Updated: Nov 18, 2018
There are loads more common misconceptions about writers than what’s listed below, but these are just a handful that pop into my head:
1.) Writers have easy jobs.
Man, if you think writing is an easy job, you’re out of your mind. Even if you’re not researching for content writing, you’re bound to still need to research for fiction. At the very least, it takes time to craft content and present it in a meaningful way. You’ll never make everyone happy, but you’ll always strive to no matter what you say, so your best will still be disappointing in some way.
If writing is so easy, why haven’t most people started already? There’s a good reason so many people say, “I’d like to write a book someday.” Someday never comes for most people.
One of the questions I get asked the most is how I ever found the time to write If I Let You Go. The truth is, I didn’t have time. I was a workaholic. However, I wrote on the weekends, stayed up late, and sacrificed other hobbies to make it work. When you want to accomplish something, you do what it takes.
2.) We’re all artsy-fartsy.
Writers are individuals just like workers in any other industry. How you perceive other writers depends on the communities you belong to. In my circle, romance writers seem to be more granola-cashew-hike-with-the-dog types. In others, they’re the lonely, pink Barbie doll types. I know of one romance author who pretends to be a white woman, but is really a hulking black man behind the pen name.
How many construction workers have been on the Great British Baking Show competition? Exactly. Stereotypes aren’t always valid.
Some stereotypes exist for a reason, but I haven’t met many artsy, pretentious jerks yet. Any, actually. Knock on wood.
3.) Authors live glamorous lives.
Hah! I have a day job. Even the writers who write full-time don’t take the breaks most people think they do. Maybe they only wrote 1,000 words today and you imagine them sipping a pina colada with all that extra time they must have, but did you think about the time they spend editing? Marketing? Doing graphic design and having to learn new skills to keep up with the market? Even traditionally published writers have to contend with tasks that aren’t writing.
Many successful writers have day jobs or freelance to get by. It takes dozens of sales to make what I’d earn in a half day at an entry-level office job. Then self-employment taxes come knocking.
Maybe some authors are living the dream out on Costa Rica, but most aren’t.
4.) Writers with high vocabulary are the best writers.
Vocabulary helps, but using big words doesn’t always mean anything. Think about most corporate jargon. Think about this one phrase: “Facilitates the effective use of interpersonal communication skills and fosters synergy between departments.”
This can be narrowed down to: “Communicates and works well with others.”
Not only did that take less time to read, but you got the message without having to put up with an ego.
Frequent unnecessary flowery language is bad in corporate culture, and it’s lame in fiction, too. It indicates a lack of confidence. For a corporation, it could indicate that they feel they need to craft a professional image to compensate for what they lack. For a fiction writer, it could indicate a lack of narrative skill.
Not only is this one of the biggest misconceptions about writers, it’s also one of the biggest misconceptions employers hiring writers buy into.
There’s a reason Flesch-Kincaid readability scores exist. Just throwing it out there.
5.) Writers don’t need editors because they’re already talented.
I’ve never met a fiction writer who had a good book someone else hadn’t looked at first. I’ve never talked with a content writer who didn’t have an editor or some form of gatekeeper before content got published.
We’re not superhuman. We’re writers. We get distracted and type the same word twice, we include information that doesn’t totally belong, we spell things incorrectly because our word processors don’t catch errors…
Every freelance client I’ve ever worked with has reviewed content before posting. Sometimes the edits are awful and improper and I can immediately tell that a non-native English speaker reviewed the copy. Sometimes the edits are real head-bangers, like spelling “specialising” as “specializing” when working for a client in Scotland for the first time.
Fiction authors, sometimes your ideas are sh*t. I had a few crap ideas before I got If I Let You Go published.
Point is, writers suffer from blindness when editing. We love our babies too much or we’re overworked or we’re just newbies. There are a million reasons why every writer needs an editor who has their back.
6.) Writers’ block is a huge issue among good writers.
This is quite possibly the most common of misconceptions about writers, and there’s not much that annoys me more than the words “writers’ block.” I’ll tell you why.
It’s a convenient excuse to not write. Just write ANYTHING. Invent an awful character. Put him in a room. Daydream about what happens next and start typing as your thoughts play out. Don’t even think about the word count. “Writers’ block” is often likened to an illness creative people suffer from, but unless the writer has proven themselves and his or her motivation level, I’d argue that the creativity was never there to begin with. Sometimes the issue is honestly depression or something else the writer chooses to deny.
Most writers I’ve talked to CAN’T STOP WRITING. In fact, they write so much that they’re practically spilling sewage, but it’s all in good fun. It can be cleaned up later.
Writers block is a real problem for many writers, but in my experience, it’s often used as a sympathy tactic.
“Please don’t judge me for my lack of creativity right now! I’m suffering from writers’ block!”
Very few people will judge you for feeling uninspired, but a fair amount of writers will roll their eyes when you say you have writers’ block. Sometimes writing a book just sucks, and Netflix is more appealing. For some people it always sucks, but they need a scapegoat.
7.) Authors all have a vice.
Sorry. I don’t drink beyond trying a sip of something I know I’ll hate, and I don’t smoke, steal, do drugs, or need to have what everyone else has. I drive a lame SUV and don’t care, I’m not particularly proud of my college degree (most other millennials I’ve talked to agree that degrees are a business scheme our validation-obsessed society has forced us to participate in, so I’m not alone), don’t stare at dudes with washboard abs, my work ethic is disgustingly over-the-top…
If I have a vice, it’s that I love to eat. Me and the over 70% of Americans who are overweight or obese.
Authors are often painted as high-smoking, high-drinking, sexually ravenous prideful snots, but it’s rarely the case. It’s one of the biggest misconceptions about writers out there.
I follow a few moms on Twitter who tweet about the characters they’re killing in between posts about baking goodies. So much vice.
8.) Writers all read really fast.
Nope. Personally, with a full-time job, I read 10-20 books per year. This year I’ve only read 7 (almost 8) because of how focused I’ve been on publishing my first book, moving out, finding a new day job, etc. I’ve chatted with several people who read 100-350 books a year. Some of them even review their favorites. I can’t even imagine reading this quickly and being able to recall details.
I do, however, find that the more you read the faster you can do it.
9.) Writers always take a long time on good works.
Before I get on with this point, I’d like to tell a story. When I was in college, I briefly double majored in Communications and English. Against all reason, I took six classes in one semester, four of which were English classes with intensive writing components. I was busy pretty much all of the time outside of class, reading ye olde English and brushing up on different style formats.
All of my professors waited until one week before finals were due to give their assignments. Four of the professors wanted essays. They were each 10-12 pages long. On top of this, because of poor planning, they had other essays and assignments due in between. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to even start on the finals until the night before they were due. I cranked out FORTY-SEVEN pages, referenced and all, in one night. I stayed up until like 2:30 AM and my brain was mush, but I got As on all of the assignments.
… Except for one essay assigned by a catty professor who had it out for me because I didn’t like her class’ format and didn’t take part in group discussion, but that’s neither here nor there. I got a C.
There are a lot of great works out there by authors who just had the mojo for a brief period and cranked things out.
… These are just some famous works that took under a few months to write. The list could go on and on.
10.) We’re all boring nerds.
We’re the quirkiest people out there, you bet – I’ve never walked into an English class and expected a group of totally average American Joes – but we’re far from boring. Get us talking about something we like and we’ll never shut up.
What other misconceptions about writers can you think of?
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