10 Myths About Writers and Writing

In order to write creatively, we need to exercise our free-spirited and impulsive right brain.  It might take a while to “liberate” this side of the brain especially if we have worked in fields that are linear, concrete, and require rationale thought.  This is what happened to me many years ago when I switched from a career in teaching and publishing to full-time writing.   As I began my apprenticeship in the creative arts,  I had to dispel several myths about the writing process and writers.

"Incognito: The Hidden Self-Portrait" by Rachel Perry Welty, DeCordova Museum.

“Lost in My Life (Price Tags) ” by Rachel Perry Welty, DeCordova Museum.

1.  Myth: Writers Are Strange.

There is an element of truth to this!  Writers (and other creative people) must be willing to look below the surface of everyday life and explore the world and relationships like a curious outsider.  This perspective sets us apart, but at the same time, it allows us to dig deep and communicate what we’ve learned to others.

2.  Myth:  Writing Is Predictable and Can Follow a Timetable. 

Writing a book isn’t like planning a trip.  You can’t buy tickets in advance and expect that you will take off and land on a specific date and tour 10 cities in 10 days.  My experience has taught me that  writing a book is an adventure, with unexpected stops and detours.  It is not linear and predictable and doesn’t follow a schedule.  But that’s the fun of it.   If the writing is solid and true, our characters “take over” the story and take us where we’d never expect to go.

3.  Myth:  Writing is neat and tidy.  It follows an outline. 

I tried to write this way, but it just didn’t work.  Instead, I had to embrace the chaos of creativity.   In truth, the writing process can be messy and ugly and sometimes it involves tramping through the mud.   It is a journey…like life.  But after we muddle through the first draft, we begin to see a path.   If we follow it, we have our story.

4.  Myth:  Writers always write about themselves and people they know.

This simply is not true.  First of all, it would be far too boring to write about myself.  To be honest, sometimes, as I create a character, I am thinking of a “real” person, but in the course of writing the book, he or she will change and evolve.  More likely, they are an amalgam of several people.  Sometimes, however, they are totally fictional.   A few of my favorite characters popped unannounced into the scene as I was writing.

5.  Myth:  Good writing is effortless. 

This is totally false.  It takes a lot of pick-and-shovel work—and many rewrites.

6.  Myth:  Good writers have always been good writers.

Not true.  Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced.   Every creative person should expect to spend time as an apprentice while mastering his art.

7.  Myth:  Writing is romantic and can be done at Starbucks. 

Not true.   In fact, writing can be sweaty and ugly.  It should be done in private.  Perhaps when you are in the final stages, like the editing phase, you can risk doing it in public.

8.  Myth:  Characters are obedient like good children.  They listen to their creator and do what they say.

How many of you have children?  Is this ever true?

9.  Myth:  Writing is inspired and magical.  

This may be true at times.  Sometimes it feels like Glinda the Good Witch is sprinkling fairy dust on us.  But most of time, it is pick and shovel work.  Writing is like panning for gold by sifting through a lot of grit.   By the end of the process, however, we hope that all our hard work transports the writer into the fictional world we have created with characters that seem to live and breathe on the page.  If we succeed, we have perpetuated the myth that writing was effortless.

10.  Myth:  I can quit my day job and write full-time.

The sad truth is that we aren’t living in Renaissance Italy where artists have wealthy patrons.  Many writers must squeeze their writing time into days filled with 9 to 5 responsibilities.   Others writers, like Wally Lamb, used his summer vacations to write.   But good creative work can be done with persistence and determination.

How many of these myths about writing do you believe?  After reading this, do you still believe them?

379 replies »

  1. When younger, I was also preparing myself to be a writer, but the problem is that I was also a photographer, painter, and multimedia artist. I’ve been a Jack of all trades, and master of some, so I am actually dealing with #10 (I can quit my day job and write full-time.) I really don’t even have a day job now, but plan to return to it. Why, you may ask. Precisely because of what you said about myth #10, I feel I need some financial stability to be able to do the more creative work. Also, my day job entails spiritual gratification (helping others, healthcare), so it’s not that it’s not fulfilling. Yet, I am faced with the reality that I have walked several paths in life, but have not been able to settle in any. It’s not so much about writing, but about flourishing in one particular area, which for me has been very difficult, due to the multiple things I’ve done, and not sticking to one thing. However, do you think it’s even healthy to stick to just “one thing”?

