On the numerous writing and editing Facebook groups and forums that I’m part of, there have been a large number of enquiries from writers just starting out, or should that be writers who just haven’t started.
They are all excited and dedicated aspiring authors and yet, they’ve hit a wall. ‘Where do I begin?’ There are so many tips and tricks to help you when you’re just getting to grips with writing, but the most important and by far the simplest is to simply write. Begin. Make a mark on the paper, type that word on the keyboard.
And yet that is one of the hardest hurdles of all.
You’d think the idea was simple; you just, well, start! But according to award-winning novelist Margaret Atwood, it’s not that easy as she has to battle the beast that is Procrastination.
Listening to a TED talk where Margaret Atwood, the esteemed novelist, was interviewed, she said it took her three years to start The Handmaid’s Tale because she thought the idea was ‘too batty’! Can you believe it?
The podcast went on to explain that this is the root of procrastination; pro-procrastinators avoid tasks because they are scared of the negative emotions associated with that task, such as the fear of inadequacy or judgement. In short, we procrastinate because we’re scared to fail.
Writers at all stages in their careers fall victim to this as they are worried about their manuscripts. What is if it’s rubbish? Not good enough? What if my idea is just ‘batty’ or silly? What if I have no ideas at all?
To this Atwood offered the sage advice that the wastepaper bin is your friend. You can write whatever you like, but no one ever has to see it. What appears to be a terrifying concept of writing your first draft, is now manageable. Your first ‘inadequate’ first efforts never have to see the light of day again. So just go for it.
If you came looking for practical advice of how to start writing, such as writing exercises, research tips, and inspiration, this is something I can offer my authors in bucketloads – in fact, I do that every week by the spade in my inspiration newsletter (Sign up below!) but this is not the point. In order to be a writer, you have to well, write.
You don’t need an idea yet, necessarily, you’d don’t even know what to write but the act of simply putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard means you’ve started the journey. If you find yourself reaching for google, or going out to do the washing because you’re fed up of the blank page. Remember, the reason why you’re facing a pseudo-writers block is because you’re scared. And that’s fine – you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t a little scared – but there is also excitement there. What will the first word on that page lead you to? What taels will you tell, what stories will you create. You won’t know unless you begin.
And if you’re still feeling threatened by the terror of inadequacy, remember: there’s no such thing as failure. There’s always another draft.