Debunking Common Myths About Writing

myths about writing

Have you fallen for any these myths about writing?

Creative writing belongs to the arts, and the arts are an odd bunch.

People pursue artistic endeavors for  different reasons. For some, it’s a hobby. For others, a livelihood. For most, it’s a hobby they dream of turning into a livelihood.

It’s a worthwhile dream and a lofty one too. But what does it take to get there? How much fun are you allowed to have, and just how much work must you do to turn your passion into a full-time job?

And if you do manage to make a career out of creative writing, will it still be as fun as it was when it was just a hobby?

Creative Writing is Fun

Young and new writers often come to creative writing because they find it enjoyable. Many are avid readers, so inspired by their love of literature that they want to create it. Others are compelled to express themselves on the page or to have their voices heard by an audience of readers.

Most of us have experienced sudden inspiration. You’re sitting there and a poem comes to you fully formed. It’s finished within minutes, and it just might be brilliant. It feels more like the poem came through you from some source outside of yourself. It’s pure magic. It’s exciting. It’s fun.

When we’re being creative, and especially when we’re tapped into that magical kind of creativity, it’s an extremely pleasurable experience. From the instant we start writing until our work is completed, we’re on a wild ride, exciting but dangerous too. Because if we rely on having fun, we may start to believe the many myths about writing that are floating around.

Myths About Writing

It’s not uncommon for novice writers who have experienced the magic of sudden inspiration to wait for it to strike again. It’s likely that it will strike again, eventually. But waiting for this type of inspiration to hit you is a bad habit. You’re simply fostering an addiction to the adrenaline-like rush that the magical muse evokes.

This idea that creativity happens magically is just one of the many misconceptions that inexperienced writers have about the craft. These misconceptions are dangerous because they are beliefs that direct writers away from their work. And sometimes, being creative is hard work indeed.

Here are a few of the most notorious myths about writing:

Myth: You shouldn’t read much, because other writers’ styles might leak into your own work and it won’t be original.

Truth: That’s like saying you shouldn’t interact with other people because you might adopt their personalities. Trust that your own unique style will emerge, even if it is influenced by other writers.

Myth: Good grammar is unnecessary if you want your writing to be raw and edgy.

Truth: Writing is raw and edgy because of what it communicates, not because it’s peppered with typos and poorly structured sentences.

Myth: Why work at writing when you can just sit around and wait for inspiration to happen?

Truth: Um, because you’ll produce almost nothing.

Myth: Artistic success is borne of pure talent.

Truth: Talent is a booster, not the foundation upon which a successful artistic career is built.

Myth: You don’t need to hone your creative writing skills because you have natural talent.

Truth: No matter how talented you are, you are not born knowing how to read and write. There is work to be done!

See? Dead wrong on all counts.

Creative Writing is Fun, But It’s Also Hard Work

Like anything, if you want to succeed in creative writing, you’ve got to work at it. I’ve tried many creative endeavors over the years, and writing is one of the most challenging pursuits you can choose. It requires a vast skill set, intense determination, and a willingness to work hard. It also requires a good measure of creativity, and you need business skills too. Talent is just the icing on the cake, something you’re born with if you’re lucky.

People have all kinds of funny ideas about hard work and creativity, many of which are nothing more than idle fears. A common one is avoiding a career path in creative writing because then it will become a job and that would take all the fun out of it. Another is that if you have to work hard at creative writing, then you must be talentless.

Misconceptions about the arts are rampant. It’s no wonder artistic people are so misunderstood by the rest of the world. We tend to be an unusual bunch, and many of these misconceptions come from artists themselves.

Have you ever fallen prey to any of these myths about writing? Are there other myths about writing that you’ve noticed? Tell us about it by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


34 Responses to “Debunking Common Myths About Writing”

  1. Writer Dad says:

    I totally agree with you, Melissa. When I first started writing it was totally by accident. I wrote a five hundred page novel in a four month stretch. It was the first thing I’d ever written and I was quite surprised by the whole affair. It did birth a love for writing though. When I look back at that drat (it never made it past draft two, though it will get my full attention someday) it is both horribly awkward and absolutely wonderful. The creativity was so pure, but the mechanics were rusty nails pounded by a wobbly hammer. Writing is work, no doubt, but it rewarding and rarely not worth it.

