The Myth of the "Real" Writer and How to Fight It

getting things done
Getting Things Done: For Writers
January 22, 2017
horror fiction book launch salt in the blood
Salt in the Blood – Inside My Indie Launch
February 5, 2017

The Myth of the "Real" Writer and How to Fight It

the myth

Are you a “real” writer? One of the myths I most detest is that writers must meet some sort of litmus test to be “real”.  I first happened across the philosophy of realness for writers several years ago. A “manifesto” written by an information marketer-cum-writer claimed you must write every day to be considered a real writer. While I noticed the author toned down some of the more elitist bits as the years rolled on, he still stands firmly behind his ideal that real writers don’t write for accolades, fame, or fortune. They write for the sheer joy of it.  In fact, he writes, “Real writers do not begin their day with aspirations of seeing their words in print.”

Oh, shit. I’m not real.

I sit here, checking my hand for solidity, expecting at any moment for my edges to begin to blur as I ghost away into thin air. Firmly, I plant my feet into the floor of my writing space, hoping the myth is just that — a widely held, but false, belief. I mean, I’d really hate to disappear before dinner.

The Myth You MUST Ignore

All kidding aside, if you want to be a writer, ignore self-promoting manifestos, egocentric pronouncements, and the urge to tailor your writing style to someone else’s definition. Just be yourself. I DO begin my day hoping I’ll see my name in print. I DON’T write every day. Sometimes, life, the universe, and everything gets in the way. And guess what? Sometimes, I don’t write for the sheer joy of it, either. Sometimes, I just write for the paycheck.

But even when I’m writing about something that’s not on my Favorites playlist, I’m still honing my craft. I’m working; I’m writing. That makes me a writer: the myth, the legend.

Follow This Advice

If you suspect a writer of setting out a list of rules to define you, close that tab, turn that page, press “stop”. Being a writer is hard enough without having to navigate through a some arbitrary nonsense to see if you make the cut. Writers need to pull together, not develop self-righteous rules to define the unwashed masses and keep them out of the tribe. We’re creatives, for goodness’ sake! That means the lot of us represent a profusion of diversity. Ernest Hemingway wrote drunk. Issac Asimov did not. Some wrote every day; others when the mood struck them. Virginia Woolf wrote in the morning; Franz Kafka by the light of the moon. Was one more real than another? Uh, no. Of course not.

Check this out: One blog post here says that most writers — “good” writers — write at night. Yet, here there’s a post that claims there were more morning writers than night owls. The problem with the myth is the claim by the author of the first post that to be a good writer you must write at night. Nonsense.

Of course, night writing is fine. There are pros. There are cons. But, if you write in the morning does that mean you’re not a good writer? Hell no! Try telling that to Stephen King, who writes most mornings.

Dispel the Myth

As a writer, a real one, you have the power to dispel this fiction about having to do this, that, or the other thing a certain way, at a certain time, perhaps while holding a blue pen and drinking chamomile tea or rotgut whiskey, in order to be a real writer. You write. You’re real. You have my deep and unending respect. Now, go out and spread that myth!



  1. Terry Sewell says:

    To be honest I think it’s all about opinions, What is a real writer? I would presume that surely this phenomenon is better answered by the readers. I detest writers who go on about what a writer should do and not do and make money out of doing it…lucky sods. But seriously I think that every writer has their own style and own goals, or indeed what they get from it. I have loved writing all my life, I simply drift off into my own world of each creation and character. To live and breathe every word and plotted path until I reach it’s unpredictable ending, to which I then have great satisfaction in completion. To make a story out of nothing by bringing an idea to life for the joy of others to enjoy, is such a great feeling of a acheivement.

    • I couldn’t have said it better. We need to concentrate on our craft, however we manage it as individuals, and offer support to other writers, whether they’re just beginning or they’ve been writing their whole lives. One size does NOT fit all, and it’s a shame that some feel it’s necessary to lift themselves up at the expense of others. Vive le difference!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *