I thought I’d talk about myths about writing, just so we get all those nagging doubts out of the way. One thing that really depresses me is when I meet someone and they find out I am writing a novel and then they go: “Oh, wow, that’s so great – I could never do that!”
- I hate being put on a pedestal in any way, shape or form for something that I do that pretty much everyone else could really easily learn to do far better than I could. Especially those who have the dedication character trait down pat.
- I don’t like people selling themselves short before they even try. Everyone learns how to write, learns the alphabet, learns to read – you have all the basics from which to start. You just need to move up the ladder in terms of learning more about how to use language to elicit reactions, to evoke images and to provoke thought. And you do that by reading and writing – by practice. And it’s fun and not too difficult when you aren’t thinking about aiming for publication.
- It is hard. Yes, it is. I still struggle. But it isn’t as hard as you think it is and it isn’t always hard and half the time, it’s not the writing bit that is hard. In fact, if you are a woman, it’s hard because you aren’t used to making time to sit down and write because you know there are household chores to be done, work to do, friends and family to be with and bills to pay. Something else always has more priority. If you are a man, from what some of my friends tell me, it’s hard because there’s an expectation that you will write certain things and if you are starting out, it’s hard to get over the fear when it comes to expressing yourself in a partial if not completely public form and you are afraid that you don’t have the right language to discuss emotions and so on. Once you have dealt with whatever it is that is making it hard, the actual writing part itself is a piece of cake in comparison. Sort of.
- It is easy. So, I’ve sorted out my schedule. My friends complain that they don’t see me. I am freaking out about one particular character so much that I have written his bit down yet and I am therefore stuck because I can’t progress further till I finish it. Trust me, it isn’t that easy. Not even for non-fiction.
- I’m not a writer. You do the basics and a little bit above it, every day, so this is more of an excuse than a myth.
- You need talent. There is an easy trick to being talented: practice. That’s all it is. All those people who can draw or write or play music? You know what happened to them? When they were younger, they ended up in a situation where they couldn’t communicate something in the usual way and so they started drawing, writing, or playing – whatever felt most comfortable at the time. And it became both useful and comforting and fun so they kept doing it. Then they grew up and found out that they were good enough at it that other people could pay them for it. Because all that time they didn’t know it but it was practice.
- It will take a long time. It might. You don’t know. I ran into someone on twitter who was writing books in a fortnight to a month. Depends on what you are writing and for whom. I can write a poem in five minutes but a novel takes me five years (and counting). A short story will take me a couple of hours. An article, one hour. Erotica takes the better part of a day. You will write faster than I do in some cases and slower in others. It will be cheesy at the start but the more you do it, the better you will get. You really can’t assume such things before you start.
- You don’t need to do research. Yes, you do. Even if you are writing a fiction book, yes you do. More on this later.
- It is glamorous to be an author. Actually, no. You are poor. If you are lucky, you will take five years to write a book and get a publisher’s attention, then one year for it to get on a bookshelf and then one year after that to see what the figures are before you generally see a royalty pay check. Meanwhile, you are poor and crossing your fingers and hoping the book sells well.
But you can do this:I live in an building from the 1800s in the historic artistic downtown section of Perth and I am an author and a journalist. Sounds very glamorous and to the people in Sri Lanka, well, they imagine me chatting to other authors with a glass of champagne in my hand. I haven’t lied though – it’s true. I live in a very old building in the heart of Fremantle and I am a poor freelancer with a cat to feed. So you can spin a story out and give people the impression that you are something else or more than what you are.
I personally don’t like doing this (because I get idiotic questions I can’t answer afterwards) but I can tend to get so carried away about the architecture of my building that it often winds up with the same result.
Back to my point. Do not do it for the glamour. Do it because you have something to say or because you love it. Or you will be disappointed.
- How to write a book: Part 1: Introduction
- How to write a book: Part 2: And the number one secret for writing a book…
- How to write a book: Part 3: Myths about writing
- How to write a book: Part 4: Inspiration (or is there a muse?)
- How to write a book, part 10: Research. Or why I need a travelling library.
- How to write a book: Part 5: Structure (or Chapter and verse)
- How to write a book: Part 6: How do I get started?
- How to write a book: Part 7: The writing process, step by step
- How to write a book: Post 8: Why you shouldn’t let your muse get drunk on champagne/how to braintrain your muse
- How to write a book: Part 9: Copyright issues
- How to write a book: Part 11: Motivation
- How to write a book: Part 12: Time & expectation management
- How to write a book: Part 13: It’s kind of crowded in here…