Creative writing is an art form that has been around for centuries, but there are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding it. These myths can be discouraging for aspiring writers and can prevent them from exploring their passion for writing, which is a shame because this shit can be really fun. Here are a few of those myths and why they’re nonsense:
Myth #1: Writers are born, not made.
This is one of the most pervasive myths about creative writing. Many people believe that writing talent is innate and that you’re either born with it or you’re not. But the truth is that writing, like any skill, can be developed and honed with practice. Some people may have a natural inclination for writing, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be learned or improved upon. I struggle to look back at things I wrote even a few years ago because my writing has evolved and grown in that time so all I see are things I’d change if I were writing it now.
Myth #2: Writing is easy.
Many people assume that writing is an easy and effortless activity, especially when every celebrity on the planet seems to pop out a book because, as Sarah Silverman said in her book, The Bedwetter, that’s apparently what you do when you’re famous now. But the reality is that this shit is hard work. It takes time, effort, and dedication to craft a well-written piece. Writers often struggle with writer’s block, self-doubt, and criticism. It’s a challenging process that requires perseverance and patience and maybe a little bit of delusion.
Myth #3: Writing requires inspiration.
Inspiration can certainly help in the writing process, but it’s not a requirement. Many successful writers have developed strategies and routines that allow them to write even when they’re not feeling particularly inspired. Writing is a discipline that requires practice and hard work, regardless of whether or not inspiration strikes. But if you’re really feeling stuck, it’s possible you need to take time to inhale so you can exhale.
Myth #4: Writing is a solitary activity.
While writing can be a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to be. Many writers participate in writing groups or workshops where they can share their work, receive feedback, and connect with other writers. Collaborating with other writers can also be a valuable experience that can lead to new ideas and approaches to writing. Or, inversely, it can show you that most people are idiots. I’ve participated in a lot of writing groups over the years, namely when getting both my undergrad and graduate degrees and I can safely say not all feedback is created equal. Sometimes people offer really valuable feedback and send you down a new and more exciting path. Others lack basic critical thinking skills and are only there to be assholes. But you learn whose ideas and crafts you respect so you can grow from their perspectives, and you learn to turn out the white noise (and there is a lot of white noise out there.)
I’ve also collaborated a few times including my books like Family Pride and Ominous World, and the experience was informative. Writers like to have total control over a narrative because…well, we’re all 14 year olds playing The Sims and if we tell you to swim in the pool without a ladder, you’re going to get in the goddamn pool.
However, when you’re collaborating, you have to take the other creator into consideration and maybe they want to stick the sims in a room with a rocket launcher instead.
Although you could view the process as frustrating (and maybe it is, maybe your co-author sucks), you can instead view it as an opportunity to adapt and grow as a writer. Ultimately, the goal is to create the best story and if your collaborator shares that goal, you should be able to find a path forward that works for everyone involved. If nothing else, it can be a learning experience about what to look for in a collaborator.
Myth #5: Writers must be “starving artists.”
There’s a common perception that writers must be “starving artists,” struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their passion. While it’s true that many writers face financial challenges, it’s not a requirement for being a successful writer. There are many opportunities for writers to make a living from their craft, such as freelance writing, copywriting, and content creation. I’ve been a freelance writer for about ten years now and while it can be lucrative, it’s worth noting that freelance work can be very feast or famine–sometimes you have all the clients, and sometimes you’re perusing job boards while having an existential crisis on the bedroom floor and wondering if you should’ve gotten a more lucrative degree, not that that is based on a true story or anything.
I wouldn’t keep freelancing if I didn’t like it, and it’s possible to be successful at it as long as you are proactive and are fortunate to find some longterm clients to serve as a consistent base for you. But it does require expanding what you are willing to do. I’ve written online content for a wide range of companies including health and travel, and I’ve also edited and ghostwritten books. One of the most important points I stress to people starting out in freelancing is to accurately value your time. I tend to charge a lot because I bring a lot of experience to the table, and I’ve lost jobs over that because some clients expect you to write a 100,000 word novel for them for $20 and a high five. Those jobs aren’t for me and I’m glad to let them go. That being said, I’ve also dropped my rates before in order to work with specific clients simply because I liked them and knew they were working on a limited budget. You are the only one who gets to decide your value (and, by the way, if you’re working for a set amount on the project, get half upfront as a deposit–trust me).
These myths and misconceptions about creative writing that can be discouraging for aspiring writers, but the truth is that writing is a skill that can be developed and honed with practice and dedication. Writing is hard work, but it can also be rewarding and fun, so tune out all the bullshit and just do it. The time is going to pass anyway, so you may as well start writing now.
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