Tuesday, March 21, 2017

7 Lies I Believed About Writing

There are a lot of misconceptions and myths that float around about writing, and as a result I wrongly believed a lot of things about writing when I was younger. I was one of those kids who was always writing things and showing off scraps of everything to all my family and friends. When I was a kid, writing was easy and everyone told me I was fantastic so it was easier to believe ALL THE LIES. I have since learned the truth.

me actually writing feat. cat

Lie #1: You only write if you're inspired

I'd never heard the term Muse when I was a kid (and once I did I didn't understand it), but I knew: the way writing works is you are INSPIRED by whatever, usually nature because that's artsy (rain if you want to be even more artsy) and then you would write based on that inspiration.

The Truth: If you wait for the passionate winds of inspiration to sweep you up, you will hardly ever write, and you'll constantly be wondering why Inspiration or the Muse or the Universe or whatever hates you so much.

Lie #2: Only write if you feel like it

When I was younger, I basically only wrote when I felt like it, which happened to be a lot since writing was a fun thing to do with no pressure and I didn't have anything better to do because I was a kid. Since I was able to feel like writing all the time, I thought that was how it worked - you wrote because you felt like it, and if you didn't feel like it that was a sign that you shouldn't write.

The Truth: When I got older and had things like school, work, and more school taking over my life, brain and energy, it turned out that I never felt like writing. As it turns out, you do have to write even when you don't feel like it, because that's the only way you'll get words on a page. (Shoot. I just realized I don't feel like writing right now. I should probably go do some writing...)

Lie #3: Writing is fun

When I was a kid, writing was basically always fun. Writing was a way to be silly, creative, and make use of all the weird things my imagination came up with.

The Truth: Writing is sometimes fun, but more often it's work. It takes sitting your butt in a chair, putting fingers to keyboard, and making some word vomit. And sometimes it's grueling and awful and it sucks, but then it's been an hour and you've got 500 words!

Lie #4: If writing feels like work, you need to stop

Related to believing that writing is always fun, I thought that if writing ever started to feel more like work and less like fun, then I shouldn't be doing it anymore. If I was planning to do this as a career, I needed to love it with an all consuming passion! And something feeling like work means I don't love it!

The Truth: Whether or not you plan to pursue writing as a career, you're never going to love writing all the time. Sometimes, writing is going to suck, and you're going to hate it, but that doesn't mean that you should never write again.

Lie #5: If you don't feel good about a draft, you should probably give up on it

Little Alyssa had no concept of rewrites or constructive criticism. I just write stuff, she thought, and then everyone lavishes praise on me! So it must be good! If I don't like something I wrote, I should just rip it up or hide it deep in a drawer where it can't embarrass me anymore.

The Truth: First drafts suck. That's what they are made for: to suck. But then you actually have something to work with, to shape into something that hopefully resembles whatever amazing piece of art you were imagining in your head, with help from some friends along the way.

Lie #6: You have to wait for inspiration to come to you

The main conflict of your story? How to get from point A to point B? Your characters' motivations for their actions? That will all magically just come to you via the winds of inspiration, because you are a magical writing goddess who summons ideas and solutions to writing problems wherever you go. You'll just be out on a walk, or driving your car, and then it will just hit you and everything will fall into place, like in an episode of Jane the Virgin.

The Truth: Inspiration will sometimes come to you, but more often, you've got to just sit your butt down, and think. Yeah, I know, you've actually got to work on thinking through character motivations, scene transitions, and all that stuff, by asking yourself a million questions and coming up with a whole bunch of bad ideas in between soliciting advice from Twitter followers before landing on a good idea.

Lie #7:  You don't need to write every day

I thought, until recently, that you write when inspiration strikes, or when you feel like it, or when you find yourself on a writers' retreat in the middle of nowhere with no interruptions. Besides, you're strong. You don't need a SCHEDULE to keep yourself in line, you're so much BETTER than that.

The Truth: AGHHH I am still trying to pound this lie out of my head. I have made excuses for way too long for not committing to a regular writing routine, and it's landed me in a lot of trouble (like being in a writing slump for, say, two years). A regular writing routine/schedule is GOOD and NECESSARY and helps you GET THINGS DONE. Also, writing every day (or even just TRYING to write every day) helps a lot with flow, because I don't have to struggle to remember what the heck I was thinking when I was writing a scene three months ago.

What misconceptions have you had about writing? 


  1. I can't really write every day, but I find it helps to have SOME kind of schedule or plan for writing week to week or day to day. A plan that can be adjusted if life events or illness crop up -- so that I don't feel horribly guilty when I "fail" my goal -- but a plan that gives me some direction.

    I like the image of you writing down stories and scraps of things you made up as a kid. :)

    1. Yeah, that's basically what I meant by "write every day": have a plan! Rather than just the wishy washy "whenever I feel like it" ;)


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