Righting Wrongs about Writers

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There are a couple of myths about writers that I think could bear to be addressed, specifically regarding those of us that earn a living at it.

Most Writers are Starving Artists

Popular culture and the worried parents of English majors often think of writers as that guy at the coffee shop who’s trying to make it big by writing the next great American novel on his MacBook while living in his friend’s attic. Fortunately, writing isn’t just an art, it’s a skill. Those of us who practice it professionally are mostly doing fine, thank you.

Very few people make a living writing books, especially not fiction. Most modern writing jobs are either related to technical writing or marketing. What we write lives on the internet, on corporate servers, and in instruction manuals. I’m not saying that novelists don’t exist, of course, you’re just a lot more likely to run into one of us regular desk-jockeys than the more romantic inspiration-based people.

Great Writers Don’t Need Multiple Drafts

Good writing is very rarely produced in a flash of inspiration. None of us is that good, and if you are you’re missing out on your potential greatness.

Your first draft is just a basic breakdown of what you’re trying to say. If you want to produce something not just readable, but truly interesting, you’ve got to rework it a couple of times. Go through your writing a couple of times and think about how somebody who’s more interesting than you might say what you’re saying…

Writers Work Alone

It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re the only one staring at your work, you’re going to miss some glaring issues that a second pair of eyes can clear up for you in short order.

The problem with working alone as a writer is that we, being mere mortals, tend to understand what we wrote exactly the way that we intended it, not the way that we actually wrote it. As a result, we have a natural tendency to produce inferior work when we’re working alone.

One of the first and most important lessons that any writer learns when they become a professional is to seek out and treasure feedback, whether it’s from an editor or from a client. That feedback is going to make your work look better and save you from possible miscommunication and embarrassment.

Writers Have a Magical Talent

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve been told by friends and peers that they “just can’t write”. They don’t mean that they can’t form coherent sentences, just that they can’t organize their ideas into a long-form readable format.

Fortunately, pretty much anyone can learn to write competently. It takes some study and practice, but it’s not so intuitive that you couldn’t make a step-by-step course for it (as literally every school and university can attest). So, if you want to learn to write, just Google it and start practicing!

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