Embracing the Writer Within
– Getting Started
When I embarked on this journey to embrace my inner writer, I was clueless.
The urge to write fiction had never left conscious thought since childhood, yet it took several decades to mobilize myself. I enrolled in a creative writing course early on and churned out a wave of short stories destined for a desk drawer when self-doubt subjugated aspiration.
Worse, I had no idea how to apply myself to the task of writing a full-length novel.
And I had plenty of excuses and diversions to mitigate the sense of helplessness. I studied the Japanese written and spoken language, shifted to Japan, took on stimulating yet time-consuming employment, and started a family. Life was in the fast lane. No time to write.
Mentoring my daughter, who’d grown up in a bicultural environment, through senior creative English classes was the pivotal event that ended this culture of evasion. I decided to take charge of my aspirations and make the time to write a novel.
But where to start?
This was before the explosion of social media and the current wealth of writing resources on the internet. Back then, a few internet searches for “how-to-write” sites yielded my first three tenets, still guiding me today. I found nothing then on pantsers versus plotters, character arcs, show-don’t-tell, story structure, and so on—I encountered and absorbed these gems of wisdom later—but these three initial tenets sufficed to transform me into an active, persistent writer.
1. Write every day
No matter how few words you put down, write every day. Even just ten words a day.
Do this routinely and you will develop a regular writing habit. I started with a low word count, but without fail wrote at least one or two sentences. These days it levels out at around 500 words per day, sometimes reaching 1,000.
Some years later, I found an inspiring quote on BestsellerLab.com, the website of writing guru, Jonathan Gunson.
You write. You stop dreaming of writing. You stop talking about writing. Stop wishing you were writing. And you write. – Jonathan Gunson.
I printed this quote out, enlarged it and pinned it to the back of my desk where I still see it every day.
2. Find your optimum writing location
Experiment until you find the best place to write. Everyone is different. Some prefer to tap away at their computer on an office desk. Creativity is unleashed for others on the sofa, laptop balanced on knees.
My creativity switch automatically sets to ‘ON’ in cafes while I drink one or two (or three) double-shot cappuccinos with peripheral distractions partially tuned out.
I’ve found that writing long-hand using a pencil works better for me than staring at a blank screen. The physical action of writing the first few words on paper seems to overcome the psychological barrier holding back the narrative.
I type the handwritten text on my computer when I return home, typically adding another 200 or so words, then I print out the day’s work. This is where I start the next day—checking and improving on yesterday’s work seems to stimulate the flow of new text.
3. Call yourself a writer
Don’t be self-conscious. Tell your family (I started with the dogs), friends, and colleagues. Say the words, “I am a writer.” It will soon empower you and help fight self-doubt. Eventually, you will believe the mantra and output will improve.
Don’t quit. Never quit. Just keep saying, “I am a writer.”
With these three tips, my writing life took off. But I soon discovered it wasn’t enough. There was so much more to learn. Where did I go from here? Read the next instalment of my blog to find out.