If a guy tells me he’s a software engineer, I assume he watches video game tournaments during his free time and has at least two Star Wars tee-shirts in his wardrobe.
When I tell people I’m a writer, they assume things about me too. People almost always start off by saying, “Oh, cool!” Then later on they’ll move on to dangerous assumptions, like thinking that I know the meaning to every word or have read all the books there are to read.
Some of the myths about writers make people think that writing is unapproachable, or that it’s a talent someone is born with. I’m here to smash those myths because my deepest hope in life (okay, not in my entire life, but in my writing life) is that if anyone has the desire to write, they’ll do it, even if some work has to go into first.
If you asked your writer friend who lives down the street what they think are some myths about writers, they might come up with a different list than what I have for you. But these are the most common myths about writers and writing I’ve encountered:
1. It’s necessary to study English in college to be a good writer.
As a freshman in college, I chose to major English 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 always easy and enjoyable 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 or free tickets to go see an Avengers movie. 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!).
I’ve seen some writing jobs that pay very little per hour, and while this may be good for someone who is just beginning, writers can make good money. I usually shake my head and raise my eyebrows at those job postings, because I know there’s definitely greater pay potential for writers.
4. Being a good writer is all about natural talent.
Some people act as if my ability to write is a gift.
Maybe I was born to write: it’s the one thing I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, but that doesn’t mean I was good at it from the start.
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.
If I’m a good writer, it’s because of the things I’ve learned, combined with lots of practice.
Most people probably weren’t born as great writers, but became so with lots and lots of practice. Maybe the idea of lots and lots of practice feels daunting, but if you’re a beginner just start where you are, keep learning, and write as much as you can.
5. Writers are hipsters.
You can still become a writer even if 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 have perfect grammar to be a good writer, but having poor grammar could be holding you back if you’re not having success with your blog or other writing.
People often ask me about the meaning of a word or some grammar rule and when I don’t know the answer right away, sometimes they’ll 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. Check out this post for more thoughts on why you need to know grammar to write better.
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.
A family member of mine has to outline in order to get her story out.
Maybe your process is or will be something totally different from what you’ve heard you have to do, but that’s okay. Every writer has to find the perfect process for them.
Have you heard (or thought of) any other myths about writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below!