Just Do It…
Getting started as a writer
Do you fancy being a writer of fiction? Have you got the new
notebook and pen – or do you have a new, but empty, folder labelled My Writing on your computer? Do you have
a few ideas of what you might write? Are you finding it impossible to get
Procrastination – the old, obstructive enemy of even the
most experienced author. It might present itself as the devil on the shoulder,
taunting the writer with jibes about lack of ability and about wasting time.
Or, wily enemy that it is, it will often portray itself as a concerned friend.
It will respectfully present other priorities more deserving of the writer’s
time. Or it will insist that the writer is too tired to take up a pen or sit at
a screen. It will soothe the self-doubter, saying don’t put yourself through
this painful process – it’s not worth it – all that rejection and
I am a recovering procrastinator and my experience is proof
that even the most naive novice writer can beat the ‘P’ word.
I have wanted to be a ‘proper’ writer since I was at school.
I am now in my fifties – and it’s only in the last ten years that I’ve taken it
seriously. It’s true, I’ve always kept a diary and I’ve also written travel
journals about time spent in the Middle East, Africa and Australia. But it
wasn’t until 2000 that I began to write in a truly creative, imaginative and
Why did it take me so long? Well, you see, I had such a busy
life – professionally, and as a wife and mother – and, besides, ordinary people
like me couldn’t be writers, could they? It would be pretentious, delusional, and
ridiculous to even try.
But as the new century began, I kicked the procrastination
demon into touch. For me it was a brush with mortality that presented the now
or never ultimatum. Putting things off till tomorrow was no longer an option.
Yes, all very dramatic, I know, – but like Fay Weldon said recently in a radio
interview – too many people live as if they’re immortal. She didn’t mean we should
be morbid, but we should seize the day.
If you want to write, just get on and do it. Cliché warning – the longest journeys begin with a small step – cliché, but true. Therefore
if you’re contemplating starting out, start simple. Write a letter, a diary
entry, a short story, a first chapter.
Build writing into your day – like the gym session, the
meeting with friends, the dental appointment – find the time, even if it’s only
half an hour a day, or a week, or a month – and put it in the diary. Keep the
appointment with your muse and enjoy it.
And keep at it. Set about improving. There are various ways
to go about this. You could take a writing course, read a writing manual,
subscribe to a writing magazine, join a writers’ group – real or online. I did all of these and all were helpful in
different ways. Three specific things
worked especially well for me. Attending an Arvon Foundation residential
writing course got me started. My development as a writer continued when I
joined http://www.youwriteon.com . Joining this online community led to
significant improvements in my writing and I now have a group of trusted
writing buddies as a result. And the deadlines provided by entering writing
competitions gave me goals to aim for and kept the indulgence in displacement
activities to a minimum.
Ten years on, I’ve completed one novel for adults and am
writing a second. I also have an outline for a children’s novel and I’ve won
several prizes. Although I’d explode with delight if it became possible to do
so, writing is not how I earn my living. I have a rewarding and demanding day
job and writing is how I spend my me-time.
Procrastination is no longer a problem because I can’t
imagine my life without writing.
It’s an escape, it’s
therapy, it’s scary, it’s exhilarating, it’s addictive. My only regret is that
I didn’t take it up sooner.
So, if you’re attracted to writing as a hobby – go for it. Kick
the ass of procrastination
Feel the fear, carpe diem and do it. Above all – enjoy!
In subsequent posts
I’ll be offering advice, in my exalted capacity as an expert novice, on
characterisation, plotting, settings – and anything else that I can think of
that I’ve learned that might be of use to complete novice writers of fiction.