I’ve been casually exploring the Internet for the past two days, looking in on a sites for writers or by writers. Specifically I’ve been looking at sites dealing with creative writing, which includes all forms of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and scriptwriting. One thing I discovered is that there are a some young or novice writers out there who think that published writers form a kind of aristocracy of the writing industry. Our newest recruits suffer the same kind of pressure I remember experiencing as a young writer – how can I compete? Will I be published? Will I ever be good enough? etc – but now because there are more writers, more mediums and more competitors than ever before, the pressure is so much greater. Most writers will experience a sense of dread, or feel intimidated by the success of other writers during their lifetime. Here I’d like to address some of the myths I’ve come across in the past two days, and hopefully quash them:
Myth: Not everyone can write
Fact: Creative writing is a craft, not a puzzle that only a few geniuses can work out. Writers are a diverse mob; we come from all backgrounds, with different histories, motivation and methods and every single one of us has a unique story. Though some writers might possess a natural flare for creativeness (which is why they write, I suppose), writers are essentially made, not born. It would be truer to say not everyone has the inclination to write creatively.
Myth: You’re not a real writer unless you’ve been published
Fact: In the context of creative writing a writer is someone who habitually engages in the act of creative writing regardless of publication status. The label of writer is not regulated by the publishing industry, it is free of charge to anyone who wishes to use it.
Myth: Having your work published means you’re a good writer
Fact: Publication is a goal to which many writers aspire, and without doubt one of the most exciting experiences for those who chase it, but don’t mistake publication as evidence of writing prowess. Publication is evidence of hard work, guts, persistence and sometimes good fortune.
Myth: Published writers are the experts
Fact: There is no such thing as an expert writer. No single writer knows everything there is to know about creative writing. Each writer has her/his own unique experience and will continue to learn about the craft of writing for as long as she/he performs it. You can be a better writer, but you can’t be the best. Why? Readers are an equally diverse mob.
If we must use labels I prefer novice, fellow and veteran. Most of us probably fall into the second category: fellow.
Myth: There must be a secret to writing well
There are no secrets to writing. Writers, like most specialists, use techniques and devices, which anyone can learn. If you want to improve your writing and your chances of being read it pays to learn them. Go to the reference section of any major bookstore and you’ll see a dozen books written by fellow writers and veterans happy to share the information. Better yet, surf the net. There are writers out there willing to impart knowledge of the industry and techniques for free.
Don’t be intimidated if someone has a publication or more writing experience, just be willing to listen and be ready to pass it on.