Misconceptions About Writing

Hmm, no ideas for a pithy title sub-title combo this time. Anyway.

 My experience as a resume writer over the last several months has been very educational. I’ve learned quite a bit about resume formatting and writing, obviously, enough so that I’ve completely rewritten mine from scratch. It’s also given me some experience with great clients and, well, less than satisfactory clients.

The bottom end of that last spectrum, though, has brought a few interesting things to my attention. Or, rather, has reminded me of a few things that I’d forgotten. They can be summed up in one statement:

Non-writers, generally, have a lot of misconceptions about writing.

I’d like to address a few of the ones that stand out the most.

1) Writing is a solitary act.

 Many of the worst clients, and quite a few non-writers in general, seem to accept the stereotype of the lone writer closeted in an attic somewhere banging away at keys (or scribbling away with a pen, quill, whatever). They don’t seem to get that all writing is an inherently communal act. On the simplest level, of course, writing is communication, which requires at least two people. But, beyond that, even classroom writing is a two or more person endeavor (student-instructor, the latter edits, comments, replies, praises, etc.). And in the case of writing for others, say writing a resume for someone else, it is a communal act between writer and client, e.g. the client needs to provide useful feedback in a timely fashion.

2) Writers are psychics or telepaths.

 Some, apparently, think that writers can read the minds of others. Let’s nip this one fast. Non-fiction writers, particularly resume writers, cannot just make stuff up. They need to conduct research, which often means getting information from other people. A writer can’t just throw together a document, ex. a resume, from someone saying, “I’m applying for this position, write me a resume.” The writer needs to know certain things—educational background, employment history, achievements, contact info–that (s)he can’t simply make up. Even fiction writers need to do research, regardless of genre. When I’m writing secondary world fantasy, I do research (as needed). Usually, this is what I call inspirational research—looking up info on real world religions, governments, magic “systems”, or images to inspire descriptions—rather than factual research—ex. what does Brooklyn look like in 2015, what were the demographics of Chicago circa 2000 C.E. for an urban fantasy or mainstream piece.

3) Writing is 100% perfect the first time.

 This is a huge one that I’ve seen lately. Apparently, writers are supposed to produce a perfect piece the very first time they write. Non-writers don’t really seem to understand the drafting-revising process, or consequently the joys of the editorial feedback/beta reader process. Obviously, this is not the case. Those of us who write a lot realize the fact that drafting-revising is a potentially unending cycle (if it weren’t for things like deadlines, paying bills, eating . . . silly stuff). There’s always something that can be improved. Still, it is very rare to get something written perfectly on the first take. In twenty years or so of regular writing, I can think of one instance where I had a virtually perfect first draft (and even then, I say “virtually”).

4) Writing is easy.

 I’m not even going to start on this one. If you’ve done any serious writing, you’re likely laughing at the idea already. If you haven’t, I’m not entirely sure how to explain it. Suffice to say, this one usually causes me to either laugh or grown. Exception: When I’m dealing with students, then I shake my head and explain that good, solid writing is never easy, even for the extremely talented and/or extremely experienced.

6 comments on “Misconceptions About Writing

  1. Liza Barrett says:

    Lovely post.

    When I was in college I hung out with a bunch of other writers, so we commiserated together. I’d take your comments a step further and put in that even when we’re in the writing alone stage, most of us still discuss what we’re working on with other writers and seek out feedback along the way. I know I’ve burned through more writer’s block by calling up one of my good friends and just talking to him about my plot and where I’m stuck. Definitely not solitary 🙂

    But now that I work with a bunch of people who are terrified at the idea of reading a book, let alone writing one, I’ve gotten a whole new perspective. And you’re right, most of the points you’ve made above are completely (and sadly) true. Although I will say that I don’t often get people telling me that writing is easy. Most of them think I’m crazy because I sit in front of the computer long enough every day to blog, let alone write.

    I can’t even begin to count the number of times someone has asked me to help them with their resume and they just send me what they have and say, “Fix it.” I usually respond with a blank stare and say, “I don’t even know what you DO.” I definitely can’t write a few concise, meaningful bullets about a job I’ve never done. And 90% of the time those conversations end with them going off and writing their own bullets after I’ve helped them ask the right questions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lordtaltos says:

      Very akin to my own experiences.

      The “easy” bit tends to come from a number of the science people I know (who considered non-sciences in general as “easy”).

      Same boat here on the resumes, and really the writing tutoring gig too. Often the right questions are all it takes, except for the occasional person who refuses to reply at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liza Barrett says:

        Huh. I spent a lot of time around math majors (could be because I was one) who bemoaned the thought of writing because it was way harder than math. But I guess from the perspective of something to make a career out of it, I can see why science-y folks might consider the more creative arts to be less taxing.

        I had some math tutorees who were like that. Silence. Is. Not. Helpful. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      • lordtaltos says:

        I spent a few years of college as a student supervisor in a science library. About 80% of the student employees were science majors and about half of those continually went on about how “easy” my major was because it was “just” reading and writing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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  3. calmgrove says:

    Anyone who writes blogs (let alone reads them) should be aware of all the points you raise — the number of times I’ve read posts with basic errors of spelling, grammar and logic (here I refer of course to my own efforts) makes me thankful for sharp-eyed bloggers along with hindsight for suggesting corrections to pieces written in haste. That dialogue with others as well as self is crucial for both communication as well as self-examination, CVs as well as extended literature.

    Liked by 1 person

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