A Half-dozen Things Aspiring Writers Say to Themselves

…and Why It Isn’t True

She gazed into the creamy coffee in her cup. For a fraction of a second the steam scalded her lip and the powerful woodsy scent filled her nose. Sighing, refreshed, she began to arrange the day’s notes. One by one, they covered the top of the old desk, hiding the polished grain where countless books and students’ hands had brushed it smooth. The beams of the setting sun that filtered through the red oak leaves outside her window wove between her typing fingers as she started an evening’s work.

That’s how writing happens, right?

That’s my writing fantasy. Actually, I’m sitting in my “garden level” bedroom. That means the basement. I can hear my daughter arguing about the likelihood of falling off the bed if she continues roughhousing on it. There is laundry on the floor. On my desk there is an empty fast food cola cup and a chipped coffee mug. I’ll fill the mug again with coffee after my daughter is gone to bed because I want to write, but it will not be as good as sex, as the excerpt above would imply. I don’t have a day’s worth of brilliant ideas doodled onto pretty scraps that I carry around with me.

Aside from the less than ideal atmosphere there are lots of things that I say over and over about why it’s hard to write. Here, are my top six reasons why I don’t start writing and why I should just write anyway.

It will be easy when I’m ready or when the time is right.

If I stick with this one, I will never write a thing. In fact, the same can be said of any undertaking in life.

The best advice my husband and I ever got was that when it comes to life changing things you need to just do it. The truth is, it will never seem like a good time for some things.

Having a baby is one of those things. No one will ever know everything you need to know, or have enough money, or feel ready to have a baby. Writing a book is a little like having a baby. I will fumble along. I will have to choose the best of bad options and defend my choices like I know what I’m doing. I will have to suddenly learn the skills to do better than I’ve ever done before. Until I made the decision and couldn’t go back I wouldn’t become the person I needed to be.

I don’t know enough to write about anything.

When people say write what you know, they don’t really mean that you can’t write a Victorian novel unless you were a Victorian or unless you did your university thesis in Victorian literature. Research is half the fun of writing. Take your time and spend time imagining that you there. I mean lots of time. Also, writers make mistakes all the time. Sometimes they even know that they are wrong and go with it anyway because it works. Do your very best to be accurate, but don’t let tiny details stop you. To be honest, when I’m devouring an excellent novel I wouldn’t be likely to notice logical or historical errors.

Sometimes people say that they haven’t lived enough to write or that their experiences are not unique or are unrelatable. You do need to be honest with yourself to write authentically. You don’t need anything else. There is always someone just like you who needs to hear what you have to say, the way only you can say it. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t.

I’ll write something that will offend people.

Yeah, probably.

People will criticize your writing and your views. No matter what you do or say there is someone who will be offended by it. If you blog, or write a book or even do some public speaking, you are sure to find one person who is offended by you.

So, you can’t stop writing because of critics. That’s why, for the sake of your conscience you should be thoughtful, compassionate and authentic when you write. If you are, you can stand by your writing even when someone takes offense.

I don’t have time to write.

There are so many tips and tricks about making time to do the important things like cooking and eating good food, getting exercise and spending time with family. If you’re managing all those things to perfection (I’m not!) it probably seems like there is not a moment left for something like writing.

If you’re really serious about writing you need to prioritize it. My kid comes first, my church second, my home third. After that, I consider writing for my blog my job. Since, I’m doing all that writing, I might as well get really comfortable and write a novel or two, as well. Be honest about how important writing is to you, not just this minute, but in the big picture of your life. Then, prioritize and schedule.

I’ll write in the morning/ evening/ in my “sacred writing time”.

I’ve tried so many times to set aside time for writing. I would do it consistently for a few days and then stop. Scheduling the time and sticking to it is important, but what really helped me stay on track was finding ways to identify as a writer. Write every spare moment, read and review, read about writing, encourage others, update your blog. You don’t need a novel to be a writer. In fact, you need to be a writer before you can write a novel.

I’ll never be as good as [insert favourite author here].

I find this one particularly tough because I don’t even realise I’m doing it. Most of us would say, “Of course, I wouldn’t compare myself to the greatest authors of all time!” When I read a good book it’s impossible not to wish that I had thought of that great line or that my plot was as intricate and thrilling. Just the number of published books out there means that even if my writing skills reached the top of the bell curve, there would be thousands upon thousands of writers who are “better” than me. On the bright side, that also means there are many published authors making a living from their writing who will never be as good as the greatest authors that ever were. Fortunately, your unique ideas and voice will always make you a valuable addition to the writing world. Especially if you are courageous enough to show your readers your true personality and develop your most creative ideas.

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