Writing is glamorous—all author signings, magazine interviews, and book tours across the globe. As soon as you get published you can tell your day job to F off. When you’re a professional writer, you don’t have to worry anymore that you suck. Once you’re published, all o your problems will melt away.
Writing is a dream career, but it’s not as high-profile and easy-living as it’s cracked up to be on TV and in movies. Writing takes a ton of commitment, hard work, resilience, and willingness to look foolish, no matter where a writer is in their career.
Here are 10 common misconceptions about writing and what the reality actually looks like for established writers:
1. Genius writers are born like that
When you read a really great book or an exceptional article, it feels so effortless. Every word and period and twist and comma just seem like they were sent directly from the heavens.
It’s ironic really—that seeming effortlessness came from years and years, decades even, of blood, sweat, and good old fashioned hard work.
Genius writers were not born writing amazing prose from the get go. They wrote a lot of really, really bad stuff first, and probably still do. Writing is something that requires your 10,000 hours (and then some) in order to master it. Even the most talented writers were awful once.
But that’s good news—it means with practice, you can develop those skills, too.
2. Everything professional writers touch turns to gold
Professional writers aren’t immune to writing bad work.
No matter who they are or where they’re at in their writing journey, every writer will have pieces that just don’t work.
There’s never a point in the writing journey where every single piece you write will be considered a success. So get comfortable with the bad stuff, because you’re gonna be seeing a lot of it.
3. Writing is always an enjoyable process
Established and successful writers aren’t always living in sheer bliss while they develop their latest writing pieces. In fact, it’s probably just as hard for them now as it was when they first started, just in different ways. With success comes a whole new stream of pressures and problems.
No matter what, if you’re a writer, you’ll feel uncomfortable, stressed, and overwhelmed often. It’s just the nature of the work.
But real writers are those who keep writing despite the negative emotions and the overwhelm.
4. Real writers have been writing since before they could talk
Yes, the majority of writers will say they’ve been in love with writing stories since they can remember. But there are plenty of successful writers who fell into it later in life, too.
It doesn’t matter how old you were when you put your first story idea down on paper. It doesn’t matter if you had a Masters in Creative Writing by the time you were 25 or just picked up your first writing book at the age of 65.
Writers are those who write. That’s the only requirement.
5. Inspiration hits and then they write for hours on end
Established writers don’t wait until a grand idea strikes them to start writing. They sit down and write even when their idea well feels dried up.
Sometimes a grand idea strikes and that does leads to effortless writing. But for the most part, a writer sits down to work and then the inspiration hits, not the other way around.
6. Every successful writer has lived a life worth writing about
Write what you know.
But what if you don’t know anything? What if you haven’t traveled, been involved in a grand heist or been on the inside of a super secret society?
That’s okay. Those are just details. Just the bells and whistles.
At the heart of every story, regardless of the fancy settings, action, and details, are its people—their relationships, challenges, and personal transformations.
And regardless of who you are or what your personal history is, you have plenty of life experience. Personal trauma. Personal victories. Failed relationships. Thriving relationships. You’ve got something in your personal arsenal that will translate to a rich story.
All those other shinier details can be learned and gained through reading and research.Thank you, Google!
You don’t have to be a world explorer to be able to write epic stories.
7. Established writers are always confident in the work they produce
Established writers are often very insecure about their writing, despite how many times they’ve been published.
Whether they’re pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, trying to move past a bad review, or simply just having a bad day, even experienced writers deal with personal doubt and shame.
8. Real writers write full-time
Do you know how many published novelists still have another source of income? The majority of published writers don’t earn enough to rely on their writing as their only income.
Quit waiting until you have time to write to start writing. That time may never come—even after you get published!
Write in the morning, write during your lunch break, write at night. Just know—not having the time to write until you can write full-time is a cop out.
9. Successful writers don’t have to worry about anything other than writing
Even the most famous and highly regarded writers still have real life to deal with.
Kids, family, bills, illness, and stepping in dog poo. No one is immune to real life, even the shiniest of authors.
Becoming a published author is a grand feat, but it will not solve all your life woes.
10. To really make it big, you have to reinvent (or rewrite) the wheel
There are only about ten main story archetypes—period.
I guarantee your favorite book—the most unique thing you’ve ever read, the most disruptive, earth shattering novel you’ve laid your hands on—fits into one (or probably a few) of these main archetypes. What was so unique about it wasn’t the storyline or the format, but the way it was told.
You don’t have to have an entirely new idea in order to strike it big as a writer. In fact, readers want those stories they already know and love; they just want them told in a fresh and fascinating way.
What’s a writing misconception you believed for so long that turned out to be a myth? Share it in the comments below!