Learning to Write IX
Seven myths about writing and writers:
Learning to write is difficult, but many people make it more difficult than it is and get discouraged for the wrong reasons. It is not going to help if we fall into the trap of believing things about writing that aren’t true.
1. Real writers get it right the first time.
Most of us can’t write a shopping list without making some changes. Famous authors, poets, and journalists always produce a series of rough drafts before arriving at their best work. The thing is to keep writing until you’ve said what you mean.
2. I have nothing interesting to say.
We need to beat ourselves up from time to time. But dig around in your psyche. Your closest concerns are what is in the air. You’re full of lively and unique ideas about the world around you. You can always find things to tell your friends. Give yourself the chance to put your ideas on paper, you’ll be amazed with what you come up with.
3. You have to know what you are going to say before you begin writing.
Not true. The single most striking thing about writing is that it helps you think. Many writers don’t know what they’re trying to say until after they’ve written it down. Writing not only helps you think deeply, but it helps you discover what you already know.
4. If you can’t spell, or don’t understand grammar you can’t write.
Wrong again. You can write without spelling or grammar. Good writers first get their thoughts and ideas on paper. That is what writing is about. Then they revise until they’re satisfied they’ve said what they want to say. Only when that process is complete is it time to edit for spelling and other rules such as capitalization, punctuation, and word usage. And your computer can do that for you.
5. Writing is built one sentence at a time.
Writing is, of course, made up of words and sentences but it arrives as chunks of ideas. You don’t need to master the sentence before you go on to the paragraph. You need to start writing any way you can – revising is for later.
6. Only great writers can be creative.
Different kinds of writing, including creative writing like poems and plays, have different challenges, but you don’t have to learn one type first. The important thing is that you choose the best type of writing for what you want to say, whether a poem, a letter, or an article.
7. You can spot a good writer at a glance.
There is, as far as we know, no writing gene. Good writers don’t all use the same methods or look the same or learn the same. Some writers plan and make notes before starting to write; others jump right in. Some writers outline and plot; others doodle in the margins while they think. Some write while listening to music; others prefer sitting under a tree. None of these preferences are right or wrong. Writers are individuals and need to discover what works best for them.