Writing a novel is a big undertaking. All those words! My friends and family have said to me. How do you have it in you to write all those pages? But the word count is the least of a writer’s concerns. There’s also plot structure, character development, pacing and language to worry about, among other things.
I Don’t Have Time to Write
This is probably the biggest lie writers tell. To be fair, most people tell themselves this lie at one time or another to make excuses about why they’re not following their passion.
The writer who stays up all night writing the Great American novel surrounded by crumpled balls of paper is a popular image, but it’s not very accurate. Some writers do stay up all night, but you don’t have to.
All you really need is 20 minutes of focused, concentrated writing time each day.
It’s astounding how little time you need to practice writing. If you can make time to take a shower or drink a cup of coffee, you can make time to write.
I Need a Good Idea Before I Begin
I hear this one a lot. Some writers expect the plot of the Virgin Suicides to fall into their lap, with Kirsten Dunst signing up to play the lead role included.
Sometimes writers do get those brilliant epiphanies that come in flashes or dreams, but most of the time our ideas are shadowy and vague. We see a character, or the ending to a story with no beginning and no middle. Or a message we want to convey, with no clue how to express it. And we’re lucky if we even get these fragments. So how do writers like Stephen King do it? How do you get to the place where you’re cranking out novels every few months?
You don’t need an idea to begin. You only need to begin.
If you really and truly don’t have one tiny fragment of an idea sit yourself down and write, “I don’t know what to write about” over and over until your hand starts writing something else. It sounds crazy, but it actually works. The more you write, the more ideas will come to you.
Writing Is an Isolating Activity
This is where we find those myths about writers cropping up again. The writer who stays up all night stays up alone. The writer in the room surrounded by crumpled balls of paper is in that room alone.
While it is true that the actual act of writing is something you do on your own, and that solitude encourages concentration and focus, writing is only one small part of your life as a writer. If you’re constantly holing up in a room by yourself and doing nothing else, you are probably going to feel isolated. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We live in an online world and never before have there been so many opportunities for writers to connect with each other.
If social media isn’t your thing, try joining a group that meets offline, out in the real world. You can make friends and get feedback through critique groups and reading circles. And if you truly hate writing alone, join a Meetup group for writers like Shut Up and Write to get those pages cranked out while in the company of others.
I Need an Agent to Move Forward
This lie makes me cringe because it’s a lie I’ve told myself countless times. Landing an agent can be a long and frustrating process, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my projects on hold because I’ve gotten wrapped up in waiting to hear from agencies.
Researching and querying agents takes time, but a writer’s first priority should always be the writing. Regardless of whatever else is happening in your writing career, if you’re consistently writing new stuff every single week then you’re making significant progress. And there are tons of other facets to your career that you can work on while waiting to hear back from agents—like your social media presence, best strategies for low-budget promotion, and revising those manuscripts waiting for representation.
Telling yourself you need an agent to move forward is you setting conditions for your career goals.
Those conditions can fast become obstacles. And conditions and obstacles belong to the energy of resistance and fear. Shift into an attitude of flexibility and openness about things happening at their own pace and use the time you spend waiting to learn about the other ways you can become more of a professional.
Focusing on Money Will Make Me a Sell Out
This idea doesn’t just cause trouble for writers. If you’re a visual artist, a musician, a humanitarian—if you’re doing any sort of passionate work driven by your internal values—you are likely going to stumble on the money issue. Those of us with the artistic temperament are usually repelled by anything corporate, anything unimaginative, and anything that takes unfair advantage of others. Because big corporations and greedy higher-ups tend to embrace all of the above in the pursuit of more money, we tend to identify money with all of those things.
Money itself is neutral. Whatever we see in it are the ideas we’ve chosen to infuse into it. It is possible to do work that you’re passionate about, that expresses your gifts as a writer or an artist, and also make a decent living at it. But it’s never going to happen if you force money into carrying all this icky baggage. If you see money as covered in greedy slime, or weighed down with the pain of others, whenever it shows up in your life you’ll end up unconsciously pushing it away from you.
Writing is work and you deserve to be paid for your labor.
If you’re able to welcome fair compensation for your work into your life, it will give you the freedom and space to create more awesome stories, and more brilliant art. Even if you’re not getting paid for what you do right now, make the resolution that your current financial situation can and will change.
To be the best writers we can we’ve got to stay honest with ourselves, even if it’s hard sometimes. What are some of the little white lies you tell yourself about your writing?
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