    • Hi Maria. You’ve hit on the contradiction– financial security allows the creative artist the peace of mind to create, but at the same time, it limits the amount of time we can create. Like you, I’ve worn many career hats. For me, it’s been a wonderful thing–to evolve and grow. Unfortunately, this is not how the “rest of the world” sees it. There is a push to be an expert in 1 field. The publishing world is an example of this. Great comments! Thanks!

      • I certainly have experienced the jack of all trades and master of none dilemma. But when I learned to see all truth as circular and part of a whole it started to make more sense. Unfortunately “Renaissance Soul” is not a career just yet – but you never know! As for me, I get so miserable working for other people that I have no choice but to my own thing, now. Definitely not easy, to choose financial security or creative freedom.

  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head saying: “There is a push to be an expert in 1 field.” I’ve encountered this so many times, I simply cannot explain. Thanks so much for helping me see that it’s not all so bad in this regard, and maybe I’m just exaggerating my situation. In regards to writing, I’ve encountered a lot of bias with people who ARE the supposed experts on the field, and then get offended if I write about something that they supposedly know better. This is a mistaken view I believe; because I can read about a subject and write a good essay worthy of a publication, and I don’t have to have a PhD in that subject matter. The important thing is to read. But some writers, specially in the sciences, may be offended if they read something written by someone who is not in their field. It’s happened with me with my plant blog. I write a lot about plants, but I’m not a botanist. So once I had to leave a plant club I used to belong to, because I started writing about plants in a way that they thought I was trespassing their field, just because I didn’t have the degree! If I would’ve had the degree, they would’ve accepted what I said!

    • Oh, that’s unfortunate. Can you write from the perspective of a lay person who’s passionate about plants? Maybe if you make it clear that it is your passion and that you are self-taught, you may be able to carve out a “position” for yourself in that field.

      • I will not seek to belong to the plant club anymore because it was on the internet anyway, and the time I dedicated to them was time I could dedicate to my blog (because I also submitted images), so it’s better not to seek membership there again. But what you say is wonderful, “you may be able to carve out a “position” for yourself in that field.”- is just so great to hear. Even when I do have degrees, I have been self-taught in many areas simply because I consider myself the “eternal” student and I’m open to learning. “To carve out a “position” for yourself in that field.”- is simply beautifully said. Thanks so much. You have a lot of insight, Patricia.

  3. The interesting thing about creativity is that it “flowers” in unexpected ways and when you least expect it! I think it’s a matter of keeping an open and receptive mind to it. Does that make sense?

  4. I love Myth #2. I’m a teacher and I love to write, but I have started a few blogs only to leave them several months later simply because I became bored of their designated topics, or because I wasn’t able to publish consistently. Since these two things went against the “big rules of blogging” that I had read about online, I felt as if I should just give up on blogging all together. Lately, however, I decided to ignore the rules and start writing again. Before, I was writing for an audience, but now I’m writing for me. It works much better this way.

  5. True. I think the most prevalent myth is that it’s an effortless task. I think people would rather live by the idea that one day they’ll naturally be a fantastic writer, rather than accepting the graft that’s necessary to get there.

  6. I write every morning. I wake up with a word or idea in my brain and go from there. It comes from where? I do not know? Sometimes it is good and I feel I did a good job and sometimes fluff and I write it from a whim or perhaps a piece of meat which was no good that inflicted Scrooge.

  7. This is great! The answer to eight is why I’m still working on a first draft after ten years! They will not stop arguing amongst themselves about how the story should go!

    • Is one character’s voice more compelling than others? Sometimes you have to write multiple endings and figure out which one is the most compelling. Or, get feedback from other writers. That’s what I did!

  8. This list is pretty accurate. Writing isn’t anywhere near as easy as people think it is. Not only is there the writing part of it all, but sometimes you have to do a lot of research about what your topic is, even if it is fictional.

    • Very true, Shmeeasaurus! I spent over a year researching my last novel, The Incident at Montebello to make sure it was historically accurate–all the way down to the food they ate and whether their clothes had zippers or not! Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

  9. I agree with everything – but Point 7.
    In fact, if you prefer to write in private or in a big crowd is just a choice of taste. Some prefer private, some write better when they have to black out a whole busy world around them. I can hardly concentrate when everything is quiet around me. But give me a busy café, a train filled to the bursting point, a room with a lot of chatty people and some music blaring – and I am as happy as a lark. But ok, I am not a professional writer …

    • Hi, Franhunn4u–I know that some people can write in public–but I wonder if it is superficial or requires a great deal of concentration. I can edit something in public but can’t do the “heavy” writing there. You bring up an interesting point. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. Besides the one where writers are strange (I am definite proof of that one), I can tell you from personal experience that all the other ones are silly myths. If writing was easy and predictable, had a definite timetable, and all the characters behaved, I’d have finished all my short stories within a week!

