People say the darnedest things (when they find out you’re a writer)

I’m fairly new to this writing caper … but I’m also not.

I have been writing for 38 out of my 44 years. The first phase was as a young writer with enthusiasm and time, where stories sometimes snuck in over the top of homework. After that I was – and continue to be – a copywriter, working for 25 years crafting words for business, governments and not-for-profits to bring in for them cash, votes and more cash … in that order. Importantly, it also enabled me to put food on my own table while still writing.

All this time, I’ve had a novel unhappily simmering on the backburner. Writing was a sideline; something I’d get to one day. I may have had the enthusiasm of the 10-year-old me (that whole folder dedicated to storylines of future books is proof of that), but it just wasn’t a focus. So this year I’ve decided to knuckle down and go back to writing for my heart and soul – and what I believe is my calling.

But now that I identify myself as a writer, I’ve found people say the darnedest things … and now that I’m concentrating more on developing my craft, I’m realizing just how far from the truth some of them are. These are just a few.

“I’m going to write a book one day.”

This one has truly amazed me. Since I’ve told people I’m concentrating on my novel, I’ve heard what feels like every second person telling me that they’ll write a book one day.

Apparently everyone has a book inside them and the only thing that is stopping them is time to do it. I have found it hard not to think that this devalues the skills and talents of writers and storytellers. I don’t think the only thing stopping me from having a musical career as the next Jimi Hendrix is that I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

As a voracious reader, I’ve read some wonderful work which has left me speechless at how gifted this particular writer is. I’ve also read other novels that have trashed this myth by about page 10. So while everyone might have a novel inside of them, the real key – and true gift – is not just having a story inside of you, it’s having the patience, talent and determination to bring it out. I truly respect that gift.

Maybe a novel is like an appendix. Everyone may have one inside of them, but bringing it out successfully is a gift very few of them have … and that’s why they don’t attempt it.

“You’re so lucky you get to write your novel in cafes on your laptop while you drink a lot of coffee … “

Ah Hollywood, the greatest purveyor of all myths. I’ve had an endless stream of people asking me how much time I spend writing in cafés while I entertain my muse … which must be caffeine.

I wish this myth was true; I’d buy that café and make a fortune, enabling me to write more. To me, cafes are too noisy. It’s hard to immerse yourself in your story and have a heart-to-heart with your characters while you’ve got a constant hum floating from nearby tables across your thinking.

I’m learning that the best way for me to write is in the quiet. I’ve found it enables me to think, but importantly, to listen; to God, to my characters, to my heart.

“It’s great – you’re going to be earning as much as (Harry Potter creator) JK Rowling.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard this, I’d probably be earning JK Rowling-type money.

I’ve soon realized that the only person earning JK Rowling-type money is JK Rowling. I talked to our local Writers Centre – they know of three people who are making a living from fiction writing – and they’ve got a membership in the hundreds. I’ve already published two non-fiction books [one about surviving infertility and a second on social media, if you’ll forgive a shameless plug] and it’s amazing just how many people think because I’ve published books it must mean I’m loaded.

There seems to be this myth out there that novelists are paid well. Perhaps it’s the romanticism of it; I’ve found people are shocked when they realize that the author and creator of that fantastic piece of work is probably one of the lowest-paid people in that food chain. 7% royalty, are you kidding? Where does the other 93% go? A good question.

But that’s not why I write. One thing I’m learning while embracing writing is to not get lost in the hope of that myth – to not expect that once my book is complete, it will be on a rocket trip to #1 on a Best Seller list. If anything, unraveling this myth is helping me understand that the joy of writing can be the journey as much as the destination.

So I’m still learning and being challenged to think about WHY I love doing what I’m doing … and evaluating it through the filter of how people perceive this craft. Debunking some of these myths has helped me understand it as much as anything.

So what about you? Have you heard these things before or what else have you heard when you discuss your writing passion?

(Image – without changes – courtesy:

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