Monday, 6 February 2017

The Five Writing Myths That Will Destroy Your Productivity

Myth 1 - "Writers are Special."

We've all seen them. They are attracted to writers' groups like blowflies to roadkill. They make their presence constantly known with a barrage of memes, all starting with "You know you're a writer when..." and ending with some rubbish or other. And then there are the ones about how marvellous it is to be an introvert (funny how it's always the self-styled introverts who brag about this. I've never once seen an extrovert bragging about being an extrovert) and the ones that tell you you're extra-creative if you have insomnia/abuse drugs/swear a lot.

Leaving aside for the moment the questions that arise concerning a person's effectiveness at his job when he can't even tell what that job is without a meme, there is one thing that these memes all make abundantly clear, and that is that the poster is not a writer, or not in any real sense. What he is is a wannabe.

How can I be so sure of this, you ask. I'll tell you. Writers write. And a working writer nearly always has much better things to do than to sit around constructing pretentious memes and posting them around Facebook.

Aside from wasting the poster's time, these memes perpetuate a very harmful myth - that of the writer as special snowflake. We are, they suggest, more perceptive, more sensitive, attuned to a higher plane, etc etc than the common run of humankind. Different. Apart. Special.

What a load of cobblers. Writers are not special. We're not different. And as Mr Page has put it so ably in this blog post, if we were, we wouldn't be effective as writers.

Myth 2 - "Writing comes from your Muse/inspiration/your characters talking to you."

Bollocks. Writing comes from the action of sitting your bum down and writing. Period. If you don't do your work, your imaginary friends are not going to do it for you. As for 'inspiration', that's bollocks too. If you wait for inspiration to strike, you'll still be talking about being a writer and making memes (see above) when they lay you in your coffin. 

Myth 3 - "There is something 'cool' about having a filthy house, staying in your pyjamas all day, etc."

No. Just no. If you can't even manage to take care of basic hygiene and household management, a thing that people with IQs in the 60's are able to master, how do you think you can be a writer? People who can't even manage to keep themselves clean are failing on the most basic level. This is not something to brag about.

In fact, if the basic mechanics of daily living are beyond you, you've already descended to a level of non-functionality that will make it impossible for you to achieve much in the way of creative work. If you manage to ignore the filth of your surroundings, find your way through piles of trash to your desk, and crank out some words, then congratulations - you've done well. But think how much you could have achieved if you started from the position of a clean and orderly environment. It's like your physical health; in fact, your bodily health is just one aspect of your environment. Take care of your support systems and they will take care of you.

Myth 4 - "Creativity can be fuelled by alcohol, marijuana, pseudoephedrine, cocaine or some other mood-altering substance."

Rubbish. The time for drinking and other recreational drug use is after you have finished work for the day. Yes, I know people have told you they were super-inspired when taking cocaine, etc. That's because one of the effects of recreational drugs is to make you imagine you are being super-inspired, when you're actually producing work that would disgrace a six-year-old, and very little of that. There are no exceptions to this.

Myth 5 - "You quit your day job to become a writer, so you are now a Free Spirit. Not like those poor nine-to-five wage slaves."

Again, this is not only bollocks but very pernicious bollocks. Remember the mantra of management workshops in the 1980s? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Much as I detest mantras, there's a lot in this one. No large project can be completed in an effective and timely fashion without planning. That's a given, right? And once you have a plan, the plan only works if you stick to it

So no, Virginia, you're not a free spirit any more, not if you actually want to achieve anything. You'll have deadlines, and deliverables, and targets. Goals. The Daily Wordcount. And if you embrace these things in a positive spirit, one day you just might have a book.

What Now?

Now that I've destroyed all your treasured misconceptions about writing as a job, you may be wondering where to go next. I was lucky to have spent twenty years in the computer industry managing some very large projects, so project management was already part of my skillset when I went full-time with the writing, but we're not all that fortunate, and if your previous working life didn't equip you with project management skills, as most jobs do not, you'll be wanting some help with that. 

Never fear - help is at hand. I've just completed this whizz-bang short course by writer and ex-university lecturer Terri Main. It's called the No Excuse Zone. You think I talk tough - wait till you see this course. Main will not allow you any rocks to hide under, as the course title suggests. It's tough-talking, realistic and practical, and it will step you through creating a work plan that will see you achieving your goals like a Viking.

As I say, I've just completed this course myself; it was part of my Continuing Professional Development program this year. So I'm able to recommend it without reservation.

The pricing is very affordable too. For just $45, or three easy instalments of $15, you can do the premium level of the course, which gives you personal feedback from the instructor, entry to a discussion group and one-to-one communications about anything you have trouble with. I could not believe how cheap this was. I've done courses in the I.T. industry with less useful content that cost thousands of dollars.

Nevertheless, if this is beyond your means, there is also the "autopilot" option. With this option, you actually decide how much you want to pay for the course - you pay whatever you think it is worth. It gives you access on the web only to the lessons, and then you work on your own. A wonderful alternative for those who are really hard up, although I'm glad I wasn't doing this option. If I had had to pay what I thought it was worth, it would have cost me WAY more than the $45! You can find the Autopilot option for the course HERE.

But wait! There's MORE! One lucky reader of my blog will win a free Premium Level course. Reply in the comments below, and I'll choose the winner randomly after one week. Lest you wonder about the method of this random choice, I'll be using the RAND function in Excel.

Head on over to The Writing Academy; you won't be sorry. 


  1. this one sounds great too - this book, plus the other one you reviewed recently, would necessitate my ditching - with extreme reluctance - all my favourite excuses for not writing (must plant out those seedlings, does the roof need washing?) and just write. Your comments resonate with commonsense and truth, dammit.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 18 hrs