Thursday, February 16, 2012

Column: The Business of Writing - Myths About Writers by Linda Rohrbough

What is it about being a writer that everyone assumes you can spell? In fact, I run into a whole bunch of mythical assumptions about writers.

The spelling myth one is one of my favorites. For them, it must be like me going to dinner with my dentist – I would be afraid to smile. I see people visibly relax when I tell them what a crummy speller I am.

My spelling is better the more I write. But I’m so far off sometimes, the spell checker can’t help me. And if you don’t have the correct first letter, then you’re outta luck with a dictionary, thank you very much. Like when I tried to find the correct spelling for “kyniption,” (which I had to look up again to correctly spell it at the end of this paragraph.) I was under deadline, never did find the spelling, and had to substitute the word “fit.” Conniption was a much better word and I grieved its loss.

By the way, thank God for the Internet. Evidently they’ve figured out what piss-poor spellers some of us are. I can almost always find my corrected misspelling of a word on the Web. Almost. (Didn’t work with conniption, though.)

Another one that comes to mind is that everyone assumes I know exactly where commas go. Sheesh. This is why I have an annual subscription to the online AP Style Guide online.

What’s even more amusing is when I consult with authors and they say to me, “I’m in a hurry to get this book published, because I need the money.” I really hate hearing that because then I have to let them know they’d be better off financially as the greeter at Wal-Mart. Of course, they don’t believe me until much later. This isn’t a fast business, folks.

Oh - then there’s the, “I’ve got a book idea, you write it, and we’ll split the money.” Sure. Like I can just whip out a book like my chef mother-in-law whips up a batch of cookies for desert while everyone is finishing up a meal. Plus, do you know the value of a good idea? (This is a trick question.) It’s zero. Yep. Zip, zilch, nadda. An idea only has value when it’s executed.

I want to say to someone who brings me a deal like this, “Honey, I have so many ideas I can’t get to now, I don’t have a clue how far down the queue yours would end up.”

One of my best-selling friends says she’s tempted to quip, “How about I give you one of my ideas, you write and publish it, and then split the money with me?” No one wants that deal, though.

I wonder sometimes if it’s like playing the lottery, which I don’t do by the way. But I hear if you play the same set of numbers over and over for a lot of years, yours is likely to hit. Now that I think of it, most of my writer friends love gambling. When we meet at conferences, I’ve found they have an instinct for finding a nearby casino. I reluctantly pull ten bucks out of my pocket and kiss it goodbye just so I can talk to one of my author friends about the business while we sit side-by-side at identical Wheel of Fortune machines. If I get stuck by myself, I migrate to video poker because I feel some input over the outcome. I’m grateful some of the casinos are non-smoking.

But my writing friends have their gambling tricks, like choose a machine close to the isle because it’s been played more often. It occurred to me one day that maybe writing really is like gambling and that’s why these successful writers like both writing and playing the slots. Because in both cases, you’ve got to believe you’re that one in a million. If the truth be known, deep down, I do believe my books will be on the New York Times list. That’s one of the things that keeps me going despite the obstacles and hurdles.

I’m sure there are a lot more myths out there. What ones have you run into? I know there are more. C’mon people, I’m counting on you.

About the Writer:  Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath."  She recently won the 2011 Global eBook Award and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award for her new novel. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:


  1. Because you work at home, of course you're available to pick up the dry cleaning, pick up someone at the airport, chauffeur someone to the doctor, grocery store and pharmacy and all the other things everybody around you doesn't want to be bothered with. After all, you're just writing, right?

    I mean, sure you'll do some of that but being everybody else's unpaid gofer eats into your writing time like crazy.

  2. I've heard this more from people my age (in their twenties and younger), but there's this idea that I'm pursuing writing as a last resort. Some people apparently believe that writers are writers because they're not good at anything else; those who have told me that are generally surprised when I tell them just how many different pies I've got my fingers in.

  3. Lots of writers think that this isn't a business--it's a hobby, pasttime, party! LOL It's soooo much work, and even though it's rewarding, it's NOT easy.

    Debra Moore

  4. Great job, you guys. I really have to guard my writing time. I think writing as a last resort comes from the idea that anyone can write. I have heard this one quite a bit, "I'm sure I could write a best-seller, but I just don't have the time." Like it's a hobby, as Debra said.

  5. How about this often bandied about myth about writers: Writers are misanthropes who suffer from depression and self-medicate with alcohol. Yup, I hear that one all the time...

  6. Linda, I have this great idea ... let me tell you about it. Then you write it up, OK? I'm reasonable, I'll give you 60% and take only 40%,