I talked to 2000 Texas school kids yesterday using remote teleconferencing from a high-tech facility in Huntsville Texas. It was pretty cool. They would un-mute their microphones and their local camera would use that action to zoom in on the individual talking. Robot cameras rule!
I talked to these kids in four different sessions (3 different talks, one repeat.)
One of them was Myths about writing…
You’re a writer so you must be rich.
Ha. Less than five percent of all professionally published writers are making a full time living from their writing. Those that are able to just write are often barely scraping by.
You’re a writer so you must be famous.
Ha. Ha. Sanjaya is famous. Paris Hilton is famous. People whose faces frequent the covers of the Inquirer are famous. Perhaps a lot of reading Americans can pick out JK Rowling’s or Stephen King’s face from a line up, but it’s really a handful of writers who’ve broke out into actual fame.
You have to know someone/have an agent to be a published writer.
No. You have to put your butt in the chair and write. As Heinlein said: write, finish what you write, send out what you write, keep sending out what you write, avoid needless rewriting. Do that and you too will be a published writer.
You have to drink/do drugs to be a writer.
No. You want an excuse to drink, go someplace else.
You have to suffer/experience great tragedy to be a writer.
Right. Hand me that hammer. Hold out your hand. Suffering? That hurts? That hurts so much you can’t think, much less write? Maybe you’re not suffering enough. Hold out your other hand.
You have to write 8 hours a day.
I’ve done this a few times. It almost falls into the hitting yourself with the hammer camp. Most writers I know feel blessed if they can write for 2-4 hours a day. It’s like the breathing analogy of culture. You breathe culture out, you breathe culture in. You try standing there and only breathing out.
If you have a good idea, the rest is easy.
I kill you. Every professional writer I know has had someone walk up to them and say, “I have this great idea. You write it and we’ll split the money.” As far as the actual effort involved in writing, this is the equivalent of having someone saying, “I have five cents. You put in $19.95 and we’ll split it.”
Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.
Since you’re writing fiction, you can just make everything up.
Oh, yeah. Right. I’m going to get my science, history, and cultural references by making them up. And this is going to make my fiction more readable.
Try talking about a gun for instance and confusing one that is a revolver for an automatic. Count the letters from the gun guys.
And then there’s this. The unlikely your mcguffin, you’re central conceit, the more you have to ground it with surrounding realistic detail to sell it to your reader.
Just make it up? Right.
You don’t need to be a reader to be a writer.
This one particularly bugs me. People approach me and say, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.” “What kind of stuff do you like to read?” “Oh, I don’t like to read.”
You don’t have to understand/be familiar with a genre to write in it.
“I’ll just knock off a few romances to support my literary efforts.”
“They don’t like my mainstream work. I’ll just do some SF novels since the standards aren’t as high.”
If you still don’t understand why this is wrong, hand me that hammer. Hold out your hand.
No. It won’t make you understand but it will make me feel better.