it comes to writing, people often say that getting started is the
hardest part. I'm not sure this is true; finishing a book is pretty
hard, too. Come to think of it, the long slog through the messy
middle is tougher than an armour-plated warthog. However, getting
started has a bad reputation because of one thing; The Dreaded White
of folk will line up to tell you that you need to 'just do it' as if
you're living in an advert for sportswear, but I'm not going to do
that. I understand your fear. I understand that it's real, it's scary,
and, sometimes, utterly paralysing.
good news is that you're not alone.
Most (if not all) writers have felt this way at least once in their
lives. Talent doesn't make you immune, nor does the true, heartfelt
desire to write. There have been plenty of amazing writers who have
said that they prefer 'having written' to writing itself (Douglas
Adams to name but one).
there's more good news, too; there are ways you can trick yourself
off, admit that you're scared and that the thing you're trying to do
pretend the fear isn't there, or tell yourself that you're stupid to
feel it (or lazy or whatever other negative words you use to beat
yourself up with).
to get specific about what's worrying you. It could be that your
inner perfectionist is worried that you're going to mess up a good
idea. Or, worse still, you're frightened that you have no ideas. Perhaps there's a voice that sounds
uncannily like a critical teacher or unsupportive family member. Or,
perhaps, you know what you want to write, but you're afraid to put it
down. Afraid of what people will think of it and, by extension, of
Recognise those vicious little voices for what they are; fear. Fear
does not have higher authority and fear does not speak the truth. Put
it – kindly, but with great firmness – to one side.
accept your imminent failure.
to put it another way; embrace the suckage. Whether you're just
starting to write or you're on your tenth novel, the first draft is
going to suck. It's what Anne Lamott reassuringly calls 'the shitty
first draft'. Don't worry! Everything can (and will) be fixed in the
rewrite. There's a James Thurber quote floating around the internet
that helps me and it might help you, too: "Don't get it right,
get it written."
just do it.
Okay, I promised I wasn't going to say that, but here's the thing:
the only way through the fear is to write. The only way to get inspired is to write. The only way to finish a book is to write. The only way
to… You get the idea.
set a timer for five minutes. There are loads free online, or you can
use a kitchen timer, your phone or, if you're feeling old fashioned,
a stopwatch. Then, write for those five minutes. If you're completely
stuck just write that: 'I'm completely stuck and I'm trying this daft
idea I read about on Novelicious and I'm feeling a bit tired and I
really want a biscuit.' Whatever you like.
the end of five minutes, you may find you want to carry on. You've
scuffed up the page, after all; it's no longer that dauntingly
pristine field of white.
if you do stop after five minutes, you still get to count it as a
'win'. You vanquished the white page. You faced your fears and wrote
something and, hopefully, the five minutes were painless enough for
you to consider doing the same the next day. And the day after and
day after that…
[Image credit: Adorable spotty egg-timer is available from Omlet for £5.75]