  11. Wow, this is amazing! I have been working as a freelance writer for roughly 4 years now (I consider this my apprenticeship as well as the 9-to-5 that pays the bills), and I am just now working on my first novel. And like you said…my characters have completely overtaken the story and led me down an unexpectedly windy road! And outlining did not work at all.

    Thank you for the list! Seeing what other writers have learned certainly gives me confidence to keep moving forward. And I could use a little of that fairy dust right about now. My rough draft has been a little sluggish in the inspiration department now that I’m getting near the climax. (I know where to go…but the final steps to get there is a little fuzzy and currently a bit boring. Most of it will probably be tossed out in editing)

    One point to add: writing requires being honest to yourself. I have to admit to myself that sometimes I’ve written something that is completely awful. It is part of the journey to make mistakes, honestly admit that it is not working and then move forward.

    • That is absolutely true, Helen! Honesty is so important. I’ve met some famous writers who clearly have inflated egos, but when they sit down at their desk to write, they have to check their egos at the door and write from the heart. Thanks for bringing that up, Helen.

  12. Thank you! I feel like I’m on the right track. I just started blogging and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would, although, I feel like I’m in a naked dream and everyone is laughing. If somebody were to be overly critical or down right nasty, I think it would devastate me. I love writing and I am willing to endure feeling vulnerable until I feel more confident. Your article is a stepping stone for me and I am grateful!

  13. Reblogged this on Scattered Pieces and commented:
    Being that I am currently working on a first novel, I found this to be very enlightening. I have been struggling to find time and with three children and a spouse followed by work and running a household it’s been very hard…This is a great read…

  14. This is sooo true! People who don’t write just don’t get it sometimes. Writing is a passion and a lifestyle. It’s not easy. I WISH I could write full time and make tons of money! But sadly, that’s not how it works.

  15. I hate to break it to you but there are large, vibrating piles of writers who flip every single one of those myths on their fannies and make them truths. Writers are as diverse as orgasms: their manifestation follows a very personal path unique to each individual.

    If it soothes you to find patterns and make lists, then have at it, but know this: you’ll only find what you look for. People tend to believe the world is the way they see it–not because it’s true but because they give more attention to the stuff that supports their theories. Other options exist, they just miss ’em, literally and figuratively…and literarily. Ahem.

    If you want to be a self-supporting writer who can create anywhere, who’s art flows so easily it seems as if the words are writing themselves, who’s characters are collaborative friends with the best manners, and who finds the whole process refreshing instead of frustrating, start believing in us. We’re out there, quietly enjoying the hell out of it all.

    We’re just not on many people’s lists.

  16. Good post, good have this discussions and read other people point of view.
    Although, I disagree with some of your thoughts.
    Are Writers strange? Do we need to care how people see us? You point out the key concept: been a “curious outsider” will “set us apart”. Definitely true. An artist, by definition, needs to go against the wave, the trend, the social consciousness… etc. And he/she should be comfortable with that.

    Myth 4. Yes, writers always write about themselves and their circumstances. It is not about putting the writer or your friends as the main characters, but filling the whole writing effort with ones ideas, concepts, learnings, circumstances… etc. There is no other way to write unless you can have access to other writter/people brain… literally. Hemmingway used to say that you need to be honest in order to be a good writer. Honesty here means writing about things you really know. The only thing you can have access and try to know/understand in this world is you and your circumstances.

    I challenge your thought about Myth 5: Yes, good writing is effortless. A lot of great writers (Julio Cortazar, Nobel Prize Mistral, etc) have accepted that very ofthen they just sat and write, write and write (as if they were guided by an outside voice) and within a couple of hours (some time minutes in the case of some short stories) they could finish a story, novel, etc. There is gifted people that without any effort can reach supreme writing. Totally agree that most of writers (myself included) need to work a lot in order to create a good piece, but it is not a myth that writing could be effortless.

    And, writing can be done at Starbucks. Why not? Yes, sometimes and some writers needs space, silence, etc. But there are writers that works the opposite, here in Mexico City I know many of them that just sat in a Starbucks (the don’t go too often there, because coffee is expensive), Vips, Sanborns or the local cafe and just write and write for hours.

