclivities can inform the reading (give a window into what is meant by the writing). That said, don’t assign the addict label to every author. We are not all substance abusers.
3. Women write romance, men do not.
Let’s shut this down right now. Both men and women write in every genre that exists. There are also non-binary people. This is just another way to minimize what writers do. Remember, generally speaking, society has assigned the feminine as less than. Don’t you know only men can be great writers of literature? Or, only women write steamy romance? I happen to know of some manly men writing in romance. So…. (also, here is a list of queer romance writers, because they need to be seen more.)
2. Once you write your best you have nothing more to learn.
I struggled a bit for the best way to write this misconception out. It’s both about thinking you’re an amazing writer already, and thinking that you can crest the hill of greatness, and carry on without professional development. All too often this happens very early on in some author’s careers (well before they get anywhere).
You always have a great deal more to learn, regardless of what. For instance, I keep learning how to be a good mom. I brush up my dog training skills every time I encounter a new puppy to train. Tasks at work change, and you need training. Tastes change in readers as well as authors, and you may need to learn a whole new genre. Whatever it is, you can always use a refresher, to make sure your skills are up to snuff, and new training to up your game.
If you think you’re the top of your game, and can sit back, you’ve only fooled yourself. Get off that horse before you kill your career.
1. You’re not a writer until you’ve been published by a big name publisher, magazine or paper.
Anyone who writes is a writer. One of my fabulous undergraduate professors told my creative writing class this. It was an important message. Readers and writers alike get caught up in the gatekeeping. It only helps big publishers to maintain their stranglehold on the industry, narrowing the field of authors and thus limiting our art. Do you really want someone else choosing who you will read for you?
This is one of those areas where we start to see that we aren’t as free as we’d like to think that we are.
The only thing that becoming a published author changes is that you can say you had your work published by (insert flashy name here to impress others with), and have another arbitrary credential at your disposal. It’s not a bad thing, but if you aren’t published by gatekeepers, you’re still a writer, so long as you are still writing.
What are some of the misconceptions you’ve come across in creative writing? Drop an answer in the comments below.