Sunday, July 29, 2007

Writing Myths

Myth #1 - Writers Write Every Day

I'm sure there are some writers who actually write everyday, who force themselves to sit at their computers until they get their three hours, or four pages, or 1500 words.

I'm not one of them.

I do prioritize my writing, as all writers should. It's important to submit stories, finish books, meet deadlines. Hence the label writer. But in today's hectic world, I simply can't find the time to write every day.

If you can't find the time either, don't sweat it. Write when you can. You can prioritize something without being a slave to it.

Myth #2 - Writers Need Inspiration

I've never sat at a blank monitor, waiting to get inspired.

I write because I'm already inspired.

The age-old question, "Where do you get your ideas?" is actually backwards. It's the ideas that make writers want to write, not the other way around.

If I have a muse, it's my paycheck. That doesn't mean I don't love writing. It means I'm lucky enough to have writing as my job, and no one has a job where they're inspired 24/7.

Writers write, inspiration or not.

Myth #3 - Writing Is Difficult

Working in a factory is hard. Getting paid for your thoughts is a privilege.

Folks who complain about writing being hard need to spend a day working construction, or bar tending, or on an assembly line, or landscaping.

If it's so tortuous, so difficult, so hair-pullingly awful, why do it? Life is too short. Do something you like, or at least something that pays better.

Myth #4 - Writing Must Have Integrity

This goes along with "writing is art" and posits that our written thoughts are somehow important.

Writers are entertainers. We're the guys that tap dance on the street corner for change.

Sure, our work can have meaning. It can inspire and enthrall. But, at the end of the day, we're still not offering our readers food, clothing, shelter, or love. We're non-essential, no matter how eloquent our prose.

Plus, we still have to pay the bills. That often means doing things we don't want to do. Editing. Changing things. Maybe even writing about stuff we don't care about.

What? You don't want to sell out? You'd never let your precious words be touched, or write something for just for money? You really believe that the world owes you a job simply because you can put a noun and a verb together?

I wish you much success, and hope I never have the displeasure of sitting next to you at a party.

Myth #5 - Writer's Don't Have to Think About Sales

I've heard this one ad nauseum. Here are some of the follow-ups:

"It's a publisher's job to sell books." Really? It's your name on the book. If it fails, your publisher will still be around. You won't.

"I have no idea what genre I fit into." Congrats! You spent a year creating something that no one will want, simply because you were too self-absorbed to open your eyes.

"I can't make a difference in my sales." Books sell one at a time. Sell one, you've made a difference.

"I hate self-promoting." No one is forcing you to self-promote. No one forced you to be a writer, either. In fact, chances are you worked hard and dreamed about becoming a writer for many years, doing a lot of jobs that you really hated in order to support yourself. But now that you've been published, you think you can stop doing things you dislike?

Answer the phone, reality is calling.

(I should put that on a T-Shirt.)

Myth #6 - Good Books Always Sell

Out of all the writing myths I know, people stick most stubbornly to this one. As if the key to success is simply writing a good book. Perhaps they believe that at night, while the world sleeps, their books leap off the shelves and fly through the air visiting homes through chimneys like Santa Clause, whispering subliminal messages to snoozing readers to buy them the next day.

Writing a good book is only the first step. There are no guarantees it will even be published, let alone sell well. The best book ever written will be a miserable failure if no one knows it exists.

Your job, after writing the book, is to tell people it exists. If your book doesn't succeed, then write another one.

Myth #7 - Writers Are Rich and Famous

Maybe a few of them are. The rest of us struggle to pay our bills and don't have enough fame to talk our way out of a speeding ticket.

Myth #8 - Not Everyone Can Write

Writing is craft, and craft can be taught.

If there's a super-talented egomaniac with a sense of entitlement that matches his flair for prose and an average Joe who studies the market, hones his craft, responds to feedback, and keeps at it, my money is on Joe Average getting published first--and then having a more successful career when he does.

Hard work trumps talent. Persistence trumps inspiration. Humilty trumps ego.

Myth #9 - Writers Are Alcoholics

This one is true. Where the hell did I put that beer?