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7 Myths About Being A Writer

You’ve heard them. I’ve heard them. We’ve all probably heard them at some point. They’re old myths and bad information on what it’s like, or what you need, to be a writer.

The life of a writer is portrayed one way. But, for most everyday writers, it’s pretty far removed from that portrayal.

I hope I can add some limited clarity to what it’s like being a writer, and why these are indeed myths.

So here are 7 myths about being a writer.

You need a cabin in the woods.

I blame the movies for this one. Oh, who wouldn’t love a nice log cabin in the mountains overlooking a bristling stream? I would! But that would just make me a mediocre writer who owned a log cabin in the mountains overlooking a bristling stream. Nothing more.

This notion of the writer as a romantic profession is such a load. Sure, there are many introspective, Thoreau types out there in the writing world. But the large majority of writers are doing things like writing the tag line for your Fruit of the Loom underwear.

You need to quit your day job.

More hogwash. I think the quickest way to suck at writing is to start trying to make money full time from writing. Why? Pressure.

Keep your day job. Write at night on your blog or through freelance opportunities. Then, when the time is right, and when you think you can support you and your family through writing, you can consider quitting your day job. But not until then.

You might say you’re sacrificing everything to “follow your dreams.” But your kids’ stomachs don’t care about your dreams. Follow your dreams, but be smart about it.

You need to frequent coffee shops and wear a fedora.

I’m being partially silly here. Just partially.

The point is that some writers feel the need to let everyone know they are writers. And there’s an image associated with that. If you’re sitting at a corner table in the local hipster coffee shop, using a Macbook, then you must be the next C.S. Lewis, right? Probably not. But you have to keep up appearances and all.

You need to write a book.

I hope to have a finished book soon, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to write a book or make it a goal. But you don’t have to write a book to consider yourself a “real author.” I’ve spent the last ten years writing without ever coming close to writing a book.

You can make a very nice living off article writing or copywriting. In fact, unless you write a book that sells really, really well, I can almost guarantee that you would make a lot more money as a full-time copywriter than as a full-time novelist.

You need an MFA in creative writing.

No! No! No!

I go into much more detail in this post from last year, but here’s the gist of it: The amount of money you’ll spend on your MFA in Creative Writing is not a wise risk, and it’s definitely not a guarantee, in securing a future as a writer.

I’m not saying the degrees are without merit. I’m just saying that, unless you have the spare change, you’d be better off writing and building your resume through internships and freelance opportunities than going into debt for this degree. Again, more here.

You have to work for yourself (freelance).

This one ties into the whole romantic theme of quitting your day job and proclaiming yourself as a freelance writer. It sounds grand, but it’s not a smart idea for a lot of people. And it’s not even close to being the only option.

Many, many companies have writers on staff. You could write feature articles, newsletters, emails, marketing copy, and so much more—while being employed full-time without the stress and variable income of a freelance writer. This is what I do, and I love it.

If you don’t have a small-business minded, entrepreneurial skill set and passion, then this might be the best route for you. Don’t misunderstand–full-time freelance is a great life if you can pull it off, but it’s not the only way.

You need to follow the advice in this post.

This is my disclaimer. This is where I say, “Look, there’s no one size fits all for being a writer.” As soon as I say that you don’t need a cabin in the woods, one of you will pipe up and say, “Hey I quit my day job, bought a cabin in the woods, and wrote a book that sold millions of copies and changed my life! Your advice sucks!”

So, yeah, remember that. Somebody out there is going to crash the bell curve and be an exception to the rule.

These are just a few things about writing I’ve observed over the last decade. Whether you want to write part-time or make it a full-on career, you have to do what makes sense for you and your family.

Bottom line: Don’t buy into everything you hear. There’s 8,978,678 ways to become a writer. Choose the one that works best for you—and that way might very well be the path that no one else has ever followed.

