On writing and Just Doing It

I’ve got a bit of a rant this morning, so count that as your warning!

I met someone recently who, on learning that she was surrounded by writers, said wistfully; “I’ve been thinking about writing a novel…”

And I had to close my mouth on my astonished comment. I’d only just met her, so it wasn’t really polite to be critical.

I can’t imagine not writing. I carry a notebook around with me constantly – not through any affection as a “writer”, but actually because I need it! I’ve gone through four notebooks in the last two years; I’ve been known to write scrappy notes on my phone when I – for some unforeseen reason – don’t have paper with me. I will stop on walks to chuckle to myself and write a sentence. I occasionally spend my commute scribbling frantically to get a scene out of my head. I jot notes and phrases and moments and to-do’s. My characters and my writing are always with me. I don’t ever stop being a writer, even though sometimes I – and everyone around me – might want me to…

My aunt told me a story of when I was seven; I turned to her and said, “Aunty…how many worlds do you have in your head?”

She isn’t a writer, and she had to explain to me that some people don’t carry multiple worlds and characters around with them. Some people don’t watch everything around them with a memory that stores flashes and characteristics and emotions and scenes for later use, somewhere and somehow. That some people don’t make up stories about anything and everything.

But if you do; if you’ve got that desire, that talent…why would you not get it out? If you have an idea for a story – what’s stopping you? If you’ve got an idea, a plot outline, as this person so clearly had…why not write it?

I know the reasons given. It’s too daunting. I have to get it right. I don’t know where to start. Everyone will hate it. I don’t have time. I’m not good enough.

So what?

Write that one scene – the one that started the idea. The climactic battle, maybe. The kiss. The snippet of conversation. Write something so there isn’t a blank page and your characters are talking to you – and then go back to the start.

If you’re not sure where to start or how to start, do NaNoWriMo. Join a writer’s group. Write flash fiction so you can’t be daunted by the word counts. Read others writers that you love and try to write fanfiction. Use prompts, just to get something on the page. Write [battle scene here] or [whatshisname] and then carry on, come back and fill in the blanks later.

If you don’t have time…you’ll always have something better to do. The kitchen fridge needs cleaning, your old friend needs a letter or text, you’ve just got to do one last chore or read that book or watch the next episode. If you don’t have time, you’ll never have time. But if you make time, or find time…make it something that’s important to you. Make time. It becomes a habit, and you’ll be astonished how often you do actually just take a minute or five or ten or thirty to write that scene that’s playing across your head.

If you’re scared of the invisible audience: you don’t have to show it to anyone. You don’t have to share it with the world. And as for not being good enough – well, you’re never going to get better if you don’t start somewhere. Remember that the best writers have had five, ten, twenty, thirty years of practise. How many words is that before they got good enough? How many drafts and tears have gone into the genius you don’t think you can obtain? There’s a reason that teenage poetry and first drafts and childhood scribbles go into boxes and never see the light of day again! But they’re practise. They’re the starting point.

If you can write, if you have the ideas – do it.

You have to start somewhere. And once you’ve started – don’t stop. Just do it.