    • Hi Chinfucio. You make a great point about effortless writing. I have experienced it a few times when writing my last novel, and for me it was a bit of heaven on earth. However, I’ve learned that these moments come after a lot of hard work! I am sure that “the greats” have experienced times when the story flowed effortlessly. How wonderful that must be!

  17. There is about as much as a myth about this subject, “writing takes so much time”. People may want to just get famous pretending they have tons of bestsellers, but they just want to get famous quickly with a scam. Well these myths can be surely true that they’re false. Notorious procrastinators, what an absurd!

    (All I am saying is ALL BACKWARDS about “what an absurd”. This kind of post is great for writers. 10 stars)

      • No problem. Good photo for the post, though, I guess you got inspired by the Gotye FT. Kimbra – Somebody that I Used To Know music video to do that photo. A man and a woman were camuflated (hidden, if the word is wrong) into an abstract picture, just like that photo’s woman was camuflated in the loads of post-its.

  18. I’m sure there are exceptions to every myth (meaning sometimes they’re not myths at all), but I like your list. It’s encouraging to the majority of us who do find inspiration haphazardly hitting us and who need to work hard to improve our skills and edit our manuscripts. Thanks.

  19. I enjoyed this post and it makes me happy to know there are passionate artists in the world who struggle, mold, and create beautiful things just for the sake of doing it. Or maybe it is not just for the sake of doing it. I believe writing is a beautiful expression of ourselves. I once read a book that professionally, wasn’t very well written. The plot was dull and long, but I loved reading it because the author wrote from their heart. I felt I was reading someone’s journal, and their sincerity and the emotional impact touched my life. That gives hope to writing. It sounds like you are a professional writer, with a lot of experience and who writes books to be published. But for me writing is just a way of talking to myself, having a heart to heart and a journey to understand my world. I believe myth #4 because I write what I know, but perhaps that is just because I am writing for myself. Saying that, I support myths #2 and #3 because I know my writing can be and is all over the place and nonuniform. Writing is a process, and a incredible, self discovering one at that. Thanks again.

    • Absolutely true, Bjnoonie! I started out like you, writing for myself, and gradually looked for a wider audience for my work. It has been an amazing “journey” of self discovery. Thanks for bringing up the point—Writing is a process, and a incredible, self discovering one at that.

  20. I enjoyed this post and it makes me happy to know there are passionate artists in the world who struggle, mold, and create beautiful things just for the sake of doing it. Or maybe it is not just for the sake of doing it. I believe writing is a beautiful expression of ourselves. I once read a book that professionally, wasn’t very well written. The plot was dull and long, but I loved reading it because the author wrote from their heart. I felt I was reading someone’s journal, and their sincerity and the emotional impact touched my life. That gives hope to writing. It sounds like you are a professional writer, with a lot of experience and who writes books to be published. But for me writing is just a way of talking to myself, having a heart to heart and a journey to understand my world. I believe myth #4 because I write what I know, but perhaps that is just because I am writing for myself. Saying that, I support your view on myths #2 and #3 because I know my writing can be and is all over the place and nonuniform. Writing is a process, and a incredible, self discovering one at that. Thanks again.

  21. ~ I really like what you’ve said in #3! :) In tech writing, outline helps esp. when I’m starting to write but as I go along, I just write on my own, sometimes without outlines. As you’ve said it, it gets messy, yep and then everything will fall into its own perfect place. I still find it hard to write, esp. creatively — it could bec. I’ve been writing technically? The style of writing is just different. Honestly, I can’t even call myself a writer, let alone that it has become my job, all bec. of an accident. :) I hope I’d write with ease someday. Hahaha! Btw, congrats on being FP! Yours is such a lovely and informative blog. :) Cheers! – Bliss, The Lurker’s List

  22. This is so true! Writing something on WordPress takes me an hour at least, even more if it’s on the days my brain feels drained. It’s definitely not easy to come up with something good. But It’s all worth it when you realise that your work gets read and noticed even if it’s just a small handful of people.

  23. This is absolutely accurate and so very lovely. It is everything I tell myself and others when they ask me about my writing. It isn’t a set in stone curriculum, but more something you feel and release. Writing is the best form of cathartic action and I am truly in admiration of this post.

