Who said you could write a book? Who’d want to read what you write? That’s a bunch of crap, and you know it.
I used to listen to that obnoxious Self-doubt Elf scoffing on my shoulder to the point I’d start to wonder why I even wanted to write. Probably my idea was rubbish. And who was I to think I could be a writer?
I’d tidy my desk; clean out my file tray; check my email; and make another cup of tea. Anything rather than face the blank screen. (I can’t even add the verb beckoning+screen. At least a creamy fresh page in a notebook is a smidge friendly. There’s nothing buddy-buddy at all about a block of white on a computer screen.)
Anyhow, back to topic. Today, when I was thinking (okay, agonising) about what I would write in my first blog post, I fretted over a fresh approach, a new idea, and the big freeze began. It took answering four emails and three cups of tea before I remembered, I don’t need to freeze anymore. I have the perfect tool to send that pesky elf packing, and magic me a blog post.
Three little words began to chant in my head. Just write it. Just write it. Or roughly translated, stop stuffing around and do it.
This mantra has become one of the most powerful tools in my writing arsenal. Sort of like the bulldozing tank in wartime, mowing down all resistance in its path.
Two years ago, renowned Australian author, Andrea Goldsmith, shared this gem with me during a Year of the Novel course. And I have to tell you, it’s enabled me to write through grief, despair, self-doubt and procrastination. All in spite of my heels grinding into the carpet in my initial effort to deny its validity.
But I have to work out the readership. My story could be adult or young adult.
No need to decide that now. Just write it.
But I want to get the voice working at the outset. I want this novel to be published.
Don’t worry about getting published. Just write it.
But I’ve only got an idea, not a storyline.
Just Write it.
Danger, danger, Will Robinson! Wasn’t I supposed to decide my readership first? And if I was a serious writer, write to be published?
In the end, I have to admit, I just wrote out of desperation born of necessity rather than desire.
And it worked – brilliantly. At the time I was facing a devastating personal catastrophe, watching someone I loved very much succumb to cancer. After the diagnosis I feared I wouldn’t be able to write at all. Let’s face it, a writer’s confidence is fragile even on a good day. Any upset to the big picture is pretty fracturing in all regards.
Somehow, Andrea’s words came back to me. I made a conscious decision about my WIP, (and I’m not saying it would work for everyone in the same circumstance) to try and just write it. Write in scenes, not daunting chapters. Write what my character felt about leaving her home, her country, her friends. Write how the daughter and mother related to each other. Write in snatches, or the middle of sleepless nights, just write how it came out with no intention on where or if it would fit into the finished novel. I was freed to waste no time fretting or fearful over whether the writing was good enough, publishable, working etc. Much of this writing evolved into whole scenes. Active scenes that drove the narrative. And to my amazement, I added forty thousand words to my novel during that time. It was to my deeper surprise that they turned out to be “good” words.
I’m not saying, I never get the wobblies. I do. Take today for example. BUT… if I stop panicking long enough to find the barest starting point, an interesting thought, a kernel of an idea, and start writing – the idea builds on itself and thoughts come quicker than I can type. And then I remember why I write.
Initial words on the page can be the hardest step. Sometimes continuing is more difficult. Life can be breathed into flat characters, hues can be repainted into settings, and all the rich layers of story delved into deeper in subsequent drafts. But if I never make a start… Or fail to keep going…
Just write it.