If you asked your writer friend who lives down the street what they think are some myths about writers and writing, they would probably come up with a different list than what I have for you. But these are some writing/writer myths I’ve encountered many times:
1. It’s necessary to study English in college to be a good writer.
I studied English in college because I wanted to be a writer.
I didn’t need to do that.
Most of the world’s greatest writer’s didn’t study English in college—at least I assume. One of my favorites is Jane Austen, and she was educated at home. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, one of the best novels ever written, and he also dropped out of Princeton.
I could drop more examples, but I don’t feel like searching Wikipedia to find out who did or didn’t study English. You get the picture.
It’s important to read a lot and so helpful to become a fully immersed grammar nerd, but different life experiences are vital as a writer. How inspired could you be by all the people you meet as a server at a restaurant? What kind of science fiction could you come up with as a biophysicist or whatever other science professions there are?
ANYONE CAN BECOME A WRITER. It doesn’t matter what you studied in college or even if you went to college. You can put in the work outside of a campus and still come up with words that will be magic to someone else.
2. Writing is easy/ every type of writing is fun for writers.
A few years ago, I worked as a freelance writer for a digital marketing company. My contact with the company told me they needed more writers, so I posted on Facebook letting my long lost acquaintances and family members know about the opportunity.
The response I got was wild. You would’ve thought I had offered everyone a $100 gift card to Target! I got messages from people who didn’t even “like” my pregnancy announcement. I literally reminded a few people that it was a job, not just something fun to do in your free time. It was a good job that worked perfectly for me as a full-time working pregnant lady, but it wasn’t fun.
And now, whenever I tell people I’m a freelance writer, they almost always say, “Oh, cool!” Even after I tell them I write about dental procedures…I think that people know that writing takes work and talent, but I don’t think a lot of people know that writers don’t enjoy all types of writing.
With that said, if you’re looking for a writing job because you love to write, remember that writing about the best car mats available in Nashville, Tennessee is not the same as writing about something you love.
3. Writers don’t make any money.
When people hear someone is a professional writer, I think they sometimes imagine a person with greasy hair who skips from coffee shop to coffee shop, or McDonald’s to Wendy’s to DQ, and pretends they accidentally left their wallet in their old ’99 Toyota Corolla when it comes time to pay.
We’re not all going to end up making millions like J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, but there are opportunities to make money as a writer. I have this weird hobby of searching for jobs and companies always seem to be searching for good writers.
One nice thing about earning money as a writer is that you can choose whether it’s something you want to do full-time, part-time, very part-time (like my freelance job), or even on your own schedule (blogging!).
4. Being a good writer is all about natural talent.
Have you ever read something and thought, I wish I had written that? I definitely have. Of course writers have natural talent, but excelling as a writer is not all about that.
I think I’ve been writing forever, or at least since I could hold a pen. When I was a little girl, I wrote a story based on Carmina Burana, a cantata my mom sang with her college choir. I wrote a novel (welllll…maybe it should be considered a novella) when I was 14, and I desperately wish I still had it.
I’ve written a billion essays (feels like it), dozens of fictional stories (long and short), a few movie scripts, some fun blog posts, hundreds of boring blog posts and articles, and many pages of professional training. I’ve dedicated so many hours of my life to pounding my fingers on a keyboard.
Sometimes people tell me they love my writing and that it keeps them interested from start to finish. That’s the stuff of life for me. But if I’m a good writer, it isn’t because I was born a good writer—it’s because I have put in thousands of hours of practice.
You probably weren’t born a great writer, but you can become a great writer with lots and lots of practice. Don’t be scared because I said thousands of hours. I don’t think it requires all that, but it does require a lot of time, dedication, and desire.
5. Writers are hipsters.
Don’t feel like you can’t become a writer because you don’t like to eat kale chips and you wash your hair every day. There are so many different types of writers who reach different audiences.
I once lived with another writer, and we were so different. She was so intense that for some reason, she made me feel like I wasn’t a real writer. She was moody, refined, deep, and spoke like words were a paintbrush and conversation was a work of art.
That is so not me. I’m pretty simple, happy, and maybe even bubbly at times. I don’t have the most amazing vocabulary, and I only remember the difference between “further” and “farther” because of a radio ad. But I’m still a real writer.
You can be a hipster writer. You can also be a nerd or a mom who wears leggings the wrong way (me!). You can be a college student studying to be a neurophysicist. You can be a truck driver. You can just be whoever you are and still be a writer. I believe that’s when you’ll find the people who love your words and will stick around to discover what you have to say.
6. Writers don’t need to know grammar.
You don’t have to be perfect at grammar to be a good writer, but having poor grammar could be holding you back if you’re not having success.
People often ask me about the meaning of a word or some grammar rule and a lot of times, I don’t know the answer right away. People often respond with something like this: “What? Didn’t you study English?” Sure, but my brain does not have space for all the definitions and grammar rules. However, I know where to look when I need an answer.
Improving your grammar will make your writing flow and become so much more readable. I love reading Grammar Girl’s blogs or listening to the podcasts for a fun way to learn about grammar.
7. Every writer has the same process.
If you’ve taken a writing class, the instructor probably had you do things a certain way. Maybe you had to start out by brainstorming, then creating an outline, and then going to town on your creative piece. That’s not really fair because every writer does things differently.
Every writer has to figure out what it takes to get their story out. I love to just let my fingers go, so I’m not an outliner. But sometimes I don’t finish a story because I don’t know the characters enough, so doing a character sketch is an important part of my process.
Have you heard any other myths about writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below!