  24. I particularly relate to #3. As someone who studied English in college, and wrote many papers that followed outlines and many more that did not, I’ve found that the process of writing is something I can’t explain easily. Honestly, for my best work, I often only had a very vague idea of the topic I wanted to write about. The actual flow and design simply came to me as I wrote and revised. It couldn’t have been planned.

      • Cool – yea, when I am able to line up several good points I thought up beforehand, then an outline is clutch. But if I don’t, sometimes just writing and coming up with it on the fly is cool

      • Mmmm. Yea, for longer pieces an outline definitely helps to chart the course, so to speak. Or a piece where I already know what some of my main points are going to be.

        But sometimes, it sure helps to just go for it and write – and then edit it down later!

        In blogging, some say that it’s best to come up with the headline first and then design the post around the headline, but I have a real hard time with that – it’s easier for me the other way around. A good headline takes a few tries for me, and sometimes I can’t get to the point of what I’m trying to say until I’ve started writing.

        You can’t steer a parked car, after all!

  25. Writing should definitely be done privately, but I think editing is the ugliest. It involves loose paper and scissors and tape and red pen everywhere. Starbucks doesn’t have a table big enough. I’d need the whole store.

  26. The only time I make meaningful progress on my doctoral dissertation (qualitative case study) is when the apartment has fallen fast asleep, sometime after midnight and before dawn.

  27. i am not sure if i understand your pick-and-shovel point. i have never heard anyone say writing is easy or writing is hard. what i believe is that writing is. period. everyone has their own process and it takes a while to find it. for instance, i don’t work in drafts, i try to write down everything i feel, and then review it and edit it rather than going for another draft (advantages of soft copy :P )the only downside is that sometimes i miss a point or two. But i have just started writing, so what do i know :P :P

  28. Reblogged this on Mrs C Writes's Blog and commented:
    As someone new to writing I found this post really useful. It’s always good to hear tips and gain some reassurance from more seasoned writers. Myth #3 reasonated with my writing style and I am definitely a chaotic writer! Great post….

  29. Thank you for sharing your observations on writing! I agree with all of them except number 2. :) The only way I CAN write is if I keep a schedule. I work full-time, exercise and spend time with my fiance and her children – if I didn’t have a set schedule, I’d never be able to make time for writing!

    • Hi Bucketology! Yes, I agree that we need to make a commitment and schedule time to write as often as we can. That is absolutely true. What I meant is that when undertaking a long project–like writing a novel–it is hard to predict when you will be finished writing it. For me, at least! Thanks for your thoughts!

  30. I like writing at Starbucks since it’s less distracting that writing at home. Still, I have headphones on, so it’s as if I’m alone (what other people see when they look at me, I don’t know or care to speculate about.)

  31. Awesome post! It’s totally true,in fact, so true, I even laughed a bit at some of them because of how much they applied to myself, my writing is all over the place! So unorganized I can a lot of time come up with the mid-point of a story before I have a concrete beginning.

  32. I found myself agreering to many of your myths. Writing can be such a mess at times and following a schedule is pretty much impossible. At least that’s what I have experienced. For some reason, however, I enjoy writing in public because I find an odd kind of peace. I’m not sure why but it works for me most of the time. Thanks for your post!

  33. Love this!
    I have been “writing” all my life but was too afraid to share with others until recently and people just don’t get it that to write it’s not just sit and write, it take great effort, work, patience and love!

  34. I am new to the blogging world, and this is one of the first blogs I’ve had the pleasure to read. I started writing my novels two years ago, and then I experienced a few issues that left me disabled. Anyway, you talked about apprenticeships, as well as having other writers read your work. Do you have some ideas on how a person should go about this?
    I was going to give up on finishing my book, but the story keeps buzzing around in my head. This makes me think that the story needs to be finished!

    • Hi Whimsical Fancy. Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I do have ideas about finding other writers: 1. Subscribe to Poets & Writers Magazine. You can post an ad to writers in your local area and create your own group. 2. Check out your local bookstore. Sometimes writing groups meet there. 3. Look at your local Meetup groups on the web and see if there are any writing groups that would meet your needs. That’s where I’d start. Oh….one more idea. 4. There are online writing groups that are very helpful. I belonged to http://www.zoetrope.com (Francis Ford Coppola’s website) and found some great fellow writers there who were wonderful critics.
      I hope that’s helpful! Best to you–

      • Hi Patti,
        Thank you for the suggestions. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner.
        Due to an autoimmune disease, (the meds crash my immune system) public meetings aren’t an option; however, I will look at the site you suggested. Thank you again for your time.
        Best wishes,
        Adrianne Weaver

