The 8 most popular myths about writers: true or false?

Important | 2023-08-18

The society holds various beliefs, assumptions, clichés and myths about many things. Writers and writing are no exception. It is said that they write in solitude every day, they are closed off, but always full of ideas and with good imagination. It is assumed that writers are people who read a lot and know the rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar perfectly. What does it really mean to be a writer? What are the daily routines and challenges that writers face before their books see the light of day and reach readers?

Aldona Tüür, Associate Professor-Practitioner in Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, writer, author of the book Kiltų nuoma (Eng. The Kilt Hire) claims that writing is akin to an adventure: “When you start telling a story for the first time, you do not know if anyone will be interested in it, publish it or if people will read it when it is published. Everything is kind of obscure. But if you are interested in writing, you just star writing, expressing your thoughts on paper.”

KTU creative writing teacher Tüür commented on several myths related to writing. Which beliefs are true and which are just made up?

1. Anyone can be a writer

Aldona Tüür, KTU lecturer with her debut novel

This proposition is partially true. According to Tüür, anyone can be a writer and even have their own circle of readers, but it is important to define what we consider a writer.

“For example, today, not only those whose books are printed by publishing houses can be considered writers, but also those who publish their texts on social media. Of course, if they considered themselves as writers, maybe they would pay more attention to what they write and who reads their texts, feel a little more responsibility,” says the KTU Associate Professor-Practitioner.

While teaching creative writing to New Media Language students, she notices that some people are more talented than others. But even those who are less talented can learn to write better and articulate their thoughts more clearly if they really want to.

“With practice, you can learn how to tell a story. Will anyone want to publish it? I don’t know. Will it win the Booker Prize? I cannot guarantee either. Not everyone may like your work, so you have to accept any feedback,” says Tüür.

2. All you need to be a writer is a good imagination

According to the KTU lecturer, this belief is dual: imagination is necessary when writing texts, but it is also important to be able to clearly express your thoughts.

“In general, imagination alone is not enough, as you write based on your own experience. In order to gain valuable insights, one needs to be able to reflect on previous experience, observe, compare it with something, for example, existing literature,” she says.

According to Tüür, various things are important when writing and it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure which of them is the most important or contributes most to the success of the written work.

“If we are talking about writers whose books are published by publishing houses, imagination probably will not be enough, because the publishing house will have its own requirements and criteria. Writers must be able to express thoughts, structure, tell a story, interest the readers. Writing is really a complex subject,” says the KTU FSSAH Associate Professor-Practitioner.

3. You will not succeed without daily writing

Writing regularly improves one’s writing skills and productivity, and is usually a good advice.

“However, it is not really possible to write every day if you have a full-time job. I really cannot, so I write when I have time. Writing every day allows you to stay connected to the story, the characters and not to forget what has already been written. The text only benefits from that,” says Aldona.

She is convinced that every writer has to find their own way of writing, whether it is writing every day or just in their spare time.

Creative writing KTU

“If you don’t write every day, it certainly will not make you a worse writer. This is everyone’s personal business. To someone, writing one book may take 10 or 20 years, but this does not mean that the final work will be worse than if they wrote every day,” says the lecture.

4. A book only needs an idea, and then it writes itself

Tüür repeats the previously mentioned fact – it is impossible for one thing to be enough when writing a book, whether it is imagination or an idea.

“Of course, it is good to have an idea, but it can be very abstract. Now I am writing a book where the basic idea was to start the story with the death of the main character and continue to reveal how it happened. However, this is very abstract and needs to be developed,” says the author, whose debut novel was published in 2022.

In her opinion, the idea is only an abstraction and the book is a concrete thing with certain words written, and sentences logically arranged.

“The text has to affect the reader. Research shows that we think in images and express our thoughts in words. Therefore, we have to write the words in such a way that they correspond to the image the writer sees in their mind so the readers could see and feel it too,” says Tüür.

Tuur KTU
Aldona Tüür, creative writing teacher at KTU Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

5. Writers are lonely introverts

According to Aldona, this myth is completely false.

“This is the same as saying that all shop assistants are extroverts and criminals are psychopaths. However, introverts may be more likely to choose to be writers. Some of my fellow writers say that it is a lonely occupation, because most of the time you sit alone at the computer and write,” says Tüür.

She believes that this myth is common probably because introverts find it easier to deal with the loneliness of writing.

“Personally, it is not a lonely activity for me – I am a part of a writing group. Although we all write alone, later we meet, share our texts – read and discuss them,” says the KTU creative writing teacher.

6. Writers have to read a lot

“The simple truth is, if you write fiction yourself, you probably think it is a valuable thing. If you think it is valuable, you read a lot. Writers read a lot indeed,” assures Tüür.

Shea adds that writers often dig deeper while reading, read with a goal in mind, for example to learn, how sentences are stringed together, how one or another problem is solved.

“As I mentioned, I am currently writing about death and murder, so I am reading and delving into detective fiction. I am trying to understand what the formula of this genre is,” says a writer and KTU teacher.

She claims that the books of other authors serve only as an inspiration not with the aim to copy the ideas. Unless it happens unconsciously: for example, someone uses very figurative language so it appears in your text.

7. All writers know the rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar perfectly well

According to Tüür, not necessarily all writers will be linguists and not all linguists will be writers.

“The fact is that not all those who know the language well will be able to tell a story. Of course, usually writers read a lot and write essays well in school. If this is the case, it is likely that your language skills are better than average,” she says.

However, there is not necessarily a causal relationship here. Therefore, according to the KTU creative writing teacher, the writer may not know the rules related to the use of the language perfectly.

8. Making a living from writing is impossible

“J. K. Rowling makes a great living, – smiles A. Tüür. – However, if you write in Lithuanian and no one translates your works into other languages, the pay is not very impressive so you could make a living from being a writer”.

However, Tüür points out that writers often do other writing related jobs, such as translating texts or writing articles for the news portals.

“If you live in a country whose language is spoken all over the world and that book becomes a bestseller, it is really possible to make a living from writing. If a film is made based on your work, the earnings are even better,” says KTU Associate Professor-Practitioner, writer Tüür.

Interested in trying a hand in writing? Enrol to Creative Writing classes, available for students from all the faculties of KTU.