    • Wow, a five-hundred page novel was your first foray into writing? That’s wild! Some seasoned writers can’t even complete a project of that magnitude. Keep it up :)

  2. coby provencher says:

    Awesome post Melissa, you hit it right on with this one. I know alot of people who do things a certain way because its easier and faster, but I try and do everything with my two hands its more satisfying that way I believe. I shoveled two truck loads of dirt into the gardens last week and my friend was telling me that a tractor would be way easier and faster but I felt really good after doing it all by hand, and I can look at those gardens and say “my two hands did all that” Thanks you for another great post Melissa.

    • Yes, it bums me out when I come across writers who show talent but are hung up on these weird misconceptions. The one that’s weighing most heavily on my mind right now is not reading. Too many people who write poetry refuse to read it, and I since I used to have that same mentality when I was a teenager, I can relate to it, even though I know it’s wrong. Luckily, April is National Poetry Month, so that will be a great opportunity to promote reading.

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    Great points.

    Fun stuff isn’t always about easy. I think it’s about flow, where your response can meet the challenge … and some fun places have a huge chasm in front of them before you reap the rewards (snowboarding, marathons, … etc.) Nothing beats skilled expertise.

    It’s funny how the same activity can be pain or pleasure and I think that it’s about mindset. I know that when I don’t carve enough space for some things and I’m under the gun, the same fun thing turns into a drag.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Worst Things First

    • It sucks when something fun turns into a big pain, but I find that if you just stick with it, the fun will come back. Most things that are truly worth doing involve some measure of work, and writing is no exception.

  4. Great points, Melissa. Far too many people (especially those who hate their work but don’t have the courage to change it) feel that no one else should enjoy their work.

    Yeah, writing’s hard sometimes, but it’s also wonderful, and you CAN make a living at it, if you’re willing to learn how to work and play simultaneously and accept the fact that they’re not mutually exclusive.

  5. Marelisa says:

    Hi Melissa: I just posted about creative insights I found on the worldwide web and one of them was a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love”. She addresses what you say here and concludes that creativity is a collaboration between the artist–who has to show up and do the work–and a divine entity who appears out of nowhere and begins to help the artist. However, you have to show up everyday and do your part, even if on some days the divine spirit fails to keep up his or her end of the bargain and doesn’t show up.

  6. Zoe says:

    This is the number one thing I’ve learned over the past year and a half — that creativity thrives with discipline. It seemed so counter-intuitive at first, but now I understand that pushing yourself and having high expectations bring your creative work from the “hobby” level to the level of seriously producing.

    • Zoe, it’s bizarre at first, but it kind of makes sense that the more you work at being creative, the more creative you become. It reminds me of the science behind “like attracts like” and I’ve compared it to love – as in the more you love, the more love you receive. Creativity is like that.

  7. Thank you for the encouragement!
    I am blogger (sort of creative writer) – many think it is even less than hobby. I think it is much more than that. I treat it is my personal business. I invest in it dedicated pre-defined amount of time and energy (part of my life) so i think it is pretty serious. I think it is all about hard work. I hardly believe (actually, I do not) creative is a synonym to spontaneous. Love Edison’s “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I am on my quest for creative blogging opportunity 😉
    Thank you for inspiring post.

    Alik Levin | PracticeThis.coms last blog post..Improve Your Outcomes By Changing Your Responses

    • Thanks Alik! There’s no reason that hard work can’t be fun too. Of course, there are always those tasks that we find less enjoyable, but I think that’s unavoidable in any career or pursuit. Blogging is being taken more and more seriously as it becomes rooted into our culture, and it’s definitely both fun and lots of hard work! Keep it up; you’re doing a great job.

  8. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Melissa – I used to read a great novel, then look at my own work and feel inadequate. Looking back, I had no idea just how much rewriting and editing went into those amazing novels.

    You mentioned folk who worry that if they read to much, their writing will be influenced by those they read. It’s not just young people who think like that. I went on a writing course last year and a few of the students felt the same.

