Every now and then, a self-identified writer will say something that makes the rest of us cringe. Writers come from all walks of life. There are no prerequisites to becoming a writer, except passion and dedication, so there aren’t many things that writers have to do in order to write good stories. But there are a few. Here are some statements that are sure to generate eye rolls from a room full of writers.
1. I don’t have time to read.
Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” Are you really going to argue with the king? Seriously, a writer saying they don’t read is like a painter saying they keep their eyes closed all day. If you don’t study your craft, how can you hope to create anything you’re proud of? Of course, there are times when life takes over and it becomes difficult to fit anything except breathing into the day. But writers are readers, too, and most of us will find a way to devour at least a few pages before bed.
2. I’m waiting for inspiration.
Writer – (noun) one who writes
If you’re waiting for inspiration, you’re not a writer—you’re a waiter. Yes, it’s fantastic when inspiration strikes and you have to write right then, but how often does that happen? If you’re like most writers, not very often. Waiting until inspiration knocks on your door means you’ll finish one book per decade, if you’re lucky. Writers who’ve been at it a while know that “the inspired writer” is a fantasy that dies after the first few chapters, and when these words are uttered, they garner a slow, you’ll-find-out-soon head shake.
3. I never leave the house.
Okay, we’re introverts. I’m INTJ. I know how it is. But not only is shutting yourself away bad practice for self-care (which keeps our minds and bodies from functioning at their best), it means sacrificing great story fodder. Life is full of stories and tidbits and characters that will eventually wind up in our writing. There’s nothing wrong with staying in with a cup of tea, but we have to make time to get out there and live, too. Those experiences will add depth to our writing.
4. Good writing isn’t as important as the story.
Which is more important, the writing or the story? That’s like asking which is more important, the foundation or the roof. For a good story, you’ve got to have both. The most interesting plot and the most well-developed characters aren’t worth a thing if the reader has to slog through pages of poor writing.
5. I don’t need to edit.
“My first draft is pure.”
“I write really slowly and get it right the first time.”
“Plenty of famous writers didn’t edit.”
No. No. No. The draft is putting clay on the wheel. Editing is turning it into art. Any of these statements are a sure sign of a novice writer, and if you’re reading this and thinking I’ve said that or Editing isn’t all that important, please stop what you’re doing, find an experienced writer, and ask them why editing is crucial. You’ll be glad you did.
Write. Learn. Repeat.
Writers are always learning and improving. Nobody knows everything. But the more we write and live, the more we understand about ourselves and our writing. And we look back and wonder why we ever thought some of the things we did—and hope we didn’t say them out loud. Never be afraid to ask for help or ask someone else’s opinion. Who knows where it will take you.
Photo by Raul Pacheco-Vega