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Busting a few common myths about writing

Once upon a time ...

Writing.

It’s one of those professions that has a lot of mystique, a lot of misconceptions, a lot of myths floating around it. People who don’t write for a living have a number of preconceived notions about it. Many people who are starting their journeys as serious writers have swallowed those myths.

Like all myths, the ones around writing persist. Like all myths, the ones around writing need to be debunked.

Let’s bust a few common myths about writing.

Writing isn’t real work

As compared to what? Construction? Running a nuclear power plant? Trading shares?

Writing is real work. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of thought and a lot of hard graft to write something well. I don’t view writing, at least the writing that many of us do, as an art. I see it as a craft or a skill. A craft or a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to develop and hone.

If that’s not real work, I don’t know what is.

Anyone can write

That’s true. Anyone can string words together. But not everyone can write well.

By write well I mean being able to effectively organize thoughts and ideas. Being able to tell a story or share information in a way that’s lively and interesting. And that’s what makes writing hard work. You need to be able to shape sentences and paragraphs clearly and concisely. You need to keep then attention of your readers.

As the late William Zinsser wrote about younger writers:

Just because they’re writing fluently doesn’t mean they’re writing well.

What annoys me most about this myth, though, is that it’s used by some folks to justify offering low pay for a writing job or gig.

You need to be an artist to be a writer

Only, I think, if you’re intent on producing literature. I don’t know many writers who fall into that category.

Let’s be honest: most of what we write isn’t for the ages. It’ll appear, maybe cause a bit of a splash or a stir, then be buried under the stream of other writing that appears in print and on the web daily or weekly or monthly.

That’s fine. You don’t need to be an artist. You just need to tellng an interesting story, to effectively present an opinion or position, to inform and entertain. If you can do that, you’re ahead of many of your peers and competitors.

Your writing has to be perfect before you can show it to the world

The demon of perfectionism holds back far too many promising writers. They believe that everything they write needs to be pefectly formed before they submit it for publication, before they publish it on a blog.

What they wind up with is a pile of unfinished writing. They collect a folder full of drafts that are in various stages of completion. They’ve missed an opportunity to not just test the waters with their work, but also to learn and grow as writers.

Little, if any, writing is perfect. There are always going to be flaws. There are always going to be errors and omissions. There will always be sentences that can read better, arguments that could be better formed, ideas that could be better explored. But unless you press the Publish button, you won’t be able to learn from whatever mistakes you might make.

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