    It’s incredible that folk think they could read a couple of amazing novels, then sit down and write exactly the same as the author. It’s just not going to happen.

    • Cath, I find it’s best not to compare oneself to the literary greats (it’s a good way to deflate your ambition). I remember when I realized all those novels and stories were heavily edited and proofread – by the author, the agent, a copyeditor, publishers, etc. And still, mistakes occasionally slip through! It’s amazing when you think about it. I must be backwards, because I was really more worried that I would copy another writer inadvertently – tell a similar tale or have the same characters – so I was always trying to read more and more to ensure I wouldn’t do that. Of course, I’m a natural reader anyway, so that was perfectly pleasurable for me! And you’re right, you can’t read a couple of novels, and then just easily mimic that author’s style. It sounds pretty funny when you put it that way.

  9. WereBear says:

    What an excellent distinction! For me, the more I read, the better I get at writing. It does make me fussy about what I read, though :)

    But while it’s work, it’s also craft; and that is where the fun comes in. When I create something that does what it is supposed to do, and does it elegantly, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

    And the only way to make one’s craft better is with practice.

  10. Muna says:

    Thanks for that explaination! I love writing.Write as it comes and it is so bad that i have put pen to paper and i enjoy writing straight from my heart@most times my writing is influenced by experiences,situations or circumstances i find myself.I have being writing since 2001-till date but i get discouraged because i would love to share my work and bascially want pple to feel connected with it most especially people who are going through something or just apperciate the works of art. I won’t say my work is prefect but i wish to get someone who is an expert that can build it up to the standard it should be and publish so all can see!My work looks poetry but as more of a motivational feel!!!!!! I really need you to advise me what to do!

    • Hi Muna, Thanks so much for leaving your comment and expressing your passion for writing. It sounds like you’re looking for help with your writing. You can email me anytime. Just click the contact link up at the top of this site and send me a message. I’d be happy to help you in any way I can.

  11. Maja says:

    I really have trouble with a lot of writer’s mentalities. For years I wrote for fun in little spurts, and I loved it when I did it, and when I didn’t it didn’t really matter. I dreamed about getting published (still do), but it wasn’t the be all and end all of my life, and I was happy that way.

    Then I started looking at all these writer’s things on the Internet, and it was like… I got tired. I tried NaNoWriMo (do you know about that?) and it made everything worse — I was putting all this effort into something I didn’t WANT to write, every day, and I hated the story, and all of it… it was too much. I did finish, though… but it didn’t make me happy.

    I realized I had become influenced by the sorts of things people are “supposed” to be writing — “beautiful” works of literature, deep things, with unusual metaphors and no adverbs and all that sort of thing. I realized I couldn’t do that; I just couldn’t write that way; and I realized I might never be published, and that was really hard.

    So… now I’m back to the drawing board. I’ve had a work-through-able case of writer’s block for several months now, after NaNoWriMo, and have been fiddling around with things, mostly collecting strange words and names and writing a page or so. I’ve almost completely stopped writing on the computer, favoring notebooks, and have trouble even considering myself a “writer” anymore, because I feel as though people are going to start pointing fingers at me and going “LIAR! Real writers don’t feel that way!”

    • I don’t think you should feel obligated to partake in certain writing activities or styles just because someone else says that’s the thing to do. You just posted four paragraphs here, and I think your style is fine. You should write whatever moves you! Stick with topics that ignite your passion.

      One thing you have to remember when collecting writing tips and ideas — it’s all someone else’s experience and opinion. Just because one person promotes NaNoWriMo or another says you should write beautiful literature doesn’t mean those are your only options. Do what you love and you’ll find your way. And don’t worry about metaphors and adverbs unless you want to include them in your work. Just do your thing and find your audience. Or just do your thing and do it for yourself. Basically, do what makes you happy. Unless you want to be a career writer, there’s really no need to put all this pressure on yourself.

      Having said that, I think it’s good that you’ve been trying your hand at different styles and activities. That’s how you will learn what’s right (and wrong) for you. Best of luck to you! And whatever you do or however you do it, I do hope you’ll keep writing.