  35. Yes! I believe all of these points! I have found them to be true by experience. Thanks for sharing and helping me to feel that I am sane after all. Sometimes, I’m not too sure. :)

  36. I think it’s worth pointing out that these are based on fiction writing. It is hinted at by saving writing creatively but I believe writing non-fiction can also be a creative process, but people write non-fiction for a living all the time, as well as sticking to outlines, timetables and can be done in Starbucks. Fiction writing though I agree with all but number 9- writing is magical, but maybe I’m the exception to the rule. If I focus on a topic for a minute or two then begin to daydream, I will most of the time find a story. It will then change as I write and take a lot of work to make it good, but initially it’s magic.

    • Hi Nikki. You raise a good point about writing non-fiction. It is a different process for me than writing fiction too. I usually just make a list of ideas that I want to include–and make no attempt to edit or arrange or censor the list. Then I go back and work from that list of thoughts and shape them into paragraphs. Thanks for your thoughts!

  37. Great article!
    I just started a blog which is mostly drawing with a splash of writing. i find that my best writing ideas come to me not when I’m seated in front of the computer but at very random moments.

    • Really like this blog. I have self-published novel on amazon and am writing another novel now. Hope you have time to check out my blog, cicily17@wordpress.com. It takes 19th century literary characters including Jane Eyre and Mr. Darcy into the modern world. I would love your opinion! Annabelle

  38. I do find myself writing about myself and my situation most of the time…I suppose because I write based off of my feelings. But I guess thats ok being that I write poetry more so than a book but even the book I am writing is an autobiography. ..interesting read.

  39. Congratulations on being freshly pressed Patti! I don’t consider myself a writer, but even for blogging, have dealt with #2. All the advice out there says stick to a schedule, but it is so not easy to do! There are days when the creative juices are just flowing and others when you just draw a naught :-(

    • Thanks so much, Kan! Absolutely true. I think the discipline of sitting down every day is important. Realistically though, many of us have to squeeze writing into very full days. When I can’t write very much during the week, I try to make up for it on the weekends. I think the act of sitting down at the desk (or wherever you write) “primes” the creative “pump.”

  40. “But after we muddle through the first draft, we begin to see a path.” — This is so true and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about writing:

    “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.” ~ Annie Dillard

    Excellent post! :)

  41. You know the toughest part of having been in a publication? People think you can write about anything anywhere. To think that i was actually at a copy edit job seems to restrain my creative flow sometimes.

  42. Thank you, very inspiring. I’m just struggling with my doctoral thesis, which is an odd sort of writing. Needs to be accurate, but if the writing doesn’t flow it’s just painful. I’ve also started writing some fiction. I’ll try to remind myself of what you write here.

  43. Reblogged this on thatstorygirl and commented:
    This post is so spot on it’s scary. This is for writers – so you know you’re not alone and so you know some pitfalls to avoid and it’s for no-writers – so you can have a bit of a window into understanding us….cos, you know you love us really :)

  44. I felt sad with Myth #10, just the 1st line though. If high regards to writers was done way back ( again, way back) the Renaissance time thru followers of generous appreciations, then audience (readers) of current times are still generous but maybe they are not really quite following at all.

  45. I 100% agree with this list, especially #10. Some things take time. The longer it takes, the better it has the potential to be, and we cant just not go to work and pay bills in the meantime. I wish, but that’s not at all how it works. Write when you can, but I also think it has to be treated like a second job where we pretend we’re getting paid for it. That’s how it ends up a finished product.

  46. If this isn’t the truth then I don’t know what is. I have finally decided to start writing my first YA novel and there is nothing really effortless about it. I tried the whole outline approach but I have realized that my brain doesn’t really function that way. It’s just like you said: wading in the mud and hoping to stumble upon some gold somewhere. It’s definitely time consuming but I’m hoping that my end product will make it well worth it.

    • I hope you do finish it, S Dot! The rewards are amazing when you do. You will learn so much about your craft and how to really communicate best with your readers. Best of luck!–Patti

  47. “3. Myth: Writing is neat and tidy. It follows an outline. ”

    I so like the idea of outlining a story as it offers up some structure you can stick to, it’s a pragmatic approach to the story. Plus, it’s so easy to ease the guilt of not actually sitting down to write. If you’re writing an outline, you’re still being productive, RIGHT?!?

