Shut Up and Stop Telling Me You're Going to Write
(or Stop Telling Me You’re... if the above is too fiery/obnoxious/whatever)
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard “Oh, that’s wonderful, I’ve always wanted to...” or “I’m just planning on...” or any variation of these phrases. Stop telling me what you’re going to do. Do it. Don’t make any plans; don’t tell others about your aspirations: just go out there and make it happen.
I know better than most what it’s like to be busy and struggle to find time to write. But just keep at it. Even if you have to write 250 words a day, in a year, you’ll have written a novel. Some days you’ll not want to even touch your writing, other days you’ll feel inspired to write more. It’s a test of time as much as it is creativity or mastery of language. If you follow this simple instruction, you’ll be well on your way to completing your longtime goal. Open a document on your computer and type “C-H-A-P-T-E-R O-N-E.” Don’t overthink it, let it take shape naturally – don’t force your characters into a space they would never be in.
And, above all, don’t be self-deprecating every step of the way. Sure, you’ll write something better than another thing and maybe something doesn’t sound perfect, just keep moving on and let the thoughts ruminate for future edits. We’re our own worst critics but that doesn’t mean we can’t be fans of ourselves, either. Give yourself a chance and hold your head high – be proud of what you create. I’m not saying humility is bad but the “I suck” mentality is so tiring. Stop making excuses for yourself. We all suck at one point, giving yourself “outs” and by belittling yourself only to lessen the blow of rejection or criticism isn’t how you’re supposed to grow, at anything. Only by facing your mistakes head-on, understanding them, and improving can you truly become better as a writer... or an artist... or a musician... or a chef... or anything.
It’s not going to be perfect – it’s not even going to be pretty. But perseverance is the true test of a writer’s mettle, the ability to write sentences, paragraphs, entire pages and then look at them and say they’re trash. That’s the knockout punch for any writer, when you highlight thousands of words and press DELETE. The only question is: does the blow glance or take you down for good?
Good, great, perfect. These are the words we should strive for, not the words we should we should live for. It’s more than okay to write something that isn’t Crime and Punishment on your first attempt. Frankly, it’s not okay to write something amazing immediately. I say this as someone who could never hope to achieve such quick success. The painful parts of writing are also the learning points. Before you write a masterpiece, you have to write something bad. It’s the rite of all artists. Everyone starts somewhere: before that big novel are a pile of shelved ideas, a stack of rejected manuscripts, and plenty of frustration. However, they’re not failures, they’re benchmarks. Each mistake is a lesson. Every word’s a brush stroke of practice towards honing your craft, a step closer to painting your magnum opus.
Grandeur and ceremony are concepts that most writers are intimate with. Care is put into each story so that they can be formed into the wonderful picture in our minds; no one begins writing in hopes to create something mediocre. To create your castles though, you first need stones, steps, a drawbridge, and walls, or in other words, a foundation. Before you can place your princess in the tallest tower, you must make everything else first.
There’s one thing though that compels you to say “I’ve always wanted to,” that’s the fact that you’re a novelist at heart. In every novelist, there’s a storyteller: someone who desires to share with others the characters, creatures, and reality that’s been brewed up in our heads with anyone who will listen. So go forth, don’t withhold your tale of love, your world of airships, and unleash your grotesque villains upon the masses. Know that you will have struggles along the way, that it won’t be easy, and there will be times you’d rather do anything else – but it’s worth it.
I implore you to open that document and write. Do not be discouraged. It’s a journey – with obstacles along the way – but within all of us who have this desire, there exists a story worth telling.
And you’ll never have to say “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”