I’ve been writing since I was old enough (and had enough motor control) to hold a pen.
Even when a tiny tot I was always telling stories, usually about the adventures my cuddly toys had when no one was around. As I grew older, I told stories about the neighbourhood cats and the family of wood pigeons that lived at the bottom of the garden. Then, as I grew older, still my stories became about my favourite TV show & video game characters, with a few of my own creations thrown in.
Why am I telling you this? Only to illustrate the point that I have been telling stories and writing them down since I was an infant. My mum still has my very first official book “Jack Cat’s Magic Show,” safely stored with the family photos.
But it was in college when I hit my late teens that I started actually taking writing seriously and sending my stories out into the world. I also started trying to learn as much as I could about writing, how to get better at it, what not to do and how to market myself. Unfortunately, in my early years, I absorbed every scrap of information blindly and as a result believed a lot of myths I now know to be false.
Today’s blog is going to be about some of these myths. I would like to dispel them as in my opinion they can be harmful if believed.
Writing is Something to be Done Alone
Writing can be a solitary activity if you want it to be.
But it doesn’t have to be.
These days’ writers can find themselves no longer fighting the loneliness that used to come with the profession. Now it can be quite the opposite, writers can find themselves fighting for time to sit quietly, between blogging, Facebook groups, writing communities and courses we have such an active community now. Writers groups are shared, online or in person and can be incredibly helpful. I’ve joined a few different ones in my time and while I’m not an active member of one currently (Time! Why do I not have more time?) I have found them to be wonderful in the past. They are a great source of inspiration and feedback (accurate feedback, not the kind where everyone loves everything just to be nice).
So no, we don’t have to be alone unless we want to be.
Being a Good Writer is Something You are Born As.
I hate this one! I have been told this (or variations of this) so many times throughout my life that I lost count years ago. Most people said it to me about my dyslexia, and I politely gave them the finger.
Saying you are either born good or ‘not good’ diminishes and belittles the amount of work that goes into honing your craft. Writing isn’t something you do because you were born good, you may well have a natural talent for it, but you will still have to work, and work damn hard to become actually ‘ok’ at writing.
You will need a drive that gives you the motivation to pursue courses, practice regularly and learn how to turn your natural talent into something really good. All writers who become successful will have worked hard to get there, they will have practised continuously; learning skills, editing and all sorts.
No one is born successful, you work at it.
Editing is for the Editor; my Spelling can be Bad as Long as my Story is Good.
Again, this is a pet peeve of mine.
Yes, your story is the central element of your novel/short story/novella but so is your presentation of it. Yes, an editor at a publishing house will, probably, edit an error if they come across them but that’s not what their job is. They are not glorified spellcheckers.
If you don’t work on getting your story as polished as it can be before sending it to a publishing house/agent/editor, then it’s unlikely you will ever be able to become published that way. You can still self-publish of course but if your spelling and grammar is that dire then it’s likely your story will be overlooked and you’ll contribute to the myth that all self-published writers are just those who weren’t good enough to get publishing deals.
Editors are extremely busy, and if your story fails to make a good impression due to spelling and grammar, then no editor will work to read it. Even if you have a great story if your grammar is poor then very few will take the time to get passed that.
Spelling and grammar matter.
Inspiration Comes Naturally
Nope Sorry, it doesn’t, at least not every time.
There may be times when your inspirations comes and hits you like a train to the face (ouch) but those times will be few and far between and if you wait for those perfect moments to write then you will be waiting forever … and ever and ever and ever.
You can train yourself to become inspired, however. If you set aside a certain block of time each and every day your brain will automatically go into ‘writing-mode’, and you’ll find yourself becoming more inspired at those particular times. The brain is a muscle, and if you train it then it can become strong!
Inspiration can come and wallop you when it does, but you do not need it to write. Many a time I’ve sat myself down at my designated writing time and forced out a story with no inspiration. I do this to train my brain, and while it’s not easy, it’s a far cry from impossible. Some of my best stories have been those I forced out of my brain on a day when it fought me every step of the way.
That’s not to say inspiration will never hit other than when you dictate, just the other night I was lying in bed listening to a lecture on YouTube (I’m a party animal, don’t try to change me) and BOOM! I had to pause the lecture, get up, grab the notebook on the bedside table and I had filled six pages before I knew what was going on. I love those moments, but I sure as hell don’t wait for them.
Inspiration is nice but not necessary.
There is Only One Way to Write
I personally plan the crap out of everything before I even consider sitting down to type the first word. I know who my characters are, where they have come from, what their goals and dreams are, what shoe size they wear and a tonne of other information. I meticulously plan each chapter, each paragraph, before I start to write. That’s my style. Some of my best friends (who also write oddly enough) are the complete opposite; they are the writing-by-the- seat-of-your-pants typewriters. They know next to nothing about what’s happening and only learn what’s going on as their characters do, as the story develops naturally. That’s their style. Others are a curious mix of both, they plan the big stuff but let the little bits flow naturally as they write.
There is no one way to do anything, what works for me might not work for you. That doesn’t mean that either of us is wrong, it just means we’re different and being different is fine.
There are many different ways to write.
So go forth and do it.