For basically 20 years I barely wrote anything, and then in the span of three years I put together three books.
Here are thee things I stopped doing that got me started writing again.
I stopped being afraid. Writing was never easy for me, and for some reason I assumed “real writers” never struggled finding the right word, never fought the page or the story or their anxieties. The minute writing got hard…the minute it became real work and I had to stare down my own will, or (in)ability, or self-doubt, I took any excuse I could to bail. But when I sat down and tackled NaNoWriMo in 2011, I forced myself to push through the doubt and fear, and just got the work done - beginning to end. I learned to embrace the process and the effort; even those head-banging days where it’s easier to grab a beer and watch some TV or read the finished book of a better writer instead of wrestling that godawful blank page. Some days are easier than others (and even the easy ones can be a bastard), but that’s because creating something from nothing – being creative – is damn hard work. It’s supposed to be. But do it enough, for enough hard days in a row, and you’ll finally start filling up those blank pages.
I stopped cheating. Although writing was never easy, I still claimed it was the most important thing to me. It was my passion, or so I said, but at the end of the day, it often came in second (or third, or seventh) to everything else. I had kids, a demanding job, responsibilities…just like everyone. I told myself if my life were just different, than I’d find the time and energy to pursue this thing I said I loved so much. Although I couldn’t change my entire life (and in truth, I wouldn’t want to), I could elevate my writing - my craft - to the priority I wanted it to be. For me, that meant writing first thing in the morning before the day took over – no excuses, no complaints, no distractions. And it was, and it is, writing every day. I have a very specific process that works for me that I wouldn’t necessarily suggest for anyone else, but the key is to make that unyielding commitment to yourself, and then never cheat.
I stopped caring. When it's convenient, I make a fine distinction between being a writer and an author, so bear with me a minute. When I started writing again, I focused on, well, writing: telling stories to myself that I wanted to hear or explore. Some successful authors suggest you need to have a reader in mind when you work, an audience in your mind’s eye, and from a professional standpoint, I absolutely understand that. But my audience has most often been just me. No beta readers, no critique partners (although there is a time and place for all that, too), no imagined audience. I started writing again only to please me, and since I have pretty good instincts about what I like and what I don’t, I discovered I’m always happy when I finish my book. I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done whether it’s marketable or salable or whether I think anyone will ever want to read a sentence of it. I can type “THE END” and put in a drawer and know I’ve told my story, and be 100% satisfied with that, even if that means the transition from writer to published author is harder, if not longer. That’s a risk I was comfortable with – a willingness to not be “an author” if a book doesn’t sell, while also knowing that I can still be a writer each and every day.
As always, keep writing - JTS
As always, keep writing - JTS