Why did you first have the idea to become a writer? I could be wrong, but it was probably because you read a book that touched you so deeply, that pierced you to your core, that you thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to inspire this feeling in others?”
This is what Joe Bunting recently asked in his article “To Be a Writer, You Only Need to Do Two Things”. The paragraph resonated with me because, well, this is exactly what happened. For me, the book was Neil Gaiman’s Stardust – a modern-day fairy tale full of magic, whimsy, and love. It struck all the right chords and was the first book where I remember thinking, “I want to write stories like that”.
Yet even with that revelation, I didn’t begin to write. My own self-doubt and refusal to believe that I could, actually, become a writer was probably my biggest hindrance. Another was a distinct lack of inspiration. Quite simply, I didn’t know what to write about. I was waiting for the clouds to part and the light to beam down on me with The Idea that would become my story. But it didn’t happen. I had fragments of ideas, small scraps of stories that, on their own, didn’t amount to much. I lived with these ideas floating around in my head for several years before I finally realized inspiration wasn’t going to fall into my lap and I would have to work for it. So I started sifting through the scraps. Some of them came together, some didn’t (and are still floating around in my head, waiting for me to find them a home). Then, with an infusion of fresh ideas to marry with the old, I finally had it: my story.
And yet, I still didn’t begin to write. Not really. Every now and then on a weekend evening I would sit down for an hour or so. My progress was slow. In a year, I had written the prologue and one or two chapters (most of which got scrapped later due to poor writing). It’s easy to make excuses, to get caught up in the daily routine of life and not make time for the things that matter to us. Especially when you have that nagging little voice telling you, “You’re not good enough”.
I’m fortunate. Extremely so. An opportunity presented itself, giving me the chance to write full-time. It wasn’t until I took this opportunity that my writing finally took off. In a year, I finished my first draft. But that’s not what’s remarkable. What’s remarkable is that I’m starting to believe in myself. I still hear the nagging little voice, telling me I’ll fail. But I’m learning to recognize it for what it is: my own fear – fear of change, fear of success, fear of putting my heart on a page for all the world to see. Facing our fears helps enrich our lives; it makes us stronger, helps us grow. Doing so is rarely easy and sometimes we need a little help (or a lot) to get us started. But if you can get through it and come out the other side smiling, then it is a struggle well fought and well worth the effort.
For me, writing isn’t about book sales. (Of course I hope my book sells when it’s published, but that’s not what’s important.) It’s about connecting with others, of sharing a story that, at one time, was only a vague idea floating around in my head. It’s about the joy that comes with others experiencing the story in their own way, and from their own perspective that differs from my own. It’s about facing my fears, of putting my heart out there and, win or lose, being proud of what I’ve done. It’s a bumpy road, and it’s not always easy to walk. But I’m walking it, and I’m excited for what the future holds.