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Five Lies Writers Believe That Are Holding Them Back

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On FB, Steve Mathisen wrote the following and I can't improve on it:
"Some say that writing fiction is telling lies to tell the truth. But, sometimes there are other lies we tell ourselves that keep us from our best as writers."




We all share in the journey of overcoming the Lies we believe, unhitching them from the emotional baggage that motivates them, and moving toward the often scary but always peace-giving and life-affirming Truths. And yet each journey is deeply unique and intimate to each person.

Although we won’t all face the same Lies, there are many, many Lies so prevalent that most of us can relate to them. These begin with the big life Lies that are rooted in primal desires for love, safety, and validation—and the instinctive, if ultimately counterproductive, survival mechanisms we enact defensively out of fear that we won’t get them.

These Lies are heavy. It can take years, perhaps even lifetimes, for us to peel back the many layers of Lies before we get down to their cores. But along the way, there are many “smaller” Lies, which although (arguably) easier to overcome are just as potentially damaging. Here are five lies writers believe that I hear all the time—all of which I believed in at one point before fighting through to better Truths.

Lies Writers Believe #1: Being a Writer Should Be Easy
Entry Truth: It Ain’t Easy.

Ultimate Truth: Writing Is a High-Level Skill Set.

Many would-be writers enter storytelling through the door marked “Fun.” Just as many of these would-be writers exit right back out through the same door.

Writing—I mean really writing—is a deeply complex art form. Doing it well requires from its author the ability to master such widely ranging subjects as philosophy and even psychology (because what else is story theory?), dramatic structure, a thousand different prose techniques, and not least of all David McCullough’s art of “thinking clearly.”

Accepting that writing should be challenging eliminates our ability to defend our inherent human laziness and dares us to become more than we ever dreamed we could.

Lies Writers Believe #2: Being a Writer Is Too Hard

Entry Truth: Writing Is Not for Lazy People.

Ultimate Truth: Writing Is Rewarding and Important Exactly Because It Is Hard.

Other writers (or sometimes the same writers) stick around to lament the high bar of storytelling’s difficulty level. We want writing stories to be as fun, easy, and instantly gratifying as reading or watching them. But it’s not, never has been, never will be. Oh yes, it’s fun—it’s rewarding—it’s sublimely empowering and enlightening.

But I say thank God that’s not all it is. Thank God writing isn’t a fun little game we can master in an afternoon. Indeed, the very worth of stories is found in all the things that make them tricky to write. It is the difficulty inherent in every new book we write that gives each of us the precious and irreplaceable gifts of growth.

Lies Writers Believe #3: You Need Someone to Show You How to Be a Writer

Entry Truth: No, You Don’t.

Ultimate Truth: Learning From Others Is a Self-Motivated Process Completely Different From Expecting Others to Magically Transfer to You Their Knowledge and Experience.

Sometimes people ask me, “Can you help me be a writer?”

This is a tricky one to answer. It’s one of those “yes and no” scenarios. Can I share with you what I’ve learned from my own experiences as a writer, just as others have shared with me in their turn? Yes.

But can I give you the keys to the kingdom? No. I can only show you where the door is. Writing is ultimately a journey of self-growth. No one can take that journey for you. No one can hold your hand along the way. And they certainly can’t give you a piggy-back ride. We can cheer you on from the sidelines, but that’s it.

All the information and encouragement in the world won’t give you the secret formula to being a writer. You have to eat that information, digest it, and transform it into your own personal brand of creative energy. You won’t understand story structure until you make it yours. You won’t find a comfortable writing process until you create your own. And you won’t write worthwhile stories unless you’re writing your stories, up from the deepest depths of yourself.

Lies Writers Believe #4: You Don’t Have Anything Worth Saying and/or Will Never Say It Well Enough
Entry Truth: If You Believe That, Stop Writing Right Now.

Ultimate Truth: You Are Alive, Therefore Your Experience Is Valuable; You Are Writing About Your Experience, Therefore You Believe You Have Something Worth Saying; You Are Persevering, Therefore You Will Learn to Say It Better.

This Lie is a masquerade. Writers don’t actually believe they have nothing to say. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be saying it. Rather, what they believe is that they need the validation of the others to put the stamp of approval on what they’re saying.

There is a certain measure of practical truth to this. After all, if you want to be published, you’re going to need someone’s approval somewhere along the way.

But instead of falling into the slough of self-pity (a sure sign you’re in denial about a Lie of some kind), acknowledge these two truths:

1. On a personal level, you need no one’s validation. Recognize your own inherent self-worth and by extension the worth of you’re writing.

2. If you recognize the practical need for someone else’s validation at some point in your journey toward a specific end goal (e.g., publication), then realize that whining and feeling sorry for yourself will not help you make the necessary changes to gain that validation.

Lies Writers Believe #5: Where You Are Today Defines Your Success
Entry Truth: Your Journey Isn’t Over.

Ultimate Truth: You Can’t Judge Your Story’s Ending by Its First and Second Acts.

At any given moment in your life, it is so easy to look up, look around, realize you aren’t anywhere close to where you want to be, and start feeling like an unmitigated failure.

But your story isn’t over.

Just take a look at whatever fix your characters find themselves stuck in at this very moment in your work-in-progress. Doesn’t look too good for them either, does it? But you, as their author, know their story isn’t over. They’re not even close to the ending yet; they will not be judged by the mistakes they’re making in the middle.

And neither should you judge yourself. Keep writing, keep living.

With a dedication to overcoming your Lies and pursuing your Truths, you can trust the story of your own life will roll to an ending better than you can even imagine right now.



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32 minutes ago, Phy said:

You won’t understand story structure until you make it yours.

True, but I wish it came with a better set of instructions for how to make it your own.  


33 minutes ago, Phy said:

You Don’t Have Anything Worth Saying and/or Will Never Say It Well Enough

Another to add to this. 

My dyslexia sometimes makes it hard for others to follow my train of thought.  This comes with moments of discouragement.  However, I have found ways to better clarify myself in person.  I imagine it will be much the same in writing.  Now, to find the magic formula.  :)


36 minutes ago, Phy said:

Lies Writers Believe #5: Where You Are Today Defines Your Success
Entry Truth: Your Journey Isn’t Over.

Ultimate Truth: You Can’t Judge Your Story’s Ending by Its First and Second Acts.

This is more than a writing tip.  It's a life lesson.  

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On 5/14/2018 at 11:30 AM, Phy said:

No one can take that journey for you.

And I'm adding, 'Or from you.'

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Can you help me be a writer?

I know of one website where the author continually perpetuates this lie, by saying you need writing mentors!

I have some - Tolkien, Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Saberhagen, and more!

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