So, writing myths come up a lot in the course of doing this kind of work. From the beginning stages when you are starting out and you half believe them all the way to having that first book put out. By the time you’ve got something out there you know that the myths are false and they start to sound increasingly harmful and ridiculous over time.
I’ve already written about one of the most pervasive myths about writing, regarding the muse in the writers and self-sabotage series of blog posts, but I wanted to talk about some of the other ones that pop up every once in a while.
This blog post is not likely to be comprehensive because there are a lot of them. Mountains.
One of the myths about writing, or any creative path, really, is the belief that in order to do art one must, in some way, be tortured. No. I cannot emphasize this enough. Not true. Artists who happen to be tortured for any number of reasons create in spite of also facing down drug addiction, depression, poverty, etc… While it speaks to enormous personal strength to be able to create in spite of such conditions, the “torture” is not the thing that propels the art. We might make that part of the art, it might provide some real world knowledge of struggle to help lend verisimilitude to the writing, but it is not necessary and I don’t think it helps to glamorize this. The starving artist is not an ideal. I can tell you personally that certain types of struggle make it much more difficult to create. If I am not feeling well it is difficult to overcome that in order to apply the focus that is required to write. What the narrative of a tortured artist gives us is a compelling narrative about the artist, it does nothing to improve the work unless the artist takes that struggle and applies it to the work, which is an artistic choice. In and of itself, the suffering of the artist does not necessarily equal greater art, or any art at all. I’d also like to point out that there are plenty of people with personal struggles in other types of work that perform in spite of those struggles.
This leads me to the myth that drinking and/or drugs help with the creative process. While there may have been some rare folks who were able to fuel their art in this way, for most of us arting while intoxicated is a very bad idea. I’m not going to lie. A few sips of wine might loosen self-imposed inhibitions and help creativity initially, but keep drinking and the words on the page look more like your cat was dancing on the keyboard. If you have to use a psycho-active substance to keep the ideas flowing, coffee is your best bet. Or tea, if you are a tea person.
Writers and coffee… well. That one, with a few exceptions that I know of, is true. Most writers love coffee. A good way to show support for a writer (aside from buying their books, leaving reviews or recommending their work to friends) is to offer them a cup of coffee.
Writers and money. Man, this deserves its own series. Writers are rich. (Um, no. A few are, but that’s it.) Writers are always broke. (Sometimes true, but most of us have day jobs and if we’re smart, we keep them until we can afford to let them go.) Traditionally published authors don’t have to do other work. HAHAHAHAHAHA! (Some don’t, most do.)
Writing is fun, or a luxury. I actually had a woman very bitterly say to me once, “I wish I could afford to work part time and just write books.” In the moment, I didn’t respond but that one really pissed me off. Working part time is a sacrifice I made so that I could pursue the very hard work of writing fiction. Is it fun? Sometimes it is. In fact I am one of those annoying people who just LOVES to work if the job is right. But writing is fraught with difficulty, challenges and uncertainty.
JUST write books? JUST? Are you kidding me? Don’t even get me started on the huge skill set you need to develop if you choose the road of author-publisher. While I love the challenge of learning new skills and the results that can happen when those new skills are put to good use, it is hard work. It is real work. It doesn’t suddenly become “not work” because I happen to like it. Interesting side-note, no one would have suggested to me that broadcasting was not work when I was doing that professionally, and that was something I enjoyed too. (Bonus myth-busting: A majority of broadcasters are not wealthy. At all.)
So what about you guys? Which myths about writing bug you the most? Which make you laugh the hardest?
2 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: Writing Myths”
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the competing myths about “poor writers” and “rich writers.” I know plenty of aspiring authors who have dug themselves further and further into debt while working on their magnum opus, convinced that their poverty and suffering was a core aspect of the writing experience. Many of these people were also just as sure that this suffering would eventually pay off just as soon as they got their novel published–after all, all published authors are rich, right? It’s important for aspiring writers to shake these misconceptions about what it means to be writer; otherwise, they’re setting themselves up for failure and disappointment.
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