What it doesn’t take to be a good writer

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As someone who makes a living as a writer, I often find myself correcting common myths people have about what I do. Here are three of my favorites:

  1. Writing is oh so glamorous. It’s not. Just ask my husband, who often comes home to find me wearing the same clothes I slept in, only now covered in cat hair and coffee stains, and babbling to myself about an elusive verb.
  2. Good writers are just born that way. As with playing an instrument or a sport, some are naturally better at writing than others, but I’ve never met a published author who didn’t have to work really hard before they got any good. I strongly believe that anyone who can write is already a writer, and with practice and perhaps instruction, anyone can become a better writer. No, we can’t all be Hemingway. But seeing as the guy ate street pigeons, why would we want to?
  3. Writers want every aspect of their lives to be “literary”– from pet’s names to vacations to casual conversations. Could not be further from the truth. Writers, like anyone else, don’t want to talk about work all the time.

So naturally I enjoyed this post on Professor Barnhardt’s Journal (via one of my favorite blogs Bookslut), titled “The Condensed Guide to Looking Like a Writer.” Professor Barnhardt pokes fun at the misconceptions people have about writerly accessories — from Moleskin journals to ancient typewriters.

I alternate between using an Erasermate II (permanence is very important to me, you see) and whatever black Bic pen I accidentally pilfered from the office last week. This, of course, means I have no hope of making it big. To be a serious writer, you need to have an expensive fountain pen.

Professor Barnhardt is joking, of course. For serious advice on the writing life, check out “So You Want to be a Writer” from the Atlantic Monthly’s Web site (also posted on Bookslut). The editors cull together advice on writing from contributors dating from 1862 to the present. Unsurprisingly, they don’t say a word about glamour or fountain pens.

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