    But in the end, you’re right, it doesn’t work once the creative process is flowing free :-)

  48. Just reading this left me with a smile and feeling inspired….I like the bit about “free-spirited and impulsive”! Thanks ~ Natalie

  49. Super list pilot fish. loved the no 3 in it. so true. it is haphazard. i often find myself memorising the lines that appear in my head, in a mall while shopping, i just keep jotting down my thoughts and at the end of it, all of them make a beautiful garland indeed.

    • Hi Ana! For me too…I treasure those blissful moments when the writing is effortless. I do think that’s my best work. It usually happens for me in the final stages of a project–after I’ve done a lot of hard “pick and shovel” work! Thanks for your thoughts.

  50. These were fantastic! After many years of school teachers telling me that an outline was a necessity, I could not stand writing because I simply did not operate that way. Once I found a teacher who encouraged her students’ creative sides though, I fell in love.

  51. These are all great. Trying to complete my first novel and all these myths have been crushed. The last one though does hurt as the majority go my book I wrote whilst i was unemployed and I’m sure if I didn’t have to work I would have finished it by now.

  52. I really thought that good writers have always been good writers, as they were born with this talent. But as you said writing needs practice. I think not always but for sure sometimes Writers write about themselves and people they know.

  53. Hi everyone! I’m delighted that this post struck a chord with many of you. A big thanks too to all of you who re-blogged or tweeted this post. I love the dialog you’ve started here with your fellow writers and hope we can continue it. My next post will focus on the craft of writing–specifically how to create a believable and frightening villain. I hope this topic will allow you to share some insights you’ve gained along the way or to ask questions. My best to you all~Patti

  54. I can relate so much to this post. A lot of people don’t understand how writers think, how writers see things. This post is now here, for everyone to have a glimpse of the life of a writer. Thanks for this post and stay awesome!

  55. I liked your post very much, however I have found through life that writing is very much individualistic and not all of your myths (fact or fiction) cannot be molded to fit all writers, what works for some may be quite different from the other. Not all people get to the quiet place in their minds in the same fashion as others where they can conceive and perceive their thoughts and ideas from. While most of what you wrote I have found to be true, some parts as I said are highly individualistic in nature,

  56. “I tried to write this way, but it just didn’t work. Instead, I had to embrace the chaos of creativity.”

    Me too :)

    Creativity really is chaotic. Ironically, trying to organize it through outlines seems to only make it more so. For me, at least. Great post.

  57. As for #1, I think many writers are a little quirky, which makes them fun.
    #2 – I have had trips that are actually like writing books, where I think I will be in place A on a certain day, but circumstances and challenges lead me to place X instead.
    #7 – I make a lot of faces when I write, especially when doing dialogue. I find myself acting out little moments and actions. This is probably not the best for while hanging out in Starbucks.

  58. Character are obedient? I agree, absolutely not. They have evolved and continue to evolve. I thought I had them figured out, but I was wrong. They have grown and continue to grow. Great post, I truly enjoyed it.

  59. #10 seems to have taken on a corollary these days. You can take advantage of having been laid off to write full-time without any of the angst about whether to quit your job or not. The economy is so bad right now that it is largely a waste of time to even look. The time is much better spent on writing. Here’s hoping that this economic circumstance will provoke a writing renaissance.

  60. I love your write up! #4 and #10. It’s sad how people tend to stereotype us writers. But it really doesn’t affect me. Anyways, i didn’t really write ti imoress in the first place, i write to have my ideas heard, hoping to have spoken for those that do not have the courage or capability to do so.

  61. Loved the post. It does occur to me that there are some eternal truths about writing and writers as well as myths: nothing can replace rich and varied experience of life whether we write about it – or react to it.

  62. I completely agree with this! I find it such a struggle when being tied to deadlines and guidelines in english class, similarly to how I struggle profoundly in any art class I have ever taken. I view writing as an artform, you must be able to make it your own, when you are crippled by guidelines and deadlines creativity sinks away! All of the best writing I have done, in my opinion, has been done entirely on my own time. This piece is incredibly relatable and written beautifully, short and sweet. I enjoyed it very much.

    • Hi smallenbergerg! Thanks so much for you thoughts and compliment! It’s so true that you must make writing “your own” artform. Your words become your creative “instruments”–so to speak. Like you, I truly became a creative artist through my own efforts. But I did have some wonderful mentors/teachers along the way who gave me great feedback and guidance. Best of luck with your writing…Patti

  63. Reblogged this on My World, Unexplained and commented:
    This is so true, I have so many ideas floating around in my head, I think sometime soon I just might drown if I don’t bust the dam and let them out. The only thing is I can find enough explosives to bust the dam, but maybe now with wordpress I can at least put a crack in it.