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39 Comments Post a comment
  1. Truest Blog I’ve read all day.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  2. Reblogged this on Lauren Richey and commented:
    Truest blog I’ve read today.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  3. I couldn’t agree more, but a cabin would be nice.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  4. I like this because I bought into a few of them myself when I was younger. The idea of having a cabin in the woods or quitting my job to write appealed to me. In the end though I feel that those are just excuses I gave myself to avoid the hard work of writing. It was “I’d be able to write more if I didn’t have to work” kind of stuff. It is hard to write and have a full time job, but being a writer is not an easy profession full of adventure and whisky that I once thought it was.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  5. You always come up with such neat posts! Written with disarming humility….and dry wit….and some true gems….thanks!

    Like

    April 18, 2014
    • Thank you for reading! I just try to keep it light and honest.

      Like

      April 18, 2014
  6. Love this! Best line: But that would just make me a mediocre writer who owned a log cabin in the mountains overlooking a bristling stream.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  7. Reblogged this on dream || dwell.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  8. Reblogged this on J.C. FREDLUND's ARTISTRY and commented:
    Excellent blog to learn about writing!

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  9. You forgot to list the one about how we are all tortured souls.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 18, 2014
  10. Good blog. Great advice. Only two things that re required of a good writer: read widely and write, write and write some more.

    I would like to have had this advice when I was in college: major in journalism, minors in psychology (to understand human behavior) and literature (at least one course in Shakespeare). Some reading suggestions: read the Bible and read the Greeks. Both are foundations on which Western literature is built. The writer is not reading them for religious purposes but for their language and the images and characters they supply.

    Why journalism? You develop good habits, you learn to write for a broad audience, and you are forced to write with a deadline staring you in the face. If it was good enough for Dickens, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, George Orwell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ernest Hemingway, it’s good enough for me. Remember writing is writing. If I remember correctly, Kurt Vonnegut began his career as an ad writer. And if you must drink, get the good Scotch. That way you’ll have to earn good money with your writing so you can afford the good stuff.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  11. Reblogged this on Where the Mind Roams and commented:
    The deeper I dive into the writing world, the more I realize that all of the above it true.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  12. Like your writing. Your advice is pretty good, too!!!

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  13. Reblogged this on mariaitliong.

    Like

    April 18, 2014
  14. Reblogged this on Fantastiquenotebook and commented:
    There are thousands ways to get into Rome,as there are thousands ways to become a successful writer. #writing

    Like

    April 19, 2014
  15. leahjoannejones #

    Reblogged this on Blame Not My Thoughts.

    Like

    April 19, 2014
  16. Shame about the cabin, but good advice.

    Like

    April 19, 2014
  17. Reblogged this on Cold November Rain.

    Like

    April 19, 2014
  18. Love this post, Robert.

    Like

    April 19, 2014
  19. I wouldn’t mind the cabin either, or the fedora. Good post Robert, though I have to say there is something about learning the craft of writing – possibly in a MFA – that is hard to get from just writing on your own or reading books on writing. But now I’m getting all serious, so forget that. Really enjoyed the post as always.

    Like

    April 20, 2014
    • I definitely agree about the MFA. I think people overemphasize it, though, and go into a lot of debt for it at times, and I don’t think it’s worth that.

      Like

      April 23, 2014
  20. I really do want a cabin in the woods though, haha, it’s on my wish list.

    Like

    April 21, 2014
  21. Reblogged this on agentbaure's Blog.

    Like

    April 21, 2014
  22. Reblogged this on rindealbum.

    Like

    April 22, 2014
  23. Love this post

    Like

    April 22, 2014
  24. Reblogged this on waveringmind07.

    Like

    April 23, 2014
  25. BJL #

    Linked to this post on re: read pages. Used it for motivation as I get back to writing after work hours in my living room.

    Like

    April 23, 2014
  26. Hi guys, chcek out my new blog
    http://beupbeat.wordpress.com/

    Like

    April 25, 2014
  27. Reblogged this on jessicasimone1 and commented:
    You don’t need all this just to write..

    Like

    May 13, 2014
  28. Felipe Vitale #

    Reblogged this on La hora del delirio and commented:
    Interesantes articulo! sobre los mitos del escritor, prometo traducirlo y publicarlo en español, dependiendo si el trabajo me lo permite!..

    Like

    July 22, 2015

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