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10 Misconceptions About Writers You Probably Believe

10 Misconceptions About Writers You Probably Believe
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Facing misconceptions about writers started with my family. The first time I told my them I wanted to be a writer, you would have guessed from their facial expressions that I’d received a death sentence. They nodded their heads, as if trying to process some horrible shock. Their eyes said they thought I was making a terrible mistake.

Fast forward four years later, and they still think I’m making a mistake. But you know what? I have to say it’s the best mistake of my life. I’m a writer, and you better believe I love being one.

The only thing I don’t love about being a writer is the stigma that comes with it. The idea that because I’m a writer I must be an introverted, troubled, potentially mentally-ill weirdo. And that I’ll inevitably end up as A) a teacher, B) a starving artist, or C) a moocher. While those stereotypes may be true for some, they don’t apply to us all. (Though, to be honest, the weirdo part definitely applies to me.)

So before anyone continues to make assumptions about writers, they should consider this: there’s a lot more to us than the names you see in newspapers and magazines, and our writing usually tells more about us than what we’d tell you in person.

Here are 10 things people misunderstand about writers as a whole:

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1. We don’t have a social life

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    People often assume that if you write and read for a living, that’s all you do in your free time, too. I think I speak for most of us when I say that’s not at all true. Of all my friends, I actually consider the ones who are writers to have the most interesting and lively social lives. I mean, how else do you think writers come up with the inspiration for all their bizarre, elaborate stories? By locking themselves in their rooms all day? Please.

    2. We exaggerate constantly

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      Sure, we’re seen as the hopeless romantics and disturbed dreamers of the creative world. But we’ve got a trick or two up our sleeves. Writers have the gift to put power and emotion into words, but often people equate this with exaggerating for the sake of getting a point across to our readers. That’s not to say we fictionalize our thoughts and feelings, per se, but we might add a little spice to our writing from time to time to give it some intrigue.

      3. We read really really fast

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        Just because we write and read for a living doesn’t mean we’re all super-human readers. In fact, I’m pretty sure writers take longer to read than most. Have you ever come across a novel that’s nearly indecipherable because of the overwhelming number of highlighted passages, notes, scribbles, and bookmarked pages? If so, I’m betting the person responsible was a writer. And if not, then they should become one because no other group of people would consider destroying literature as an act of love and admiration. Joan Didion, this is my shout-out to you. The Year of Magical Thinking is now the most illegible volume on my bookshelf.

        4. We can come up with a story in no time

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          This ties in with the point above. It’s not like we have magic fingers, people. We don’t light-speed our way across a keyboard or zap a Pulitzer Prize-worthy story to life on our computer screens, though we wish we could. No, it takes time, lots of it. Coming up with a story takes patience, planning, late nights, early mornings, and bucket loads of coffee. It’s no picnic in the park. Well, actually, I take that back. It’s like a picnic in the park until you realize there’s ants all over your food and you have to find some elaborate way to lead them away without killing them. The point is, a good story requires critical thinking. Without it, the ants win.

          5. We are not expected to make money

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            The main concern everyone expresses towards writers is how we all expect to make money, but let me run this thought by you: A couple years ago, a single mother on welfare decided to write a fantasy novel that eventually turned her into one of the richest women in the world today. Her name is J.K. Rowling, you might have heard of her. Through writing, she made millions. And she’s not the only one. Writers are often viewed as the underdogs of the moneymaking race, but the truth is we all have the potential to be extremely successful. It’s just that most of us put success in our craft before success in our bank accounts.

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            6. We all want to become teachers

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              If I’m asked one more time if I want to teach after getting my degree in creative writing, I may flip out. Look, if I wanted to teach I would have gotten an education major. I understand that some English majors do plan on going into teaching after graduation, but it’s wrong to assume all of us wish to follow in their footsteps. Also, we don’t all want to become novelists. There are plenty of other career paths for writers besides those two positions. Just saying.

              7. We think writing is, you know, pretty OK

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                I may often complain about my writing classes or professors. But at the end of the day, there’s no doubt in my mind I love writing. I once had a professor who told us that if we loved writing, we were doing it wrong. While I understand why he said that, I also understand that everyone’s experiences are different. In my personal opinion, you truly have to love writing in order to be a writer, in addition to accepting the fact your butt may resemble a pancake after several hours of story-making.

                8. Writing is the most relaxing job imaginable

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                  A career in writing may not be as grueling or demanding as a career in medicine, but that’s not to say writers don’t experience their fair share of difficulties. Not only do we spend hours upon hours writing, rewriting, brainstorming, and usually scrapping our work, but we face loads of criticism on a day-to-day basis. Writers have to pretty much walk on virtual eggshells every time we post anything on the internet because we all know someone, somewhere, will find the misspelled word or grammatical mistakes in our writing. I could go on all day about how difficult writing is at times, but I think you already get the point. Writing is a tough business. Enough said.

                  9. We can finish our pieces whenever we want

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                    Believe it or not, almost all writers work on a deadline. And believe it or not, almost all of us wait until the very last second to turn our work in. It’s not that we’re lazy. Quite the opposite actually. The reason most writers wait until the deadline is because we’re perfectionists. We want our work to be spectacular, free from error, and purposeful before we send it anywhere. So naturally we procrastinate until we feel it’s ready to be submitted. And trust me, we’re fantastic at it. The story is due by 11:59 p.m., and we wait until 11:57 p.m. on that day to submit it simply because we can—and much to the annoyance of our editors. Plus, it helps to have a creative mind when you’re working under deadline. The stuff some writers can create at the last minute never ceases to amaze me.

                    10. We’re all boring nerds

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                      As I said earlier, we’re the quirkiest of the quirks out there. And I’ll admit, we are. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a creative writing workshop expecting to find the most normal group of people there, but then again I’m glad I didn’t. Though we’re a quirky bunch of creative enthusiasts, writers are some of the most awesome people you will ever meet. We may not be social butterflies and we may spend a lot of our time with our noses in books and our fingers on keyboards, but what we lack on the surface we make up for in character.

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                      So before you judge a book—I mean, a writer—by the cover, consider these typical misconceptions about writers. And while we may be the underdogs of the professional world, there’s a lot more to us than meets the eye. That “more” can be found all over our blogs and Word docs.

                      Featured photo credit: typewriter/Lívia Cristina L. C. via flic.kr

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                      Last Updated on July 20, 2021

                      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

                      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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                      You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

                      Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

                      Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

                      Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

                      1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

                      According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

                      “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

                      Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

                      Warming up

                      If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

                      If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

                      Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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                      1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
                      2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
                      3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

                      Stay hydrated

                      Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

                      To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

                      Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

                      Meditate

                      Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

                      Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

                      Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

                      Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

                      2. Focus on your goal

                      One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

                      Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

                      Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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                      Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

                      If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

                      3. Convert negativity to positivity

                      There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

                      ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

                      It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

                      Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

                      Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

                      Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

                      4. Understand your content

                      Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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                      However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

                      “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

                      Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

                      Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

                      One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

                      5. Practice makes perfect

                      Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

                      In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

                      Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

                      6. Be authentic

                      There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

                      Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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                      Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

                      To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

                      With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

                      Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

                      7. Post speech evaluation

                      Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

                      Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

                      We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

                      You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

                      Improve your next speech

                      As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

                      Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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                      • How did I do?
                      • Are there any areas for improvement?
                      • Did I sound or look stressed?
                      • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
                      • Was I saying “um” too often?
                      • How was the flow of the speech?

                      Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

                      If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

                      Reference

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