Friday, 5 June 2009
10 Myths About Writers
1. A writer is born not made. I believe rather that we become writers. However, all the writers I know are usually people who start life with a love of words and who also love reading. They generally prefer to observe life rather than participate in it too. Actually, all writers suffer from arrested development, very likely. Well, I do. I’d much rather play with my imaginary friends than go and work in an office with a lot of nasty grown ups.
If a love of words was all there was to it, though, there’d be far more writers than there already are – and that’s saying something. Only call yourself a writer after you’ve put in a good few years of practice, can paper your smallest room with rejection letters and then, even after you’ve put your last ounce of strength into your novel or story only to have it rejected again, you are willing to dig even deeper inside yourself to find more strength to unpick it and put the pieces together one more time. Or however many more times it takes to get it right. (See below: 7)
2. Writers are sensitive souls. No. It’s been said before but while others are trying to take in the broadcast of a piece of tragic news, like the one that’s come to light this week about the couple who threw themselves off Beachy Head because they couldn’t cope with the tragedy of losing their son, you are the one already writing their final dialogue. (See below: 3)
3. Writers are blessed with vivid imaginations. Tell that to Shakespeare, who pinched pretty well every plot he set down. Or all those writers who find themselves in court, charged with plagiarising someone else’s work. Or the ones who never get to court but whose story you feel you’ve read before. Writers famously steal and recycle. After all there are only seven basic plots in existence, right?
4. Writers make a lot of money. Ha! I believe the average income for a full-time, published writer is about £10000 last time I read an article on the subject. There was a brief window in the evolution of fiction writing, when there was money to be had by all, but writers have always, in the main, had to combine writing with another job if they want a decent salary. And you’d even need a mortgage for a garret these days!
5. Writers are glamorous creatures for whom the quotidian is so far beneath them it doesn’t even register on their radar. Much as I’d love to lie on a chaise longue, dictating “How many pages?” to my secretary while I eat my way through a box of champagne truffles, I have to go to Sainsbury’s, put the milk bottles out and make sure my kids have enough funds in their paperless dinner money accounts, just like anyone else.
6. To be a proper writer you need an M.A. in Creative Writing these days. It certainly seems to be the case that more and more people are arming themselves with M.A.’s year on year. But not everyone benefits from such a course and many actually find it stifles their creativity. I’m wondering if I’ve got the right temperament. I fear that I would quickly lose self-confidence when in the company of gifted writers and deep down would hate to have to read stuff that was far more brilliant than my own muddled efforts. I’m much better on my own, where the only stories I need to compare my story to are the ones I’ve written before.
7. Once you have written “the end” you have finished your WIP. Ha! That’s only the start. Only non-writers are surprised when they hear that a novel went through 17 drafts before finally reaching the publishable stage. We know the truth!
8. Writers can only write when the muse strikes. If that were true our reading matter would be restricted to the back of cornflake packets, the libraries would be empty and no one would be arguing about who should win the Booker. Writers write. That’s what they do. One per cent inspiration and ninety nine per cent perspiration, as someone said.
9. Anyone can write. This is along the lines of “Everyone has a novel in them.” Maybe, but not everyone would want to read it.
10. Writers are all slightly mad. Nonsense! Now, pass me my Napoleon’s hat. I am off to take my chimpanzee for a stroll up Mount Everest.