Books Magazine

7 Myths About Being A Writer

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

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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