Authors: Truth vs Myth

Maybe you hope to be an author. Maybe you have a friend who is one. Either way, there are plenty of misconceptions about what happens when a writer becomes published. The minutes I became a published author, these assumptions started popping out of my friends’ and acquaintances mouths until I just had to put aside my frustration, shake my head and smile.

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MYTH: Once you’re published, you’ll instantly be rich and famous.
TRUTH: There are some authors who not only survive off the proceeds of their books, but thrive (J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Rick Riordan . . .). But believe me, that’s the exception, not the norm. I’m fairly certain it’s something like between 1% to 5% of authors make enough money to live independently on their royalties. That leaves the other 95% of us with the need for day jobs.

MYTH: Authors are moody and troubled.
TRUTH: I suppose many of us are. I know I have been at many points in my life. But then again, I know many people who are NOT authors who are moody and troubled as well. I’m fairly certain this is just a side effect of life, not of authorship. Yes, many authors TAKE that troubled existence and turn it into a story, twist it back into a shape that gives hope instead of darkness.

MYTH: Authors are hermits.
TRUTH: Well, this one isn’t strictly true . . . but then again, it isn’t strictly Untrue either. Let’s face it, writers often have abundant alone time. It’s simply the nature of the job. Yes, many of us are introverts and wouldn’t be bothered at all if we stayed in our PJs and never saw another human face for days on end. But in general, authors are normal people who have families and make meals and take their kids to school and get up for church on Sundays. We may long to disappear completely into the worlds we have created, but life calls and we must answer.

MYTH: Authors don’t have regular work hours like “normal” people do.
TRUTH: If an author is going to have any amount of success, she will probably be strict with her writing schedule. And if she’s not strict about it, she will at the very least be fiercely protective of the here-and-there time slots she DOES find in which to write. Books don’t write themselves. As with any job, especially ones that require deep thinking and organization, it takes time, effort, tears, and . . . So. Much. Work. If an author tells you she’s busy writing, do her a favor and just leave her alone. Don’t expect her to rearrange her schedule constantly because her job appears to be more fluid than an 8 to 5 one. Her job is as real as yours.

MYTH: Authors have time to read everyone’s (including strangers’) unfinished novel and give feedback.
TRUTH: I am always encouraging to new and aspiring writers. Every author was one once. However, the first thing an aspiring author should learn is to respect the time and effort of OTHER authors. And asking for one of them to take the significant amount of time it takes to not only read, but critique, something like a novel . . . well, it’s rather thoughtless, actually. Not only do authors WRITE, but most of us have day jobs as well, husbands and children to care for and spend time with, friends to see and daily life-obligations to fulfill. Recently I was contacted by someone I knew many years ago, asking if I would mind looking over and correcting all of his papers for the classes he was currently taking! He knew I was a writer and just assumed that was second nature to me, no problem for me to spend hours of every week critiquing his papers for free! I politely turned him down and suggested he find a fellow classmate who wouldn’t mind exchanging feedback with him instead.

None of these misconceptions are offensive to me . . . in fact, most make me smile or laugh. Regardless, I’ve had to shake my head once or twice, as I’m sure you have if you are an author or even an aspiring one.

What misconceptions have you personally experienced about authors, from either end?

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