  12. Anthony says:

    I really like what you wrote, especially the section where going to Disneyland can be hard work, only for a few moments of fun. I am appreciating more the fact that it’s not talent alone that makes a good writer; good writers have to work hard at developing their craft. I will take your advice of getting into the habbit of writing, and having fun while doing it!

    • That’s great, Anthony. They say it takes two weeks to form a habit (though for some of us, it may take a little longer). If you can write every day for 10-20 minutes and stick to it for about a month, I bet it will become a habit. Good luck!

  13. Asia Owens says:

    Hi, I was googling about creative writing and I happened to stumble upon your website. I’m 15 and I’ve been writing I was about 11. It’s my favorite thing to do and I loved the insight you gave. I want to make it my career and I know it’s really hard work, but I think it’s worth it. It’s kind of like marching band. It’s really hard (painful at times) but the reward and feeling of accomplishment is amazing. That’s why I love it so much.

    • That’s wonderful, Asia! Thanks so much for sharing your passion for writing with all of us. Comments like yours are inspiring and meaningful for the rest of the writing community.

  14. Lehberger says:

    Hey there! I realize this is kind of off-topic however I needed to ask. Does managing a well-established website such as yours take a lot of work? I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write in my journal every day. I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any kind of suggestions or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!

    • Managing a website works like anything else: the more you put in, the more you get out. If you want to run a successful website, then it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. The first couple of years after I started Writing Forward, I had little time to work on other projects like fiction and poetry. But it was a worth it.

      The best tip I can offer is to approach blogging with a professional attitude. A lot of bloggers just launch a blog and start writing. I recommend getting into the nuts and bolts. Check out the “For Beginners” section on (at the bottom of the home page), and treat your blog like a job. Pick up a couple of books on blogging and study it.

      On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with blogging as a hobby, in which case you could work on your blog as much or as little as you want. Good luck to you!

  15. Megan says:

    What can I do to become more motivated to write? I’ve been working on 5 books and only two are finished I don’t know what to do next. I was going to write a quarry letter but I fear the results. Can you help me, please?

    • The simple answer is that what you should do next is finish the other three books. You have to find what motivates you and then make it a regular part of your life. Since you already finished two books, I suspect you already know how to motivate yourself. I can say that for me, watching interviews with other authors, joining writing communities, and reading a lot are the things that keep me most motivated. Different things might work better for you. Good luck!

  16. Creative writing is fun, editting is the work!

    • I think editing becomes more enjoyable with practice. I used to find editing boring and tedious, but as I learned the rules of grammar and figured out how to make stylistic choices, it became easier. Now I don’t mind at all. There are also opportunities for creativity during editing. I was editing my novel the other night and realized that there was an opportunity to explore a subplot and add another chapter, so I was off writing again!

      • That’s so true! I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading some writing guides (Writer’s Digest i awesome for this!) and going back to edit is fun knowing how to improve stuff at my own discretion. To expand or reduce parts, or even completely eliminating stuff has been very valuable.

        Hell, the 2nd draft of the novel I started last Christmas is nowhere identical to what it once was because I started fresh from the beginning again.

        Something really weird and interesting happens when you start over. The events may change or the character relationships evolve into something more or less, but ultimately the essence of what you’ve always wanted to say with a piece remains in tact.

        • I am experiencing the same exact thing with my own revisions. The second draft of my novel was nothing like the first and the third is turning out even more different. My main problem was over-complication where I had too many characters (the result of inserting every interesting idea into the story) and plot elements that were over the top or too far-fetched (and this is sci-fi). That’s why rewriting and revising are so important. I also took a lengthy break and didn’t work on the project for several weeks, and when I came back to it, I found all sorts of problems that I couldn’t see before. Distance gives you a fresh perspective and allows you to be more objective and less attached. It’s also thrilling seeing the story get better and better with each pass.

          Having said that, some writers do get into a cycle of rewriting over and over without ever finishing the project. They keep changing the core elements (plot and characters, usually) so each revision is a completely different story. Instead of improving THAT story, they revise it into yet another one. The trick is to identify the core plot and characters and stick with that, using revisions to make improvements rather than turning it into a completely different project.

          I hope you’ll let me know when your book is done!