(To listen to the audio of this blog post, use the purple play button.)
· Ideas Are a Dime a Dozen ·
I’ve been meeting a lot of people lately who recognize that I’m a writer and author.
Sometimes they congratulate me on the accomplishment and sometimes they purchase one of my books, but I’m also learning that many people have a yearning to be a published author.
Usually, not too long into our conversation, they spill their guts: “I want to write a book, too.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling,” I want to respond. You see, I have three more books in my head and so little time.
But instead, I ask them several questions in order to help them flesh out that common, nagging feeling of needing to write.
“Briefly, what’s the story you want to tell?” I ask.
People give me a wide range of answers. Many want to share about their personal challenges growing up and how they were able to overcome serious obstacles.
The topics include drug abuse, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, injury, and being victimized.
Others have excelled at telling their own young children bedtime stories and now they believe there’s a market out there for a special children’s book.
One person explained to me that he wants to make people laugh.
These discussions about why people want to write a book are interesting to me because I get to observe the person’s level of enthusiasm for their own story. If they aren’t excited about their story, I won’t be either.
I ask them if they’ve started writing yet. Some have. Most haven’t.
And I get that. When the story is lengthy and complicated with twists and turns, and painful memories, and unknowns, where do you begin?
The answer is you begin wherever you want, wherever you are. There is no wrong place. Get something down on paper.
It’s important to write down your ideas, but there’s a world of difference between ideas and writing.
Ideas are easy; writing is work.
I have a few standard bits of advice on writing.
Carry a notebook with you at all times for jotting down ideas, completing a vexing sentence, or an unfinished line of poetry.
There are a lot of difficult things about writing. One is starting.
People don’t start because it’s scary, it’s intimidating, and they want to get it perfect—the first time.
If you want to write a novel and there’s a blank computer screen staring back at you, that can be overwhelming.
So start anywhere. It certainly doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the story. Write the part that means the most to you, the richest, the most compelling.
In my personal library, I’ve got my fair share of books that give advice about writing. You may have your own collection.
But, a word of warning: some people believe they need to read a number of professional books before getting started on the writer’s journey, when in reality being obsessed with reading the next how-to book can actually postpone the beginning of writing their own book!
Yes, there are many experts, internet advice, and writing workshops, but you have the power to start writing your story, right now.
No one knows it better than you.
No one can possibly compare with your level of enthusiasm.
It belongs to you and you have the opportunity to give it life and to help it grow. It can blossom into a world that you have imagined and that only you know best.
On the other hand, of course, it can remain a seed underground, ignored. Many of these personal stories wither and die due to a lack of attention and dedication. Some stories will remain dormant, waiting for another season.
And don’t even get me started on some of these books on writing. One book advertises that in twelve months you can have a finished novel. The next book cuts that time frame in half. So, is the six-month plan twice as good as the one-year schedule? Yikes! It makes my head spin!
Later on you can return to your earlier work and discover what needs cutting, revising, and saving.
Since people are all different, it makes sense that one approach to writing doesn’t fit everyone.
So, you may want to read a how-to book or attend a writing workshop sooner rather than later. And if you’ve already started on your work, then you’re more likely to seek out answers to help you solve specific problems which you’ve encountered.
On occasion someone will ask me if I’d like to write their story. That’s when I start looking for the nearest exit and checking my pockets for my car key. I want to get out of there.
Maybe I should be flattered, but I’m not. I just want to escape, get home, and start working on my story, typing on my computer, learning more about my characters and advancing the plot.
If I write their story, then I won’t discover what happens in my story.
Warning! If you hadn’t been reading this blog, you’d be further along on your own book!
Next time, consider skipping my blog on writing. Instead, grab your notebook and a pen, or go to your computer; write to your heart’s content.
It could turn into a labor of love.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.
F. C. Appelhanz says
To tap into your muse is a lifetime step and to listen to Jim’s advice is to explore the inner artist that is/has been slumbering. Read this blog often and openly.
Jim Potter says
F.C., Your comment is most appreciated! Yes, reading about writing, story structure, and editing, etc., are vital to success. But finding your muse, your inspiration, your confidence, comes first. Once the artist is confident, once s/he gives her/himself permission to go for it, then words come from inside, not outside.