  64. Most of these are indeed myths that are believed by most. For me creative writing is inspired and magical. This is what makes the difference between writing a really creative piece and say, something that I need to write for my job. That’s one myth I like to believe is true. :)

  65. Writing to an outline has never worked for me either. Probably because my characters like doing the unexpected and throwing the whole outline out of whack. I don’t mind writing in public though. People watching has provided some great inspiration, and helped rewrite scenes that just didn’t feel right as well. Thanks for the great post!

    • Hi ilovegeekology. It’s true that people watching can inspire some great descriptions. I especially love observing people’s quirks and mannerisms–which can be filed away for later use! Thanks for your thoughts! –Patti

  66. I appreciate this list so much because it is entirely true…Haha, how many times have I had a discussion with a friend that went something like:

    “Auugh! Character X just did Action Y that I didn’t want him to dooo!”
    “…So don’t have him do it.”
    “What? But he chose to do it!”
    “…aren’t you the author? Don’t you have control over your characters?”
    “….” /walks away

    Also I’ve frequently had to remind my other more fresh writerly friends of 5 and 9…while my less green writerly friends and I speak fondly of the few times when the writing WAS effortless or just inspired…so few times, so precious…

    • Hi loveandpapayas. There has been some discussion here about working in “public!” Some people agree that it’s difficult and others think it’s conducive to good writing. Thanks for your thoughts!

  67. I have met many writers, and while there are exceptions, this does ring to be mostly true. However I do not like number 1. There isn’t really any evidence posted stating how writers are not strange. I would posit that they are very strange and many of them revel in their strangeness.


    • Great analysis of myths. I find when ideas flow into my head it’s magic, but when writer’s block hits, it’s frustrating.
      Another question for thought, I write and hope to entertain others, but mainly I write for myself. What are your views?

      • Hi chubbypaws. I think there are several reasons to write. One of them is for yourself. That’s the way I started. Later, I wanted to write for an audience. There’s no one right or wrong way! Thanks for your thoughts!

  68. ad #1, I pretty much agree. A certain degree of strangeness is an occupational hazard for any creative person, but getting estranged is counterproductive. Whether writing, good writing, is or should be effortless, I guess that depends on how much experience a writer has. My rationality is still very much a hindrance to me writing, though I believe I will be able to harness it as an asset, once I’ve developed a personal style. Not only are the characters in the novel constantly developing, that is also true for the writer

    • That’s an interesting point about harnessing your rationality, NicoLite. I think it’s true. It definitely helps when you are editing the book and making plotting decisions. At one point an agent told me to cut 100,000 words from my novel, so I had to make some major decisions of what to cut, what to keep, and how to restructure the plot. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation!—Patti

  69. There is something about writing …it looks tougher than it is,don’t get me wrong,it is work . But I believe we all can write if we are willing to get down to it and put something on that blank stark white page and are willing to spend the time it takes to produce a piece of writing worth reading.

  70. I have always felt like an odd duck, but I love that about myself. Now that I have started writing, me being a weirdo was one of the first things that came to mind as I sat in Starbucks editing my work!

  71. I agree with all your myth debunking. The writing of the first draft can come easily but the edit, second edit then third … and more … can take forever. The characters take on a life of their own – and why shouldn’t they! My characters may have some traits of mine but are not modelled on me – maybe on people I have met or observed. And my day job I still have to hang on to for now.
    I love the “Lost in My Life (Price Tags) ” by Rachel Perry Welty. Beautiful.

    • Thanks so much, Jules! I realize my list is subjective, but it’s good to hear that your list and mine are the same! I loved Rachel Perry Welty’s piece too. It’s huge and makes you feel like you’re walking into the piece. –Patti

  72. Dear Patti, thanks for the post! I am inspired for highlighting earthly facts about godly writers. I am a researcher and love to write as well. I have done scientific communications so far. Very recently I have started a blog http://fairytalesthesedays.com/ to explore scientific discoveries in terms of tales however, after much postponement! I was not quite sure about my offerings or my readers. Then few days ago, I started just to start writing and shaping myself. I don’t have a road-map yet and my idea is mostly abstract about the blog. But just as I have started I am getting the feel that it is going to be a serendipitous journey! Thanks for resonating with me..

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