Dispelling the Myth of the Magic Writer – Part II

The second of a two part series by Dan Szczesny for his new #WriteLife column

img_20160211_124537.jpgIn Part I of busting some of what I call the “myths of the magic writer,” we looked at listening to muses and writing every day. Today, we continue to explore some commonly held writer-beliefs that get in the way of actually writing and how we can avoid getting trapped by them.

Myth #3: “Real life” gets in a writer’s way.

This one drives me nuts. First, writing is part of my real life. Why? Because it’s my job. Second, the rest of my real life is where I get my story ideas. Again, we are faced with the myth that characters and scenes and dialogue just drop into our heads from on high. The reality is that ideas and inspiration come from living; we just have to practice being open to them.

If I wasn’t a writer, would I be excused from having to make lunch for my child, or wash the dishes, or visit family? Of course not. Real life isn’t a chore to get over with a quickly as possible. Real life is what energizes and drives writing.

Myth #4: Inspiration must be reckoned with immediately.

Nope. I do not have a dream journal. I don’t go running off to the writing cave to jot down some remembered bit of story idea. I occasionally will use a Notes app on my phone if I wish to jostle my memory later. But my office is a work office, just like any other regular job. In the morning, I shower, shave, get a cup of coffee, and turn on my light. And write. The stories come when I want them to, during work hours. Because I’ve trained them to.

Myth #5: Writing is romantic.

Oh, no it isn’t! Just ask my wife. Writers as a collective community suffer badly from a problem of image and perception. Google “writer” and look at the images. Typewriter. Ink well. Typewriter key. A picture of some 16th Century fop day-dreaming with his quill. Now Google “doctor.” See the difference? No pictures of 18th Century medicine men about to apply leeches, are there?

Our profession is stopped in time. In order to be taken seriously, we need to break out of the mythology of the romantic writer. Because you know what else goes along with those archaic images? Being poor. An expectation that writers must write, whether or not they get paid. Writing for free is a complex issue that we’ll cover in future articles, but for now let me say this: Be professional. Take pride and put stock in your work. Even if you feel the need to give it away right now, look for professional/credible opportunities and then be realistic and forthright when the time comes to ask for payment. Value your work and valuable opportunities will follow. And professional opportunities will follow, in one form or another.

Be sure to return for Dan’s next article “One Step Closer to World Domination (or How to Not Sell Your Book to Anyone)” on 25 February 2016:-)


Dan in Alaska
Dan in Alaska

Dan Szczesny has made a living from his pen and keyboard for two decades. He currently lives in New Hampshire, where he’s written three books. His fourth title, Mosquito Rain: Alaskan Travel Essays, will be published in June by Folded Word.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Neila Mezynski says:

    Great article! It probably pertains to most art forms.. just work!

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  2. So right, Neila. Good point.

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  3. Debbie says:

    Thank you for running this series from Dan!

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  4. Marcus Speh says:

    I have to agree with the importance of “real life” and the need to let go of “romantic” notions of the writer’s life (though it is only a fantasy life for me so I’m talking outtama nose here…). Personally, I find though that I need to deal with inspiration immediately. The reason is not that I love journaling (I do) or that I have contempt for transpiration. But inspiration comes (remember I believed in your “myth #1”) from the muse, or from some dark place at the very least, hidden away not unlike dreams and their meaning. Even if we don’t outright harvest those inspirations or dreams, at the very least I feel we must respect them – if only because we don’t know if these are the voices or angels (or devils, for that matter) or of the dead. Just my 0.02c as you guys say – keep them coming, Dan!

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  5. Thanks for reading it Debbie, hope it helps! – Dan

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  6. Hi Marcus, thank you so much for taking the time to read the essays and chat about your process. No doubt every writer does it differently. I just fear that the “magic” part of being a writer is also the part that keeps us poor and/or underappreciated. But that’s a tipic for another column. Cheers and get back to work!

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